Live Search Cashback vs. Google: A Case Study

Microsoft recently began giving searchers money back for completing a transaction via a search query in the Live Search Cashback program. It’s an interesting marketing concept, but how do the Live Search results delivered in the program measure up to Google, the de-facto search engine standard? I tested a few product-based queries on each, and the results were promising, but mixed.

Step One: Search for Product “Nike Dri-Fit Shirts”

Live Search Cashback

Live Search Cashback: We anticipated receiving a list of various Web sites, segmented out by sponsored and organic listings. In other words, we assumed the search results would look identical to how they’re laid out in Google, Yahoo, Ask, etc. We were pleasantly surprised to see that the search results were enhanced for a more retail product-centric approach. A helpful listing of Dri-Fit shirt product images was returned. This allowed us to quickly pinpoint the specific Dri-Fit product for our needs (lightweight short sleeve fitness).

Google: The first paid listing was Nike, and clicking on this sent us to $90 Dri-Fit golf shirts (not helpful). The first organic listing took us to a site that wasn’t what we wanted. We subsequently had to go back and keep “clicking and praying.” The supplier we wound up using via Live Cashback (Foot Locker) wasn’t listed on the first page of Google.

Tip: You need to go to the Live Search Cashback URL. If you go to the MSN site, you’ll get a list of text results similar to Google.

Winner: Live Search Cashback

Step Two: Order Product

Live Search Cashback: Live Search Cashback asks for an e-mail address during the order process to properly credit your Cashback account. An additional benefit: we didn’t have to fill out our address information. The price of the shirts was the same as other sites and cheaper than what you’d find in a store. We even received an additional 15 percent off for coming from Live Search Cashback, which was separate from the actual Cashback program. This was a nice surprise.

Google: The product price was the same as other comparable sites, but it didn’t give 15 percent off.

Tip: You need to sign-up for a Live Search account if you don’t already have one. This takes about three minutes.

Winner: Live Search Cashback

Step 3: Complete Order

Live Search Cashback Order

Live Search Cashback: After completing the order, we received an e-mail asking us to click and confirm our Cashback order. This order was for $140, so we were expecting maybe $3-$4 in Cashback credit. It was a pleasant surprise to see $18.70 in the Cashback account! The only downside: the money isn’t paid out for 60 days. The order fulfillment works the same as if you went through any other search engine; we received our shirts in about five days.

Google: No cashback.

Tip: Live Search Cashback doesn’t work well with Firefox. During the process it doesn’t indicate the Cashback amount you’ll receive.

Winner: Live Search Cashback


If you’re a product provider, it behooves you to become part of this program (Merchant Form). This is where marketing is going. More of the money will flow back to the purchaser or the individual referrer.

This concept isn’t new (rebates, referral programs, etc.), it just becomes more real-time and automated with tools like this. Overall, I like the Live Search Cashback program. The short-term user benefits: it’s easier to find what you’d like to purchase, and you can find some great deals.

However, Microsoft hasn’t made it simple for the everyday user; it’s surprising that they’re running TV commercials promoting it before it’s well beyond beta. They should take a note from Apple on how to bring easy-to-use products to market.

Cashback for search is a good concept. The question is if Microsoft Live Search will be the eventual winner.

Winner: TBD

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