by Steven LaLonde – PPC Manager at DragonSearch

Microsoft recently unveiled a new program, which they’re hoping will help build their search audience.

They’re going to give searchers cold hard cash whenever they complete a purchase with a merchant who is participating in their CashBack program.

In other words, if you find sneakers from a search on Live, and the merchants is participating in the CashBack program (look for the logo), and you make the purchase, MSN will deposit money into your account.

This is a win-win idea in theory.

Advertisers get to stand out, with the cashback logo below their ads, offering a compelling reason for a customer to choose them.

MSN gets to – hopefully – attract more users to their search engine. This will build their audience, and in turn, their advertiser base.

Bam – increased MSN revenue. Watch out Google?

Microsofts goal is simple. By incentivizing searchers to use their engine, they can build an audience. By building a bigger searching audience, more advertisers will move to MSN.

The idea sounds pretty good in theory.

But will it work?

For this to work, people who don’t already use MSN as their search engine need to know about it. (I feel like the only reason I knew about this is because I work in the industry.)

The regular searching masses need to know! Microsoft should tell the masses via some major TV network ad blitzes or something. Who knows, maybe they’re going to. Either way, Microsoft needs to really invest in getting the word out if this things going to have any real chance. (Their LiveSearch homepage has no mention of the program either.)

The thing is, building a search engine customer base has never been about bribes, ahem, incentives. It’s been about delivering good results to user search queries. Google has thus far been the best at this. (I’ve conducted far too many MSN searches which have turned up crappy, ridiculous results, but i think their getting way better.)

Even further, Google has been ingrained so far into consumer culture already. I’m thinking it’s going to be tough to overcome this.

After all, you don’t hear many people saying they ‘LiveSearched’ something. I hear ‘googled it’ daily.

Google IS search to the majority of the searching population. How can Microsoft overcome this? Will bribing searchers really work? That’s the multi-billion dollar question that nobody has been able to successfully answer, outside of the those guys at the Googleplex.

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