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May 21, 2008

Live Search Cashback: It’s Smart, But It Will Fail

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Everyone’s cringing at the recent announcement that Microsoft will start paying searchers in an attempt to lure them over to their engine and get them out of the clutches of Google. It’s pretty much the saddest story you’ll hear all day NOT about abandoned or one-armed babies.

I don’t have the heart to describe the program myself, so let’s hear how Microsoft describes its new Live Search Cashback program:

“You will be able to 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. It’s that simple!”

That simple and that sad. Why is Microsoft offering pay its users? Let’s again consult Microsoft:

“We want to earn your loyalty and reward it with cashback savings for your everyday online shopping. We are “The Search That Pays You Back”! “

Isn’t your heart breaking just a little bit for them?

The thing is, in theory, it’s not even a bad idea. Encourage people to make purchases by searching through your engine and then give them a bit of a cash break (anywhere between 2 percent to more than 30 percent) when they buy from participating retailers. It’s a cost per acquisition model designed to get more people searching on Live and to hit Google where it hurts by stealing away valuable advertising dollars. It also gets more eyeballs to adCenter, which is an idea I like very much.

In theory, I get it. However, in practice there’s not a single person alive who doesn’t know it will totally fail. Why? Because if your search engine isn’t up to par, not even “cold hard cash” will get people to use it. Searchers don’t reward mediocrity, especially when they’re already searching with an engine that doesn’t suck.

A note to Microsoft, Yahoo and whoever else is out there reading this: If you’re going to beat Google it has to be done through innovation. Not with backdoor bribery. Figure it out.

And someone please figure it out. We don’t need any more engines promising to give searchers money or prizes or iPods. Heck, this isn’t even the first time Microsoft has tried this approach. We saw it in 2006, as well. All searchers want is an engine that’s relevant, trustworthy and that cares about their users.

If you want to read more about Live Search Cashback you can check out the new site or read through the FAQ. I wouldn’t bother. It will just depress you and the program probably won’t even be around that long. Instead, let’s all watch Steve Balmer getting pelted with eggs. After this launch, he almost deserves it.

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3 responses to “Live Search Cashback: It’s Smart, But It Will Fail”

  1. Nate Nead writes:

    This was a great post. I agree wholeheartedly. I can see why Ballmer gets pelted with eggs in a foreign country…

  2. Subhankar Ray writes:

    AAfter Web Search has been giving cashback for a year, and it works for us. Hope this will bring some credibility to the rebate programs.
    Subhankar Ray

  3. Eric Enge writes:

    I agree with you Lisa. Seems like an act of desperation to me.

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