Peter VanRysdam / Digital Marketing / July 20th, 2007

Microsoft Strikes Gold with Live Search Club

I read an article yesterday about Microsoft’s new marketing around their Live Search site, and was interested to learn about a specific promotion they are running.  They’ve created the Live Search Club which at first glance looks like just another online puzzles and games site.  But here’s the difference: playing, and winning these games, gives you points you can cash in to get all things Microsoft from a ringtone download (105 points) to a new xBox (35000 points)!

I’ll admit…I did the quick math to determine how long it would take me to get the xBox.  Figuring I could get about 100 points by playing a couple of games at lunch or after work (or during work for that matter), after taking major holidays off, I’d have my new console in exactly a year.  Oh, plus the obligatory 4-6 weeks for shipping (are they using pony express?).
 
But I digress.  I’m sure you’re sitting there saying, “well how is this a golden promotional idea, Peter?”  Glad you asked.  The games (may I recommend Chicktionary?) all highlight the power and relevance of live search.  They are all word puzzles (crosswords, scrambles, etc) and each time you give a solution, it quickly searches that term.  I have to admit I was impressed with the speed of the search (though its not any slower or faster than google).  Even better, when you ask for a hint, it will search a term like “current US president,” helping you find the answer of “Bush” on your own.  That specific feature really encourages the player to interact with the search engine, which has got to help them out. 

Well, it has.  At least I think it has.  For whatever reason, and I think the Live Club is as good as any, Live Search has gained on Yahoo and Google.  Granted I’m getting this information from a news site that spelled “due to” as “do to,” but I’m no spelling expert myself.  According to their numbers, Live gained about 5 share points, mostly at the expense of google, who dropped just over 4 points from their all time high the month prior.  Both Yahoo and Ask also fell between May and June.  Bear in mind that Live is still about 50 points behind Google (and 6.4 points behind Yahoo), but a net 9 point swing is a pretty big change in a month!  This jump was big enough to revive the previously dead rumor that Microsoft plans to buy Yahoo, and that would change this entire discussion!

So this all got me thinking (and I think that was the point of the promotion) about why I use google as my default search.  I can understand why my wife loves it, as the executive director of a non-profit.  The free gmail and calendar tools offer her some pretty similar features to outlook, with the attractive price tag of “nothing” which is so important to a charity.  But why do I use google?

For a period of time, it was far and away the best.  When Yahoo was offering more of a directory than a search, and askjeeves kept “asking” me if I wanted to buy something, google was the fastest and provided the most relevant results.  It’s actually easier to track a ups package through google than through the ups Web site (a couple less clicks!).  But live now offers pretty much all of the same functionality as google (at least as they relate to the things I commonly use).  In fact, my own company ranks higher in live.com under our main keyword, web development company, than it does in google (3 in live, 4 in google)! 

I think I’m guilty of following the crowd here.  Especially being involved in search engine marketing, I’m always focussed on getting my clients results in the search that most people use.  As a result, I’m comfortable with google, and so I default to it.  But after spending a few days poking around live, thanks in no small part to the live club, I’m going to make an effort to split my time between the two.  I encourage you do the same too (so that you find my company more quickly! :P)

I’m curious to hear your comments related to why you use the search engine you do.  You might surprise yourself like I did.