I'm not ranking in Live Search, what can I do?

That’s a good question, and you’ve come to the right place.  If your site is not performing in Live Search or you are not being indexed by Live Search here are some steps you can take to change course and improve your rank.  First and foremost at Live Search ranking is free and you can’t pay to boost your website’s relevance ranking.  We have a completely automated ranking process which takes into account a lot of different factors. These factors include web page content, the number and quality of websites that link to your pages, and the relevance of your website’s content to query terms.  So let’s work through the possible issues and what you can do…

1. Have you built great content?

I’m sure you hear this all the time, but this is always the first item you should consider when thinking about SEO, because it is the primary influencer of all the other factors. Quality content has a long shelf life, and will accrue many quality backlinks over its lifetime.

Top factors in creating great content:

  • Make it unique – make sure your content gets noticed by ensuring that it isn’t just one of a million similar articles. Find a way to make it different by focusing on a different subject, taking a different perspective, or making it entertaining.
  • Use the customer’s language – many times customers will use different words and phrases than you to describe your product or what they are looking for. For example, for a long time Microsoft’s official web site for Visual Basic did not rank well for the term VB, because our internal branding guidelines required that we always refer to the product by its full name. So customers were searching for “VB”, and none of our pages used that term.
  • Know what keywords to use – make sure that you use keywords that are important to your company or site within your pages. For example, if your business is located in a specific town, make sure you include the name of that town in your site, along with common words that describe what you do. Be careful not to get carried away using too many keywords.
  • Write good HTML – as you write content, make sure that you are using HMTL tags appropriately, so that search engines can more easily understand your content. For example, make sure your important keywords show up in title tags, header tags and anchor text. And put descriptive text in the alt tags on your images.

Articles on building great content:

Examples of great content:

  • Digital Photo Review – they seem to know more about every digital camera than even the original manufactures of those cameras. And they have all those hi-res photos to make the shutterbugs drool…
  • PinchMySalt.com – a site that is notorious for tasty recipes and beautiful photographs.
  • BentoYum.com – Have a great product you want to sell? Why not create a blog showing potential customers all the different things they could do with it?
  • Amazon.com – they do a great job supplementing “the same old product descriptions” with some of the best user generated content on the web.

Creating a lot of good content is hard and takes a lot of time. But, you don’t have to do it all at once. The first thing I would recommend is to look around your office/ business and see if you don’t already have some great content lying around that you could put on the web. Do it. Then look for ways that you can incorporate building good content into your existing business routines.

2. Do you have 10 high quality sites linking to you?

Okay, so 10 isn’t really a magic number, but the more links you have from high quality, related, websites the better your site is going to be indexed and ranked by Live Search. Use our Webmaster Tools to see who’s linking to your site.

Ideas for generating high quality inbound links:

  • Start a blog – and write content that will give people a reason to link to your website
  • Join a reputable industry association – often times they will list their members and provide links to their websites. Examples could be a local rotary club, or a professional association like the American Medical Association.
  • Get involved with your community – participating with your community through blogs, forums and other online resources may give you legitimate reasons to provide links to your site.
  • Talk to a reporter – is there a potential story around your business? Or do you have helpful tips about your business people might be interested in? Pitch a story to a reporter or journalist, and they might give you a link.
  • Press Releases – if your company has a significant event, consider doing a press release through a site like http://prweb.com.
  • Suppliers and partners – ask your business partners if they would add a section to their website describing your partnership, with a link to your website. Or, if your suppliers have a website, perhaps they have a page where they recommend local distributers of their products.
  • Evangelize your site in the real world – with business cards, magnets, USB keys and other fun collectables

The process of building up these high quality links can take time, and we hear from many webmasters who have tried to speed things up by purchasing links, or participating in linking schemes. We recommend webmaster be very careful with these, as they can often end up hurting your ranking in the long run by providing you with only low quality links that are often associated with spammy sites. If a link isn’t adding significant value to a website’s user, than it is most likely a low quality link.

3. Could your website be too advanced for a robot to understand?

Okay, so you’ve got great content, and tons of backlinks but you’re still not getting the results you’re looking for? It is possible that Live Search is having technical problems crawling your website. Here are a few common issues you should investigate:

  • Heavy use of Flash, AJAX, Images or Silverlight – if you’re using any of these Rich Internet Application (RIA) technologies extensively on your website, then your site may be too advanced for a robot to understand. We recommend building the structure and content of your site in HTML, and then using these RIA technologies to spice up the user experience. That way you get cutting edge, web 2.0 user experiences, and search engines can still crawl your site and send you lots of traffic.
  • JavaScript navigation – any URL that is constructed using JavaScript will not be visible to a search engine, so those pages might not get indexed. (Note: that ASP.Net does this extensively with their postback infrastructure. Use that feature sparingly.)
  • Robots.txt file – a surprisingly high percentage of Robots.txt files are misconfigured to inadvertently block Live Search or other search engines from crawling their sites. You can use our Robots.txt Validation tool inside our Webmaster Center to check your file and see if it is okay.
  • Frames – search engines can sometimes have a difficult time understanding and crawling frames in HTML. We recommend that you not use them.

A good way to test for this is to look at your website with Flash, Silverlight, JavaScript and Images turned off. This is how robots view your website, and it is a good bet if you find it difficult to navigate your website under these conditions, than so will each search engine’s robots. A good way to test this is to use the developer toolbar in Firefox, and turn all of those options off before you surf your website.

4. Have you submitted a sitemap?

Sitemaps help us ensure that we’ve discovered all the pages on your website. This is especially important if you have a new website that might not have a lot of other sites linking to it yet. You can read more about sitemaps at http://sitemaps.org.  

5. Still no luck, now what?!?

The last question you’ll need to ask yourself is if you might have been using any “aggressive” marketing tactics (aka Spamming). The best way to check is to log into the Webmaster Tools, verify your site, and check your dashboard to see if we’re blocking any pages in your website. If so, after you have addressed the issue, you can use the form to request reinclusion into the Live Search index.

If you’ve been through all 5 steps, and everything looks good (except your results on Live Search) then you should contact us on the Webmaster Center Forums, or if it is a sensitive issue, use our private Feedback form. We’ll do our best to research and resolve your issue in a timely manner. But to set expectations, there are tens of millions of websites and only 3 of us at the moment – so we may not be able to reply to every request as quickly as you would like.

And to all you experienced SEO professionals out there, please leave your favorite tips and examples of good content in the comments below for our readers!

–Jeremiah Andrick, Live Search Webmaster Team

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