This is in response to a post in late February from Bill Slawski, of Search Engine Land.
A brief summary of the article: MSN filed to patent an algorithm which would effectively limit the natural visibility of those using pay per click advertising through their ad channel. Simply put, if you’re running adCenter PPC, your natural listings, should they carry through with this concept one day would be subject to vanishing when your ad experiences an impression from paid search.
Now, I’m all for the democratization of information. I’m believe all searchers are entitled to a relevant distribution of search results…but who said the distribution had to be equitable? Numerous studies have shown that those utilizing effectively (i.e. ranking naturally for and bidding on keywords) both natural and paid search improve the likelihood they’ll be clicked on by more than the sum of their single probabilities. 1+1 = ~2.45 or whatever you like. It’s in the search engines interest to promote that. Anyone already enjoying the fruits of natural rank may see this and decide to help Google, Yahoo or MSN monetize their traffic.
So now you have MSN adCenter hinting that you can’t have it both ways. From a business standpoint, this isn’t sound methodology. There are only 10 page one spots for any keyword. But for every one natural keyword you can probably generate 10 + ppc keywords which generate impressions. So if you have great natural do you jeopardize it with Paid? Most people don’t have great natural to begin with so they’ll have to continue using paid regardless of whether their SEO strategy pans out. So net on net….this really just obfuscates the current situation.
Google on the other hand is being quite deliberate about their intent. Search personalization will change the nature of SEO and may increase businesses reliance on paid search. Only time will tell whether MSN will move to disprove the famous equation 1+1 = ~2.45 (it’s a rough calculation). So I think a few years out, the final analysis will prove that if you control the flow of information…free riders (guys with good natural SEO) watch out! Where does the opportunity lie you might ask? Narrow casting, Nano casting and distributing focused niche content you can draw a sponsor into. Sort of the long tail of information if you will.