Microsoft tries to lure more searchers with another giveaway

Microsoft tries to lure more searchers with another giveaway

Summary: If you can't beat 'em, pay 'em off.That seems to be the Microsoft Live Search team's motto these days. On October 1, Microsoft rolled out another search-rewards program, designed to get more searchers to try its distant No. 3 search engine, Live Search.


If you can't beat 'em, pay 'em off.

That seems to be the Microsoft Live Search team's motto these days. On October 1, Microsoft rolled out another search-rewards program, designed to get more searchers to try its distant No. 3 search engine, Live Search.

The new Live SearchPerks program, open to U.S. searchers only, requires users to install a small desktop counter to their PCs, which will calculate how many times they use Live Search (but keep them anonymous otherwise, according to Microsoft). Users are awarded "tickets" for each search. Twenty-five tickets gets users a free music download; 500 gets them 1,000 free air miles on predesignated airlines. (Participants also can opt to donate their tickets to selected charities, schools and other causes.)

Microsoft is limiting the program to the first 250,000 users who sign up through December 31. The program is set to end April 15, 2009, after which time prizes will be awarded. If the results merit, Microsoft plans to scale up the program to include more people in more countries, officials said.

More interesting to me than the program logistics is how Microsoft views the idea of paying users to search.

Microsoft is attempting to grow its search share in three ways, said Frederick Savoye, diector of Live Search Product Management: By improving search features (better relevance, infrastructure, etc.); by simplifying tasks in particular verticals (travel, shopping, product reviews); and by "innovating in the business model." In this third category, Microsoft already has launched a few different paid-search program, including the Live Search Club, Live Search CashBack and an even earlier program, known as "Service Credits for Web Search," via which Microsoft signed up businesses to require and/or encourage their employees to use Live Search in exchange for lower software prices.

Savoye told me Microsoft is seeing, on average, a three times increase in the number of Live Searches done in the various consumer-focused paid-search pilots it has launched. That may not seem like much, when you consider Microsoft has less than 10 percent of the search query share. Savoye said that Microsoft sees the programs as ways to build different audiences. "And different programs appeal to different people," he said.

I guess Microsoft has to try whatever means necessary to grow its search share, but these paid programs don't seem to have taken the world by storm. Live Search Club helped Microsoft to grow its market share -- at least until market watchers revised their data to account for it.

What's your take? Do you have any intentions of trying Live SearchPerks?

Topics: Browser, CXO, Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Mobility, IT Employment


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Thumbs up

    This is a good thing. I switched from Google to Live Search a year ago and haven't looked back. People view Google as the holy-grail of searching without looking further afield.

    Anything Microsoft can do to show the Google dazed majority that there are better search engines out there is a good thing!
    • What?

      Who says sh!t like that other than a Microsoft shill. You guys have to lay off the astroturfing for a while, it has gotten out of control and obvious.
      • MS Shll?

        C'mon Jeff, lots of us like MS and use their products (both hardware and software) because they are more productive than other brands. While I think they could use more "friendly" customer relations, this scheme seems to be one good step, though I doubt it will work.

        They could start with totally free tech help on their products instead of limiting it to new products like "Windows Live One Care".

        I own no stock and have no connection with MS other than I love their products. Does that make me a "shill"?
        • No, but it can make you a prime candidate for...

          ..vendor lock-in.

          If you don't mind being a Redmond tool, I say go for it...

          Those free lures make charging for things like this in the future.
          hasta la Vista, bah-bie
      • Oh, I see

        So having a preference to a particular product makes you a shill?
    • Disagree

      I think that Live search has improved by leaps and bounds over Microsoft's previous search, but it is still second to Google in my book.

      I do admit that I am using Live Search more and more, but Google is still my first resource.
      • Not a zero sum game

        Hey, here's an idea, why not use both? I think Google
        is still the best, but there are plenty of times that
        offer search engines will produce the results right of
        the bat when Google doesn't which is about 25% of the
        time or so.

        For basic stuff they all give the same results most of
        the time.
        • Example please?

          Give us an example of a search where MS gives results and Google doesn't...
          • He doesn't need to prove it

            It's worked like that for him.

            You can go try it yourself and if it doesn;t work for you then just keep your favorite search engine.

            It's free to use after all...
          • I didn't ask for proof of anything

            I asked for an example.
            Perhaps you could give me one?
            No, thought not.
          • Not a single example...

            So not one of you MS fanboys can give me a single example of a search that yields better results using MS Live Search than using Google. How utterly predictable.
  • RE: Microsoft tries to lure more searchers with another giveaway

    Odd way to grow share by limiting the number of people who can join. You're assuming that you need to pay them to search with you (a dangerous precedent) and by limiting the number who can join you've just set the very maximum that you can gain. So I expect their overall share to continue to decline.
  • Offer is limited to US only

    I signed up and then realised the offer was only for US residents, so needless to say I immediately set Google back to my homepage again.

    I find iGoogle very efficient for news feeds, weather etc......Have Microsoft a similar capacity to do this on their search engine?
    • Yes

      Yes the entire Microsoft Live platform includes a
      front page that has weather, rss from any website, any
      news site feed, email integration and so on...
      although I almost never use iGoogle (I played with it
      for awhile), I find myself using more often.

      I personally find this quite funny because I still use
      Google for searching... but I use Microsoft's Live as
      my home page.

      People say Microsoft's search is crap... but they need
      to understand that Live search is not a "show me all
      the hits of these words" like Google's. Live search
      is very different because its topic and targeted
    • Offer Not Available to Canadians

      Again, we up here in Canada are treated like red-headed stepchildren when it comes to another MS "perk", especially when we're the second-biggest user base *after* the USA. Sigh.
      • Chill out

        It's a pilot program. If it works in the US they'll expand it.
  • Danger danger. US only search engine alert.

    I can see it now :

    HEALTH : (Cue big McDonalds advert with a completely unrepresentative image of their offerings) New reduced fat McDonalds. Buy one, get one free, when you present this search result.

    EUROPE : A socialist experiment that aims to disprove that the financial markets are a crucial part of every single fibre of our very being.

    TERRORIST : Someone originating from outside the centre of the world, a non US citizen. Always determined to destroy your freedom to enjoy unaffordable houses and homelessness, your freedom to work every waking hour to pay the fat cats for screwing your economy.
  • RE: Microsoft tries to lure more searchers with another giveaway

    If you can???t beat ???em, pay ???em off? What kind of BS journalistic skills is this? Its called an incentive to attract more users. I've been using Live Search as my primary search for quite some time now and the results have been absolutely fabulous! I can find what I need with relevant results immediately. With other search engines I'd have to sift through pages of blogs that had no relevance to my search terms. Not to mention the other search engines are filled with ads. With Microsoft Live Search I can find what I need when I need it.

    This initiative is going to work out very well for me and millions of others. I can see myself racking up the tickets in no time. The best part is that I get rewarded for using their service. You don't see that with other search engines. Well played Microsoft, well played!
    Loverock Davidson
  • IE Only

    Just went through the sign-up process and notice that it's seem to also be targeted and keeping IE usage high. When I tried to sign up via FireFox, a page came up saying to paste the URL into Internet Explorer.

    Could be a technical reason since the 'counter' is an IE add-on but I'm sure the fact that this drives IE usage as well as Live Search usage isn't lost on the Microsoft-ies.

    - J -
    • Firefox add-ons

      Are you forgetting Firefox add-ons? There is an IE tab one that allows you to switch the rendering from Firefox to IE right then and there. So all you need to do to get this from Firefox is download the add-on, go to the sign-up page, switch to IE rendering, and there ya go!