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Microsoft Search Share Rises With Prizes

MSN and Microsoft Live's U.S. search query volume showed a 67% increase from May to June, according to a new report.

Microsoft's search efforts may finally have found some users.

MSN and Microsoft Live's U.S. search query volume jumped from 8.4% in May to 13.2% in June, a 67% increase, according to Internet metrics company Compete, Inc.

The key to Microsoft's success? Prizes.

"A good portion of the additional Live searches are coming from the Live Search Club, where you can apparently play games for points which you can redeem for fine Microsoft products," said Steve Willis, a Compete analyst, in a blog post Monday. "All of the games involve using Live's search engine -- to get the points, you have to search with Live."

Blingo.com, powered by Google, has been using prizes to woo searchers since 2004.

Willis said that Club.live.com wasn't generating noticeable traffic in April. In May, Compete tracked some 330,000 unique visitors at that site. In June, that number had risen to 3 million unique visitors.

"If Microsoft can actually leverage this traffic to Club.live into actual search users and string together a few more months like this, they could really threaten Google's top spot," said Willis.

A person posting under the name Cliff Parker on the Compete blog questioned the firm's data. "[S]earch market shares usually move by tenths of percentage points per month," Parker said. "A move this big in one month is unprecedented. Are you sure your data are correct?"

Willis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Compete boasts an active monthly sample of over 2 million users, compared to the 120,000 users sampled by Internet analyst comScore Media Metrix 2.0.

"Compete applies a rigorous normalization methodology, leveraging scientific multidimensional scaling (by age, income, gender and geography) to ensure metrics are representative of the U.S. Internet population," the company states on its Web site. "Compete members are recruited through multiple sources, including ISPs, the Compete Toolbar and additional opt-in panels to ensure a diverse distribution of user types and to facilitate de-biasing across the data sources."

As for other search engines, Amazon's Alexa.com shows a noticeable increase in traffic at Club.live and a 52% increase in page views over the past three months.

Google saw its search query volume drop from 67% in May to 62.7% in June, a 6.5% decline.

Yahoo's search query share stood at 19.6% in June, down from 19.7% in May and from 26.7% in June 2006.

Ask.com's search query share declined to 3.3% in June, down 3.5% in May and 4.1% from June 2006.

Internet metrics company comScore published its take on U.S. search market share numbers for May: Google (50.7%), Yahoo sites (26.4%), Microsoft sites (10.3%), and Ask (5%).

Your mileage may vary.

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