Microsoft Talks Up its Live Search Update and Tweaks MSN Video Ads

Searchification.jpgMicrosoft knows it’s running in third place behind Google and Yahoo in the battle for search, and at its Silicon Valley offices today the company showed off its latest efforts in improving its Live Search service for its current users, and to bring more users to its system. Separately, the company also changed the manner in which it will place ads on its MSN Video by providing them to users based on how long they’re viewing the player, and not at the start of each clip no matter the length.

At its amusingly titled Searchification 2007 event, Satya Nadella, corporate vice president Search and Advertising Platform Group for Microsoft, did lay claim to nearly 70 million — or 40 percent — of the U.S. based searching public as using Live Search, but admitted that only 11 percent of them are standalone customers. Mostly due to searchers using more than one search engine.

Looking to improve on its placement, the company is in the midst of upgrading the Live Search core capabilities, which it intends to do on a regular six to 12 month schedule. Nadella said the first thing Microsoft did was examine the search results it had been providing with its previous system.

“We did was look at a lot of the click log analysis to try to get a top level feel about how satisfied are customers and users with search results,” he said, and noted that they monitored if a user clicked the first result of a search response. “We found that 46 percent of all searches are not satisfied and that’s a large number. And 54 percent is either fully or partially satisfied. So that gives us a lot of room to get more people into the green area.”

Live Search is not only getting upgrades to its index size and neural processing systems to provide better search results, but it’s also breaking content into verticals for easier searching, including Local/Maps, Entertainment, Health and Shopping areas. And while the new features did seem worthwhile, including some admittedly eye-popping 3-D maps of San Francisco with high resolution picture overlays taken from space for map directions, what was conspicuously absent from the Searchification event was any mention of its Microsoft adCenter ad network system and how it will be tied to the updated Live Search.

When I caught up with Nadella after the event, he acknowledged the absence but promised “We have a major update in adCenter coming in the next couple of months.” His co-presenter for the event, Brad Goldberg, a general manager for the Search Group, went on to say that Microsoft realizes that the update is about “Having a greater share and inventory. We’re looking at inventory and verticals and providing different experiences. We’re going to open up the ad models around things like health and entertainment, and that commitment is something that advertisers want and understand.”

In another announcement, Microsoft also changed the advertising delivery model for MSN Video by giving viewers a pre-roll advertisement before the first video, and then playing an additional video no more than once every three minutes of using the player. Considering the vast number of less than :30 videos floating around the Internet, the move is clearly intended to allow for less users annoyance while using the MSN Video system.

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