This just in, from the folks at MSFT PR: Today MSN will announce that beginning July 1, MSN Search will clearly delineate paid ads from organic search results, with the result being that organic (or algorithmic) results will be above the fold (the top half of the page) for the first time since…well since recent memory.
This is clearly an opportunistic announcement (timed as it is in the wake of the Yahoo CAP dust up), but I must say, it’s a welcome one. Bravo, Microsoft, and I hope the execution lives up to the context and timing of this release. I’ve complained over and over about how crappy MSN search is, mainly due to the fact that you can’t see the organic forest for the commercialized trees. According to an email I received from MSFT PR informing me of this, “The changes are being made to allow better positioning of sponsored links based on relevancy. These changes are a result of a series of consumer testing to determine user satisfaction and search relevancy with various UIs.”
If I’m reading this right, MSN tested the idea that clearly labeling ads equates to more ads being clicked on and a better overall experience for the consumer, and found out – Holy Shit! – the hypothesis proves out.
Other highlights (again, quoting the email):
– MSN’s Search Featured Sites (SFS) and other paid listings will be outlined and the background shaded, and designated at “sponsored.”
– The number of paid links in the SFS will now number up to three (reduced from up to 4).
– MSN will now have up to one Editor’s Featured Site (EFS) below the SFS
– The right rail will continue to include up to 5 Overture paid search links.
– Overture continues to have sponsored links in the right rail