Microsoft’s latest attempt to boost LiveSearch comes in a prize program termed SearchPerks. Essentially, you get a ‘ticket’ for every time you run a search on LiveSearch, and at the end of the promotion you can turn in your tickets for prizes. The promotion ends April 15, 2009, and Microsoft will decide whether or not to keep the SearchPerks program at that time, most likely depending on the initiative’s success. Oh, and the deadline to sign up is December 31.
Just like Yahoo’s GoodSearch, SearchPerks initially seems like a great idea. It’s already so easy (and commonplace) to run searches on the web that the only thing that could make it better would be to get rewarded for it. Plus, ad revenue is generated by the amount of searches run, so it seems logical that companies could offer prizes for searches, generating a win-win for everyone.
However, I’m willing to take a stand before this initiative has even dried its ears and bet that SearchPerks is doomed to fail. Not necessarily in some dramatic blaze of glory, or even a blaze at all, but rather the slow, painful decay that products such as Opera and ICQ have endured. Of course, there’s also the possibility that it won’t even get off the ground.
Ultimately, the prizes need to be valuable to make this worth people’s time. While the SearchPerks site notes that the prices displayed may not be the actual prizes, it looks like you can win the following: free music downloads, a badminton set, a t-shirt, airline miles, a cookbook, and an Xbox controller (I also heard some Xbox games will be available). Not only are most of these prizes pretty worthless (everyone and their hairdresser is offering free music downloads these days), but even the ones that do have some value don’t seem worth the 6-month investment. (Hey, wouldn’t it be great to have another Xbox controller? Well don’t worry, rather than plunking $20 on eBay, you can diligently use LiveSearch for 6 months and get your very own. Woohoo!)
The one footnote you may have missed is that SearchPerks is only compatible with IE 6.0 or greater, and only works with Windows XP or Vista. Therefore, given the reasons that I will examine later, I believe it’s fair to assume that very few will uproot their browser (much less their OS) to take part in the SearchPerks craze. An additional restriction is that you can only earn 25 tickets a day. Therefore, not only can you not reap the benefits of running lots of searches when you really need them, but you’ll need to log on and make meaningless searches every day if you want to build up anything useful. To get the Xbox controller, for instance, you’d have to get 25 tickets for all 197 days, plus find an extra 75 tickets somewhere. (Microsoft said they might be offering additional ways to win tickets, so that must explain it.)
While SearchPerks might at first seem like a smooth, free deal, it really isn’t. Time is money, and simply tracking your searches and researching the prizes takes time, not even counting the extra searches you’ll have to do to try and get a decent prize.
And lastly, people throw away free prizes every day. Coupons. Kool-aid points. Better credit card interest rates. You name, it, companies have done it. But the fact remains that most people are busy, stressed, and don’t care for penny-pinching. Not to mention it’s much easier to opt out of something than it is to opt in.
For people already using IE and LiveSearch, who surf the web fairly often, SearchPerks isn’t a bad idea. Of course, targeting this market does nothing to improve Microsoft’s share of the search market, which is its ultimate end goal. And for that reason, I must conclude that SearchPerks will be tried by many, continued by few, and most of us can go back to Google. People have been choosing value over gimmicks for years, and have proven that they won't participate in timely promotions with marginal returns. Why would it be any different this time?