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Use Microsoft's Live Search, Earn A Prize

Has Microsoft crossed that fine line where incenting customers to use its service starts to look like an act of desperation?
Has Microsoft crossed that fine line where incenting customers to use its service starts to look like an act of desperation?You tell me.

In a promotion "limited" to the first million people who sign up, Microsoft has lifted the curtains off of SearchPerks. In a nutshell, use Microsoft's Live Search tool for up to 25 Web searches a day, and you'll earn tickets that are redeemable for prizes like music downloads, clothing, and airline miles. The promotion ends mid-April.

Rewarding consumers to search is one way Microsoft hopes it can increase search traffic -- and thereby attract your ad dollars. Says a Fortune article: During the SearchPerks testing phase, Microsoft found people were three times more likely to use Live Search when they were offered redeemable points than when they werent.

"Over the long term these program have changed people's behaviors," Live Search senior director Frederick Savoye told CNET.

Of note, a valid Windows Live ID is required to participate, and you have to use Internet Explorer, version 6 or higher, on a Windows PC. Searches are tracked by means of the Perk Counter, a downloadable program that seems to do more than just track your searches for tallying purposes. According to the SearchPerks FAQ: "The Perk Counter is a piece of software that counts the number of Web searches you do each day on different search engines; the types of searches you complete, such as for news, images or shopping, etc.; and the number of online ads you click on. It also sends which search toolbars, if any, are installed on the computer."

SearchEngineLand has a tally of its own, with a rundown of the incentive-based search programs Microsoft has run or is still running. It also mentions that a few years back Google had tested a frequent searcher program, but it petered out quickly. Not that that seems to have hurt. According to Comstor, Google owned 63% of the search market for August. Microsoft? 8.3%.

A t-shirt for your searches. Is that really going to help Microsoft close the gap?

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Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer