On the eve of Kumo, is Live Search better than you think?

Kumo, the for now name of a newly rebranded Microsoft Live Search, should be upon us soon.  Kumo has been in corporate wide internal testing at Microsoft since early March (oops added the time frame), and at least parts of what appears to be a new UI have been resurfacing.  We don’t have the home page changes here, but in searching for some news on Sunday night’s LA earthquake, we did run across one of the purported new features of “Kumo”, called “Best match”:


Note the smaller search box contained within the best match, for searching within the best match web page.  Vanessa Fox had spotted Best match back in March, but there was no “search within” box back then.

So we wouldn’t be surprised to see more hints at what’s to come in the next few days and weeks, as the countdown clock ticks on.  In the meantime, however, while Live Search US market share continues to remain flat (at somewhere between 6% and 10%, depending on the reporting service), certain aspects of Live Search, in particular cashback, seem to be making an impact.

In a blog post on May 15, Nielsen Online looked at year-over-year growth for product search, and Live Search Product Search and cashback featured strongly:


And so Live Search Cashback was born. With technology derived through Microsoft’s acquisition of Jellyfish.com, the Cashback program immediately took off, driving 140 percent increase in traffic to MSN/Windows Live Shopping Search from the previous month. As many wondered if the novelty would quickly wear off, the Live Shopping Search audience grew 615 percent over the year. Even more impressive: it was one of only two Top Ten Shopping Search Providers to grow their audience from April 2008 to April 2009.

The Nielsen post goes on to say that shopping search is a small part of overall search share, noting that “searches conducted on shopping-specific engines only comprise between one and two percent of total search activity”.  However, as Jellyfish.com founder Mark McGuire says in a blog post reacting to the Nielsen post:

Use cashback when you want to buy something and Microsoft shares advertising revenue back with you.  The end result of this is that more folks use Live search for commercial queries, leaving Google with non-commercial search traffic (e.g., when I need to find the address of my local public library I go to Google, when I’ve got my credit card in hand, I search at Live cashback).  The data published by Nielsen backs this up, showing that Live Search is the most efficient engine at generating sales for its advertisers.  This is small now, but think about what happens if Microsoft can continue to siphon off commercial queries, and the big amount of ad dollars chasing those queries.