Microsoft looks to buy search share (again)

At its advance08 ad summit this week, Microsoft is rolling out yet another push to grow its Web search share by rewarding users with cash.

At its advance08 ad summit this week, Microsoft is rolling out yet another push to grow its Web search share by rewarding users with cash.

As described by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, via the new "Live Search Cashback" program, Microsoft will pay a portion of a purchase price (from 2 percent to more than 30 percent) to individuals who use its Live Search engine to find products online and buy them from participating retailers.

The new program seems to be connected to Jellyfish, a comparison shopping-engine firm that Microsoft bought last year.

Microsoft has been experimenting with ways to reward users with points, prizes and cash -- via programs like the "Live Search Club" -- for the past year-plus. While the Live Search Club program did boost temporarily Microsoft's search share, it didn't help it beyond a few percentage points.

At this week's summit, Microsoft is expected to continue to beat the drum for a new analytics technology that it is rolling out in beta with a few of its largest advertising partners. That technology, "Engagement Mapping," is an offshoot of the aQuantive Atlas platform. Microsoft is set to expand the pool of testers for Engagement Mapping in June, officials said.

The premise behind Engagement Mapping: Users don’t buy a product because they discovered it via Google search. Instead, people visit a number of different Internet sites before buying. Tracking this behavior is important, so that all of the sites get credit for prompting a user’s visit, according to the Softies.

Microsoft also is expected to talk up the value of its MSN portal at the ad summit this week. According to an internal Microsoft memo from Senior Vice President of Search, Portal and Advertising Satya Nadella (courtesy of GigaOM), Microsoft is looking to further blur the lines between portal and search. Will this mean a rebranding of Live Search to MSN.com? Who knows... stranger things have happened on the Live branding side of the house.

Meanwhile, will Microsoft offer ad-summit attendees any updates on what it's thinking, re: Yahoo? So far, not so much.