Search Cashback!

Search drives the online commerce world by bringing sellers and buyers together. As a seller, you most important task is getting your site to rank high organically and to have your advertisements placed most prominently and most frequently to user interested in buying and only to users interested in your product. A buyer chooses a search engine on the basis of more reliably getting them to what they are looking for. And, with commercial queries, getting them to the “best” seller where best is a fairly complex and hard to define term in this context. Happy buyers keep using the search engine and paying the sellers. Sellers who manage their organic and paid placements correctly sell lots of product. Successful search engines make considerable profit. That’s just the way the ecosystem has evolved – it’s the broadly used search engine that has all the influence and so they end up with considerable profit.

What if the rules changed? What if some of the search engine profit was returned to users? Could this change the ecosystem and could it be a good thing? Let’s watch because Microsoft is about to announce a “cash back service” later today according to Search Engine Land. In this posting, Playing with Live Cashback, the blog author demonstrates using the Live Cashback system and concludes that it won’t have much impact. I’m less certain. I suspect that respecting users and returning some value to them will change this market in positive way. It’ll be fun to watch over the next 4 to 6 weeks and see how the search ecosystem evolves.


James Hamilton, Windows Live Platform Services
Bldg RedW-D/2072, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, Washington, 98052
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2 comments on “Search Cashback!
  1. What I like most about the effort is simply that it’s different. It’s not just the same approach, same busines model, with the same features as every other search engine on the market.


  2. i’m not sure how much i can say about this being a former search employee and having a little knowledge of this stuff…

    but while i think the idea is theoretically really neat, i’m not sure the incentive is being paid in the currency of the search market. in other words, i don’t think search users (at scale) will really care about this very much – the currency in the search (user) market is convenience, not monetary rewards/profit. adding this type of incentive would only work if the user perceives that the convenience requirement has been met – unfortunately, whether it’s true or not, the world doesn’t yet perceive microsoft’s search offering as the most convenient, and therefore likely won’t find the monetary reward to be very interesting.

    that being said, i’ve been wrong about a lot of things. i do think money/monetization/incentives are super important and often overlooked, but they only seem to work well as bait when there’s a hook worth holding onto underneath…

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