One thing you can say about Microsoft’s positioning in the search marketing arena is that their share of that marketplace is steadily declining. Recent attempts to put on an offensive have been mixed-results at best. Yahoo anyone? Now, with the weight of a playoff series down 3-0 in a best of seven, Microsoft brings us Live Search cashback, offering rebates for people to use their services to find and buy products. This is a component of their more focused push to bring new solutions to the SEM industry. Interesting offer, but will it attract a good slice of the search marketing pie? Will it work?
"Cashback is a neat idea, but I don’t believe it will change the behavior of the vast majority of Internet searchers," said Ian Maude, an analyst with U.K.- based firm Enders Analysis.
Searches for products online are a huge component of online search, about a third of search queries and a majority of search advertising revenue. Finding a way to pull that segment of the search audience to their platform would obviously be a big coop. From the Big Cheese himself, “This is a very big part of the $20 billion search market. Make no mistake, we are about having the best search, having the best results. Live Search cashback will help drive that,” Bill Gates at a recent press conference.
Cashback is in essence a marketing effort to promote its search, buying eyeballs and clicks with rebates. This is a marketing arena Google hasn’t had to explore, as their position keeps growing and growing in dominance organically. Google is by far the market leader, with 61.6% of all searches done online in the United States, to Microsoft’s 9.1%.
Again, Ian Maude: "Frankly, I think almost everyone will carry on using Google," he said. "There is no way they can get there without Yahoo. It’s questionable that they can do it even with Yahoo, but all these little tweaks don’t add up to much."
So, Microsoft will probably continue to be "microsoft" when it comes to online search. One promising note: As part of Cashback Microsoft will allow marketers to pay for advertising only when people buy a product, rather than when they simply click on an ad. And this points to a more tailored and accountable environment to entice advertisers to utilize better and more advantageous marketing platforms. Do that, and do it well, and Microsoft my have its foot in the door. Oh yeah, you gotta buy Yahoo though too!