Microsoft's latest effort to get people to use its search service is something called SearchPerks, which gives people points for using the search engine that can later be redeemed for prizes.
Users who agree to download a small program to track their usage get one "ticket" per day for every Live Search query, up to 25 per day. The program runs through April, at which point users can "cash in" the tickets that they get and trade them in for prizes or donate them to a charity.
It's the latest in a series of financial incentive-related projects from Redmond, joining such efforts as Live Search Club, Search and Give, and Live Search Cashback, a program Microsoft introduced in May.
The latest project doesn't just require one to use Microsoft's search engine, however. At least for now, it also requires Microsoft's browser (Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher) as well as a Windows PC. Microsoft said those latter restrictions are not necessarily permanent.
"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.
There's also the broader question of what it says about Live Search overall that Microsoft has to keep coming up with gimmicks to get people to try it. Not to mention the fact that Microsoft has continued to struggle to make inroads on Google in overall share, promotions notwithstanding. According to figures recently released by ComScore, Google increased its share of the U.S. search market in August--it's at 63 percent--while Yahoo and Microsoft both slipped a bit, to 19.6 percent and 8.3 percent respectively.
In an interview, Live Search Senior Director Frederick Savoye said that the new business models, as Microsoft likes to refer to these programs, are just one part of a three-prong strategy that includes continued improvements in core search as well as in vertical search, or "simplifying key tasks" in Microsoft parlance.
Microsoft has seen mixed results with its incentive programs. Live Search Club, for example, gave Microsoft an initial boost, but its gains appear to be directly tied to its level of incentives. With Live Search Cashback, Microsoft said it has seen some advertisers boost their Live Search spend. eBay, in particular, is spending 50 percent more on Live Search thanks to Cashback, which Microsoft says offers significantly higher conversion rates than traditional search. … Read more