Google Updates

  • Google’s new privacy policy is now in effect. Expect the sky to fall, or for all of your ads to be slightly better-targeted.
  • Danny Sullivan points out that although Google+’s numbers don’t look good, Google is forgoing lots of revenue to promote the service. That’s telling.
  • This Google search screenshot is making the rounds. The likely source for these results: Google sees different chains of queries that include lots of variants on this thought. The chains are disproportionately likely to end on a page that references “Children of Men,” so Google knows that that’s a topic that ends the search. Since Google sees every search after the first one as a bug, they promote the movie. One of the perks of high market share is that these are the edge cases Bing can’t necessarily copy.
  • Google has produced a round of predictions for mobile ads in 2012. The most shocking is also the most qualified: “There will be 10 days where >50% of trending search terms will be on mobile.”
  • The WSJ spotlights some ComScore Data indicating that Google+ users are on the site about three minutes per month, compared to six to seven hours for Facebook.
  • Google Advisor is no longer covering mortgages, which is a very odd change to make without an announcement. They’d previously dialed-back their mortgage coverage, though, so this is not entirely unprecedented.
  • Google released a vague list of algorithm improvements. An extra-vague reference to turning off one link-measurement signal got SEO practitioners riled up, but the only really interesting changes are a) that local results will incorporate universal search signals, and b) that Google is still fine-tuning its flight search.
  • A Google Engineer explains their AdSense pricing—it almost always defaults to maximizing revenue. While that’s not surprising, it does mean that upside from AdSense is limited by macro factors (adoption, growth in the web) rather than the product itself

Foursquare Drops Google Maps

Foursquare has switched from Google Maps to OpenStreetMap, at least on their site—the app uses built-in map functions, which tends to mean Google Maps. While they’re talking up usability, one obvious reason is that Google Maps has ratcheted up the cost of their API.

In unrelated Foursquare news, cofounder Naveen Selvadurai is leaving the company. Whether or not this has anything to do with Spark Capital buying $50mm in Foursquare shares from existing investorsis certainly up for debate.

As it Turns Out, AOL Really Does Count on Great Content

Tim Armstrong wasn’t kidding when he claimed that AOL needed great content to keep growing. Here’s what happens when they lose their great writers. AOL has lost plenty of other employees lately, too.

Netflix’s Closed Captioning and SEO

Netflix has now close-captioned most of their most-watched videos. One side benefit of this: any search query that consists of a movie quote is a query for which they could offer the best possible result (the full quote, in context, with a clip). They probably won’t upload full transcripts to Netflix.com, but they might do some sort of special search-placement deal with Bing, where Bing uses the quotes to generate results, but doesn’t return a page with them.

The 2.5th Screen

Foursquare proved that a little user interaction could bridge the gap between location-based services and weak location-awareness at the device level. Now, sports fans are trying the same thing in TV. This could be a cheap stopgap before truly smart TVs become common.

BranchOut

In the past, we’ve been dubious about BranchOut’s long-term growth potential, since their product is basically LinkedIn for when you haven’t filled out a LinkedIn profile and don’t want to talk about work. But as it turns out, they have a niche among blue-collar workers.

Hiring a blue-collar worker is a credit decision. It’s a bond, not a stock. There might be a million people tied for the position of “best assembly line worker in the US.” Branchout is the ideal setup for that market; executing on that is quite a coup for their team.

DuckDuckGo Triples Search Volume in Three Months

According to their stats page, DuckDuckGo’s search run rate has risen to 1.6mm searches per day, from 450K per day in December. That’s a far faster growth rate than they saw during 2011. Most of their recent news coverage focuses on previous milestones—apparently transparency is working well for them.

LivingSocial to Launch a Credit Card

Group buying helps sales, but it’s not necessarily great for working capital. LivingSocial has taken an early step to address that by offering users a credit card with a rewards program (which will, of course, give them more purchase data). Merchant funding is a bigger deal, since group buying companies could theoretically use this to smooth out the wild fluctuations in required capital after each deal.

Bing’s Google+

Bing has implemented a more user-friendly version of personal search; the kind that Google would have set up if they didn’t see Facebook as an existential threat. In search, Google can innovate and Bing has to catch up; in social, Facebook can innovate and Bing is happy to be a platform for it.

(And on that note, Bing has basically copied Google’s local search results formatting. It’s also using its viral msnNOW site to juice search marketshare numbers.)

Yelp IPOs

Yelp is now publicly traded. Elevation made a good return; current investors might want to be careful, given that 1) Google and Bing are getting into local search, meaning Yelp’s SEO is less important, 2) group-buying companies offer an alternative marketing channel, and 3) Yelp’s effective CPMs for advertisers are shockingly high.

Yelp’s library of reviews is valuable, but there’s much that can go wrong while they try to monetize it.

“How Three Germans Are Cloning the Web”

BusinessWeek profiles the Samwer brothers, who parlayed the profits they made from cloning eBay into an incubator that clones everything. It’s worth reading for a look into how many competitive threats a typical onling business faces (in a generous funding environment) merely by existing.

Mobile User Acquisition Costs Drop 37% month-over-month

At least according to Fiksu data.

“Newsjacking” Through Instant Kindle Books

Fast Company profiles the tiny trend of writers producing quick Kindle books to capitalize on suddenly interesting topics. Any search page that drives revenue will eventually be gamed, and Amazon’s internal search results for Kindle books are no exception. I’d expect safeguards to show up soon (and one of the easiest to execute will be based on author reputation: if a given writer got lots of decent reviews from paying customers last time he produced something on a newsy topic, he’ll make the cut—but the median cut-and-paste job won’t).

AT&T May Charge Apps for Heavy Data Usage

The problem with charging for usage is that users hate micropayments. But companies don’t mind them, especially if they’re correlated with revenue. That’s why AT&T’s plan to ask apps to subsidize data rates might pay off. The big question is the user experience: reminding users that the meter is running on all apps except these would be annoying.

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A LivingSocial Credit Card, Attrition at AOL, and Netflix’s Odd SEO Angle