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Microsoft touts Live Search Cashback program

November 13, 2008 | 10:53 am

Cash

Money talks. But are Web surfers listening?

Microsoft's Live Search Cashback program, which offers incentives to Web surfers who click and buy goods from ads they are shown, hasn't necessarily increased the company's share of the search engine market. But the software giant says it's making progress in increasing its commercial search traffic.

It's pointing to a ComScore study it commissioned that reports that, among key retail categories in the second quarter, Microsoft had nearly 12% of the commercial transactions on websites in the U.S. and about 13% of total U.S. online spending.

According to Microsoft, users are responding in greater numbers than is typical on other search engines, driving up its share of ad dollars -- although not its share of the search market, which is about 10%.

Microsoft is trying to build loyalty among customers and advertisers. It says Live Search is getting a strong response from advertisers, with 30% growth in Cashback offers to customers from 20 of the top 50 online retailers in the U.S., including Gap and Saks Fifth Avenue. EBay has increased its search marketing spend with Microsoft threefold, Microsoft said.

What is unclear is the percentage of transactions and percentage of spending Microsoft had before it launched the Cashback program. And even less clear: Is paying people to use your search engine a viable long-term strategy?

-- Jessica Guynn

Photo: A Pakistani money changer shows U.S. dollar bills. Credit: Fareed Khan / Associated Press

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