Microsoft’s initial ignorance of the possibilities of long-tail search engine optimization (SEO) has hampered the company’s pursuit of Google in the search engine market, Microsoft senior vice president Yusuf Mehdi told the crowd at the Search Engine Strategies conference.

Mehdi, according to eWeek, said that "we missed the boat early on that the focus was about the long tail. We actually focused a lot on the head of the queries … It turned out the long tail was much more important."

For this reason, according to Mehdi, MSN search saw only minimal levels of use while Google rapidly ascended to the stratosphere of the search world over the course of the past several years.

However, Search Engine Watch blogger Nathania Johnson reports that Microsoft has apparently learned many lessons from its more successful search competitor: "How to optimize for Bing? Make sure your site is crawl-worthy, links with good anchor text. Pretty much how you optimize for Google."

Experts say that the pending takeover of Yahoo’s search portal by Bing could make the search wars a bit more competitive.