Microsoft is making yet another attempt at pay for search. Following in the footsteps of Cashback, a program the company launched in May, Redmond's latest effort is called SearchPerks.
SearchPerks lets Live Search users earn "tickets" toward prizes -- up to 25 tickets a day. The program is free to join, but Microsoft is instructing users to register by pasting the GetSearchPerks.com URL into an Internet Explorer browser. The program doesn't work with Mozilla's Firefox or Apple's Safari. Users also have to use a Windows PC.
"At this time, SearchPerks is a limited promotion, though we remain open to expending availability of the promotion to different browsers and operating systems based on consumer interest," Microsoft said.
Will SearchPerks Build Loyalty?
Here's how SearchPerks works: Participating users agree to a small application download that tracks their usage. They get one ticket for each Live Search query they complete from now through April. That's when users cash in those tickets for prizes or donate them to charity.
Will it attract more users? Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, isn't holding his breath. While Live Search may indeed win some new users and cause them to change their search behavior, he said, it's more likely that casual Live Search users may begin to use the search engine more frequently.
"The capping of the rewards at 25 points per day is intended to protect against fraud and also prevent people from just showing up and doing 25 perfunctory searches to max out on the daily reward quota and then move on," Sterling said. "This is a play to change long-term behavior."
As Sterling sees it, a searcher who begins to use the system to collect tickets and win prizes may settle into longer-term Live Search usage -- because they have to in order to access the program's benefits. That long-term use could establish ongoing Live Search loyalty after the program ends in April.
"You can't just use Live Search for a week and then get an airline ticket. The people who show up with the intention of just getting prize money or electronics or airline tickets are going to be quickly disappointed and might fall away," Sterling said. "But the people who are willing to stick with it may change their loyalties over time."
Live Search By the Numbers
In May, Microsoft announced another concept it hoped would give it an edge in the search-engine wars: Cash rebates for customers who found and purchased products. The Cashback program partnered with the likes of eBay, BarnesandNoble.com, Overstock.com, Sears and Zappos.com. Did it work?
According to comScore's latest figures released Sept. 18, Microsoft doesn't appear to be gaining ground based on its Cashback program. Google sites led the U.S. core search market in July with 63 percent of searches conducted, followed by Yahoo sites (19.6 percent), Microsoft sites (8.3 percent), Ask network (4.8 percent), and AOL (4.3 percent). Microsoft was down seven percent between July and August.
"Market-share data argues that Cashback hasn't had any significant impact on Microsoft's share," Sterling said. "It is not clear how SearchPerks will perform. It may just be an added incentive for people who already use Live Search to keep using it."
Image credit: Product shot by Microsoft.