Microsoft Will Lure Users to Search With Cash Rewards

Plan Expected to be Announced at Advance '08

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REDMOND, Wash. (AdAge.com) -- Can Microsoft buy greater search share without buying Yahoo?

That's the idea behind the company's latest move to lure more users: Offer them cash.
The Live Search site that explains many of the details of the incentive was located by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer yesterday, the day before the Microsoft was expected to announce the deal.
The Live Search site that explains many of the details of the incentive was located by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer yesterday, the day before the Microsoft was expected to announce the deal.

The move is expected to be announced at today's Microsoft Advance '08 event and will essentially give financial incentives to users who complete a transaction after searching for a product through Microsoft's Live search. The tactic is highly unusual, although several people familiar with the plan seemed to be intrigued by its prospects.

Search biggest challenge
Growing its share of the consumer-search market is Microsoft's biggest challenge in the category where it is most hoping to challenge search-giant Google. So far Microsoft's search share has been fairly stagnant at around 9%. CEO Steve Ballmer has said the goal is to get search to 30% within the next four to 10 years.

In a staff memo distributed May 18, Kevin Johnson, president of Microsoft's platforms and services division, said one of the company's major goals would be to "disrupt the current model" in search. He referred to "a major new initiative that our search teams have been driving" that would be announced today. Ad Age digital editor Abbey Klaassen reports from Microsoft headquarters.

Yesterday, the day before the company was expected to announce the deal, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer located a Live Search site already up and running that explained many of the details.

Cashback savings
Referring to the program as the "search that pays you back," the site claimed that consumers, by searching for products via Microsoft, could "earn cashback savings based on a percentage of the product price. Your savings will be paid to you via your choice of a deposit to your PayPal account, direct deposit to your bank account, or a check in the mail."

The company has tried other incentives before. A year ago it used games distributed through display advertising to get users to use its search product. The games resulted in a short-term lift in queries. It's unclear whether the cash-back incentive will create long-term Live Search users, but Microsoft's willing to try.
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