As more people continue to use search engines, the competition between the engines continues to grow. Google, has been the dominate force for several years. Its mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. Its relevant results and simple interface has earned its place as the most popular search tool in the US. Outside of relevant results, what else attracts people to use a particular engine?
A few months ago, MSN introduced Live Search’s cashback program, which allows searchers to earn cash back once they have purchased something on Live.com, from a participating advertiser. The searcher can recognize a cashback offer by seeing the logo below, next to a sponsored result.
In addition to the Cashback program, Microsoft recently launched its latest attempt to try and gain more of the search engine market share. SearchPerks gives users reward points/tickets, when they search on Live.com. In order to participate, users must sign up before December 31st and agree to download a small program called the Perk Counter, which tracks their search activity. Once the user is signed up, they immediately earn 500 tickets. Then, depending on how often a user searches on Live.com, they can earn up to 25 tickets per day. Once the promotion ends on April 15, 2009, the participating user will be able to redeem their tickets for prizes.
Is it time for search engines to try something new? Are users looking for something beyond what Google offers? In my opinion, the best gift an engine can give is a relevant result. Offering free prizes, in order to get me to search, does not appeal to me. However, maybe this promotion will appeal to others. It is still too early to tell if this will help increase Microsoft’s market share, but it should be interesting to keep an eye on.
As most of us are aware, Google is the leader in terms of search market share. Regardless of where you look, this is the case. Although Google has held this lead strong for quite some time, it appears that Microsoft is trying to catch up by offering incentive-based programs in hopes of attracting more searchers.
Initiating these types of programs is not a new tactic for Microsoft. MSN’s Search and Win, Live Search Club, Search and Give, and Live Search Cashback are few of their previous programs. Their latest program is called SearchPerks. SearchPerks is essentially a point system where users can earn “tickets” based on the number of searches conducted.
So how does it work? To begin, a “Perk Counter” must be downloaded. This Perk Counter is designed to track search activity and award “tickets” for the number of searches performed on Microsoft’s Windows Live, MSN or Live Search. (A maximum of 25 tickets can be earned in a day.) One thing to note is that the actual search queries and the websites visited are not tracked.
At the end of the program, searchers have the opportunity to trade in their tickets and redeem prizes. These prizes vary based on the number of points accumulated. By simply participating in the program, the searcher will initially receive 500 tickets.
There are, however, a few drawbacks to the SearchPerks program. First, it requires a Microsoft browser, Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher, and a Windows PC. Secondly, it may entice searchers to consider Live Search for their immediate searching needs, but will it make this their search engine of choice in the log run? What will happen when Microsoft stops offering incentives? Lastly, what about those who participate in the program and just type random characters into the query box in an effort to receive more tickets?
Microsoft has acknowledged that SearchPerks is not designed to actually keep searchers searching. Instead, the primary goal of the program is to create awareness about Live Search, to introduce the search engine to new users, and to build loyalty. Overtime, they would of course like to see searcher’s behaviors and perception of Live Search shift in their favor.
My curiosity regarding the program’s limitations with regard to browser compatibility as well as my question about random characters counting as searches still remain. It will be interesting to see how yet another incentive-based program for Microsoft turns out.
I posted an entry on June 18 that discussed the battle for #2 in the PPC world, and wanted to provide the latest on the search engine landscape.
There is no question that MSN has been more aggressive than Yahoo in terms of increasing their market share, and trying to become a serious rival to Google. In recent months MSN has made the following moves – Microsoft attempted to acquire Yahoo, their latest version of Internet Explorer attempts to direct searchers away from using Google search, and they recently launched a promotion to pay searchers a cash rebate for making purchases while using Live Search. All these attempts haven’t given MSN the lift they most likely were hoping for with the overall search engine market share, but MSN continues to stay aggressive with recent acquisitions of Powerset (search engine), and Greenfield Online (online shopping). In addition, MSN has a new Adcenter management tool in beta that is similar to the Google Editor, which helps to make daily account management for advertisers more user-friendly (Yahoo lags behind both Google & MSN with management tools for their PPC advertisers).
The numbers don’t lie when it comes to US search engine market share over the last 3 months. According to comScore’s 3 month numbers (May, June, July 2008), MSN is still struggling to gain traction:
May 2008 — 61.8%
June 2008 — 61.5%
July 2008 — 61.9%
May 2008 — 20.6%
June 2008 — 20.9%
July 2008 — 20.5%
May 2008 — 8.5%
June 2008 — 9.2%
July 2008 — 8.9%