Microsoft to Become “More Disruptive in Search”

Someone is finally stepping up to the plate. I’ve been longing for Yahoo to care enough to challenge the Google empire, but it looks like Microsoft’s CEO is the one with the stones to do it. Steve Ballmer, in his speech at Stanford, says that Microsoft is going to have to become “more disruptive in search” in order to attempt to catch up to Google.

Ballmer realizes how big of an underdog Microsoft really is to Google. Microsoft doesn’t have the economies of scale or the money that Google that has helped keep them where they are in search.

“We’re not just a No. 2 or 3 player,” Ballmer said. “The No. 1 player is a lot bigger than us.”

Craigslist Given Ultimatium by South Carolina

Remove prostitution or face criminal charges. That’s what South Carolina’s Attorney General, Henry McMaster, threatened in a letter to Craigslist’s CEO, Jim Buckmaster. McMaster believes that Craigslist is “being used to facilitate harmful activities in South Carolina,” pointing out prostitution and people’s safety as his primary concerns.

McMaster even went further to accuse Craigslist of knowingly allowing their site to be used for illegal and unlawful activity, even after warnings from law enforcement officials. Craigslist danced around the issue on their blog, and they plan on speaking to the SC AG directly about it.

Craigslist has until 5pm EST on Friday, May 15 to remove portion of the site which “contain categories for and functions allowing for the solicitation of prostitution and the dissemination and posting of graphic pornographic material.”

Email Spammers Turn to Recession-Based Search Engine Spam

A new form of email spam has surfaced, but this time with a recession twist. The email message focuses on the recession, but they are now including search engine links to trick your spam filters. According to MediaPost, the links included in the email don’t redirect to the spammer’s Web site, nor do the links perform a search in search engines using particular keywords in hopes of the spammer’s domain showing. Instead, the link performs a search for the spammer’s domain name. What’s worse, many of the sites the spammers lead unsuspecting users to is full of malware. To be honest, I’m surprised this hasn’t been done before.

E-tailers Rank Highest for Customer Satisfaction

E-consultancy reports that a recent study conducted by the UK National Customer Satisfaction Index scored retailers, e-commerce reported a stunning score of 82 points for Q4 2008 (out of 100). Why is this news so interesting? Because the average retailer customer satisfaction score is 74.8.

Amazon and Play.com helped e-commerce separate itself from the rest by posting 85 and 87 satisfaction scores. I had a feeling Amazon would be ranked high on this list, but I’m really surprised to see Play.com achieve such a high customer satisfaction level. I haven’t personally played around with their site too much, but hopefully this will give them some much deserved attention in the conversion-world for their great work.

Mobile Internet: A Necessity or a Luxury?

A recent Nielsen study suggests that mobile Internet is no longer just a luxury, it’s a necessity. “The mobile platform is becoming more and more a part of people’s lives,” said Jeff Herrmann, vice president of mobile media for Nielsen. “The primary use of these services is communication and convenience.”

The study reports that 71% of U.S. consumers plan to use some sort of mobile data service daily. I’m actually really surprised that number is so high. Even more surprising is that 29% of  non-users plan to engage mobile Internet services over the next two years.

What exactly are users using mobile Internet for?

  • 71% are using data services to connect to the Internet
  • 61% are using data services for email
  • 56% are using data services for multimedia messaging services

Google Analytics Integrates Telephone Leads and Live Chats

The Google Analytics team gave out advice on how to track telephone leads and live chats using Google Analytics in a blog post today.

Google teams up with Mongoose Metrics to allow users to track offline phone calls. Mongoose Metrics provides toll free numbers extremely cheap. GA is able to track calls to the toll free number by assigning that number to a hidden web page on your site containing your GA tracking code. Jeff Gillis from the GA team explains how it works:

When a phone call to the tracking number is connected, the technology will place a web browser visit to your hidden tracking web page and in this way insert the phone call event back into your Google Analytics account. Each phone call generates a unique visit which is clearly labeled inside of Analytics

FTC Gives its Final Warning to Ad Industry

The FTC has had enough. They have issued their “final warning” to the ad industry regarding behavioral targeting. They are demanding that the ad industry implement stronger privacy protections or they’ll do it for them. They created a sample of what they expect to see in the privacy protection guidelines in their 48-page PDF, Staff Report on Behavioral Advertising.

In the PDF they outline four revised principles which as of right now are non-binding. With help from paidContent.org I’ll do my best to explain these principles to you:

Transparency and Consumer Control

The FTC wants you to fully disclose how your site is using behavioral targeting and make it easy for visitors to opt out.

Reasonable Security, and Limited Data Retention, for Consumer Data