I’ve been getting a common question emailed to me several times lately that I thought I’d address real fast just to clear it up and get it out of the way.

“My site is ranking well in ____ and ___ but doesn’t seem to rank at all in ______. What’s wrong why won’t _____ rank me well?”

Feel free to fill in the blanks with either Yahoo, MSN, or Google.

The common answer to this questions in forums such as WebProWorld is that “Don’t worry about it _____ is just a wierd engine, there is really nothing you can do or good answer of why they aren’t ranking you well. I would focus on gaining some relevant links to your site, that might help.”

Thats an acceptable answer and it covers all the bases, however the person asking the question usually walks away disappointed and unfilled. I think the good answer is a little bit more simple than that. The answer is to make sure your inbound linking campaign follows the Rule of Three.
Obviously your site has content that is found acceptable for high rankings in the other two engines, so I would stray from reworking all your content and onsite optimization, because it is obviously close to success in all three. However don’t keep onsite optimization far from your mind. Keep in mind that SE’s such as Google, Yahoo, and MSN value inbound links differently. It is common belief in the White Hat SEO world that one single quality inbound link has the power to boost your rankings in all the major search engines. What one engine may consider the “one link to rule them all” another may not.

Lets look at an example:
www.moscowtimes.ru is a crazy good authority site that ranks very well. Once upon a time it released a sister site dedicated to the entertainment portion of it’s newspaper called www.go-magazine.ru. This site got indexed and recieved a PR7 by the next google update with only 3 links at the current time. It also ranks very highly for many many moscow related terms. By all definition this is a perfect example of having one inbound link propelling you to the top.

My point is simple. The three engines each treated this site differently when it first came out. Google for example may have said, “wow nice inbound link. I like you.” Lets give that link a voting power of 1,000 points to the go-magazine site. Yahoo as an example may have seen the same link and said, “wow nice inbound link. I like you.” and gave the inbound link a voting power of 700 points. It’s not that Yahoo liked the inbound link any less, it just didn’t determine it’s value to be as high as Google said it was. Thats just the reality of three different engines having three different opinions on the same subject. Putting this example into context, this is probably what is happening to Joe Schmoes website in the third engine that he thinks is frowning on him. Multiply this effect by several hundred or thousand links the differences become quite large among the three engines.

Stick to the rule of three.
If possible attempt to create for yourself three websites. One that by focus does well in Google, one that’s designed to do well in Yahoo, and a third for MSN. You don’t have to build these sites to amazing feats like your original site, but at least have them there and put each site’s focus to one doing well, or as I like to say Gained Approval, from one single engine. Many authority sites create multiple sister sites on multiple domains. Some even prefer using subdomains such as About.com. If each site gains enough notary in it’s focused engine to boost the value of it’s link enough to propel any site it links to and you point it to your parent site, your parent site naturally will do well in that engine, because it got an inbound link that is valued highly by that engine.

Creating 3 sister sites isn’t practical for me?
That’s fine, the same rule still applies you just have to figure out how to follow it. Look at the inbound links of the sites that are outranking you in the prodigal engine. Compare them in a detailed manner. One or many of those inbound links may be the difference between your ranking and their ranking. All you have to do is attempt to get links from the same sites that link to them. You can see how this would have the same essential effect as creating sister sites. A good tool for this is PR Prowler.

In short my answer to the question is to get inbound links that the other search engine likes. If your ranking well in Yahoo and Google, but can’t rank well in MSN. Gain some inbound links that you know MSN in particular will like.

I hope this clears it up a bit for a few of you :)