If You Pay Them, They Will Come – Microsoft Pays for Searching on Microsoft Live

In one of the more pre-announced announcements, Microsoft today followed up yesterday’s three press releases about its new push in digital advertising with another one today, announcing a plan to pay a rebate to users who search for goods on Microsoft Live and then complete a purchase. The new program is called Microsoft Live Search Cashback. Key partners including eBay, Barnes & Noble.com, Overstock.com, Sears, Zappos.com, and WPP joined Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates at advance08, Microsoft’s annual advertising customer event, to announce their participation in the new program.

Microsoft says that the complete Live Search cashback product portfolio includes more than 10 million product offers from more than 700 merchants, including more than 13 of the top 40 U.S. retailers. The company also announced it has delivered a new Live Search travel destination, Live Search Farecast, making it easy for searchers to find the best travel deals on the Web.

To take advantage of the program, search for cashback deals at Live Search cashback. Each time you click a Live Search cashback listing, you’ll find deals on the product you chose. Your results will clearly list the cashback savings you’ll receive off the stores price, and your final bottom-line price that includes tax and shipping costs. Also look for this icon cashback Icon when you search for a product on Live Search to find cashback deals.

Increasingly, advertisers look not just for clicks but to have purchases completed, and the Cashback program encourages just such behavior. Advertisers participating in the Cashback program pay for completed sales. A list of merchants participating in the launch may be found here. Discounts set by merchants seem to be in the range of 2% – 20%.

Farecast, a recently acquired service is now available at http://farecast.live.com and while it is part of Live Search, it is not currently part of the Cashback program.

There have been reports that this program will be “disruptive technology,” but while it might prove popular, I don’t think of it as either a paradigm shift or a major threat to Google.

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