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Rewards program boosts Microsoft search share

Microsoft Web search share rises nearly 3 percent in June after the company launches program that rewards people for using the search site.

While Google remained the top Web search engine in the U.S. in June, Microsoft's share rose nearly 3 percent from the previous month as a result of a Microsoft program that offers rewards to people for using the Live Search site.

Microsoft's search share rose from 10.3 percent in May to 13.2 percent in June, according to the latest figures from ComScore, released on Monday. Microsoft's Live Search Club, which awards points to participants that can be redeemed for T-shirts, software and other items, was launched in late May. The company began testing the program earlier in the year, calling it MSN Search and Win.

Apparently, the program is paying off. The number of queries on Microsoft's search site rose 36 percent in June because of Live Search Club, ComScore said.

Microsoft was the only one of the top five search sites to register a month-over-month share gain. Ask.com stayed the same at 5 percent. Google's share dropped 1.2 percent to 49.5 percent, from 50.7 percent. Yahoo's share fell 1.3 percent to 25.1 percent, and Time Warner's AOL was down 0.4 percent.

Most Live Search users get there from another Microsoft service and use other search engines as well. The company's strategy isn't so much to attract new users but to increase the loyalty of existing users, says Brad Goldberg, general manager of Live Search.

Microsoft plans to update its core search engine by the end of the year, improving on image, mobile and local search, as well as relevance and performance, Goldberg says.