SEO at Microsoft, light and shadows

Juan Gonzalez
Juan Gonzalez
I studied Regional Studies of Latin American at the University of Cologne - Germany, majoring in "Business Informatics“. I also studied Business Administration and currently I’m doing a Master in International Business Administration. I feel a fascination with SEO and the people who make it possible.
Microsoft is a huge company. Looking at their web properties it even seems somewhat like a public administration. They decide to develop a new product (etc.) on its own domain and, sooner or later, the decision is made to completely or partially incorporate the service into Microsoft.com. It is quite easy to lose count here, so it was not very surprising to find 4 of Microsoft's domains in the Top 100 losers list for the US: Windowsphone.com, TechNet.com, Msdn.com and Bing.com. We want to take a closer look at three of these domains. We keep Bing aside as they only rank for their /maps/, /translator/ and /toolbox/ (Bing Webmaster Tools) directories.

Windowsphone.com

Visibility of Windowsphone.com on Google

The best performing parts of the domain, such as Windowsphone.com/en-US/apps/, /it-IT/apps/ and /de-DE/apps/ are now redirected to the app-store on Microsoft, Microsoft.com/en-US/store/apps/windows-phone - which explains why the domain has lost so much Visibility.

It is interesting to note, that during the redirect-chain from Windowsphone.com to the final page on Microsoft.com there seems to be a check which country the browser is coming from – instead of using a canonical or the hreflang link-markup – which effectively always sends GoogleBot to the Microsoft.com/en-US/apps/ directory.

Windowsphone.com to Microsoft.com/en-US/store/apps/

Due to this, and the fact that all country specific content is being redirected the same way, we see a large spike in the Visibility for the Microsoft.com/en-US/apps/ directory, right after the change.

We notice that the English version for the USA seems to be fine (red and blue), while in Italy the directory is slow to regain its Visibility (yellow). In Germany, Google also seems to be having problems, again.

Technet.com

Technet.com is Microsoft’s conglomeration of articles, wikis, blogs and forums for IT-professionals. Most of Technet.com has already been redirected to Technet.microsoft.com for a long time. The Blogs.technet.com subdomain is the only part still active (green).

Visibility of Technet.microsoft.com on Google.com

If we take a look at the Visibiliy history for Technet.microsoft.com we can see a nice switch from http to https but the real question is, “why is Blogs.technet.com losing Visibility while Technet.microsoft.com seems to absorb it?”.

The answer seems to be a change in December of 2015, where Microsoft started to publish the Technet blogs on Blogs.technet.microsoft.com, after which the directory started to gain Visibility. Additionally, it might be the case that Google does not put as much trust in user-generated content within the blogs anymore, as they did before.

Visibility of Blogs.technet.com and Blogs.technet.microsoft.com on Google.com

Msdn.com

Msdn.com is home to Microsoft’s Developer Network, which offers information for developers interested in Microsoft’s OS and applications.

Visibility of Blogs.msdn.com on Google.com

This domain also has a “blogs.” subdomain, as Technet does, which is now being redirected, in parts, to Blogs.msdn.microsoft.com. The plan behind these redirects remains a mystery, as some blogs are redirected while many others are not.

Conclusion

Regardless of what Microsoft may be thinking, it is important to keep in mind that, when it comes to content quality issues – which is something that Google Panda looks out for, for example – it is often not inferior content created by the website operators’ that is responsible, but user generated content on these domains. Just as could be the case with the above blogs.

Thanks to the Panda Update, as it is part of Google’s Everflux, there will be a time after moving the content to another domain in which Google will re-evaluate this domain. This explains why not all quality signals have yet moved to the new destination.

What exactly Microsoft is thinking here is anyone’s guess, but, especially for the multi language pages, they leave it up to Google to figure out what to rank for which country index by themselves, even though the rel=”alternate” hreflang-markup could be used to deal exactly with such an issue.

I hope you enjoyed this post and wish you a successful day!

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