Many people tend to give a negative stigma to anything that Microsoft works on. Because of Microsoft’s PC dominance and business practices, just about everything that comes out of Redmond is reviewed with a fine tooth comb and equally criticized. In fact, the general consensus seems to be that anything Microsoft creates — especially products and services for the Internet — have an uphill battle to fight. Live Search is no exception.
The overall perception among the SEO community has been that Microsoft hasn’t taken their search engine strategy seriously enough and that it’s traditionally been a search engine that’s easily influenced by search engine optimizers. However, that sentiment appears to be changing. It appears that Microsoft is taking a much more serious and agile approach towards Live Search.
I had the privilege of hanging out with Derrick Wheeler while waiting in line to get my conference badge at PubCon Las Vegas 2007. Derrick was recently hired on by Microsoft as their Senior SEO Architect for their Central Marketing Group. He’s been tasked with standardizing and optimizing all of Microsoft’s Web properties — no easy task mind you. I also met Jeremiah Andrick at the Live Search vendor booth. Jeremiah is a Program Manager that works closely with the Live Search team. In my brief conversation with him, he described the Live Search team as a semi-autonomous small group of intelligent engineers. Of particular interest was his description of the team being somewhat cut-off from the rest of Redmond, allowing them to be more innovative, reactionary and agile.
I have no reason to doubt Jeremiah, especially after we saw how quickly they were able to respond to the Google AdSense bug we first reported on. Nathan Buggia, the Lead Program Manager for the Live Search Webmaster Center, quickly jumped on the problem and fixed it very quickly. He also did a good job of transparently communicating about the problem and what they did about it.
With all of that being said, I think Live Search deserves more attention than it’s previously received — especially attention towards the innovations that they’re currently developing right now. A few weeks ago, buried in the comments of an SEOmoz blog entry, Nathan highlighted four of his favorite new features of Live Search that I think are worth taking a closer look at.
1. Mobile Search
Traffic Info, Directions, Maps, Gas Prices, Movie times and Local Search. Access Live’s local search and mapping features from a native app on your smartphone. And if you have excess cash, you can connect it to a GPS receiver and it just works. They also added voice recognition and while it isn’t perfect yet, it has saved Nathan from crashing his car while trying to look up directions. He’s only tried this on his WM Dash, but there’s also has a native client for the blackberry.
2. Video Search
This technology scans videos and automatically builds a “highlights” reel for the video. Hovering over the video in the results plays the highlights, and then you can click on it to see the full video. They crawl YouTube and thousands of other sites.
3. Driving directions for everyone
If you host an event and want to include general directions for everyone, you can grab one of these maps which provide auto-gens directions to your location from major arterial routes north, south, east and west.
4. Traffic Instant answers
If traffic is no good where you live, then you may also find this useful. (Notice that the map is interactive)