Google to pay $22.5 million to settle privacy charges: WSJ

PALO ALTO, Calif., Tue Jul 10, 2012 – Google Inc. is close to paying $22.5 million to settle charges that it bypassed the privacy settings of customers using Apple’s Safari browser, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing officials briefed on the settlement terms.
The fine would be the largest penalty ever levied on a single company by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the Journal said late Monday.
The charges involve Google’s use of special computer code, or “cookies,” to trick Apple’s Safari browser so Google could monitor users that had blocked such tracking, the newspaper said.
Google disabled the code after being contacted by the Journal. According to Google, tracking of Apple users was inadvertent and did not cause any harm to consumers, the newspaper reported.
“The FTC is focused on a 2009 help center page. We have now changed that page and taken steps to remove the ad cookies,” Google told the Journal.
Google also faces potential sanctions from other governments. It is being investigated by the European Union to determine if the company complies with Europe’s stricter privacy laws, the Journal reported.
An FTC spokeswoman declined to comment to the Journal.
Google and FTC could not be reached for comment by Reuters outside regular U.S. business hours.

How to keep a true aim on the moving target of SEO

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

Caffeine, panda and penguin are terms that seem unrelated to most businesses, but for digital marketers they have induced flurries of action and emotions ranging from pride to panic. These are the code names given in the past few years to three major updates of Google’s website search ranking algorithm.
Businesses that were hit by these updates typically suffered losses in Google rank from being in the top three on page one to getting buried on page 50 or beyond, search engine traffic dropping by more than 70 percent overnight and significant losses in revenues. Each update created a fundamental shift in how Search Engine Optimization tactics either benefitted or harmed a business’s ability to be found — and more importantly, found at the top of the results — in Google searches by their target customers.
“Search Engine Optimization and Marketing are dynamic and rapidly changing specialties that businesses need to keep pace with,” says Kevin Hourigan, president and CEO of Web design, Web development and online marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions. “The key to staying ahead of the curve is to have a comprehensive and connected strategy with your marketing, website and SEO.”
Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about how to keep your online marketing and SEO driving top search engine results, leads and sales growth for your business.

How do I stay ahead in SEO?

The recent SMX Advanced Conference in Seattle, one of many Web industry educational events, offered practical insight and in-depth education on the latest search marketing trends, technology and best practices. One session featured a Q&A with Matt Cutts, Google’s most known insider and spokesman on search quality and algorithm matters. This very popular session revolved around the impact of Google’s latest algorithm update, called Penguin, and what kinds of SEO behaviors and tactics are being either rewarded or demoted in their search engine rankings as a result.
This scenario of face-time with Matt Cutts has been featured at search industry conferences for many years. While the tactical details keep changing, the central message Cutts delivers is the same: Google continuously seeks to return the highest quality and most relevant results to people for the keywords they use in a search.
As SEO practitioners of varying ethical orientation develop practices for attracting high search rankings and traffic for their client’s websites, Google’s algorithm adjusts to keep those results relevant and offer credible answers for searchers. What was once seen as a SEO best practice could now be a very real detriment. So it is essential that the person you entrust with the SEO for your business is not only a competent tactician, but is up to date with today’s best practices.

Why isn’t covering the SEO basics enough?

The SEO building blocks of appropriately using of keywords, metadata and link strategy used to be the complete tactical toolset, but are now just the first steps. In a very simplified nutshell, three recent major Google algorithm updates addressed these ‘Quality of search’ experience issues:

  • Caffeine: Focused on recency or ‘freshness’ of information available, incorporating rapidly updated content such as Facebook and Twitter posts. This heralded a new tactical approach to Social Media and SEO.
  • Panda: This focused on the quality of the user experience, including page design and user interface, website content quality seen from human versus algorithmic ‘eyes’ and site usage metrics that signal usefulness and popularity of a website with searchers. This caused a paradigm shift for SEOs to balance tactics with design, development and audience communication or consumer psychographics measures.
  • Penguin: Focused on quality of content and particularly on devaluing websites containing linking schemes, duplicate content and using blog and article networks that post low-quality content with commercialized links. This creates a major change in the kind of linking tactics a business can successfully use and significantly changes content marketing distribution and syndication throughout the Internet.

These algorithm updates increasingly emphasize that implementing SEO in a silo is a sure path to online marketing failure. Your SEO experts now need to be Web strategy experts. They need to have a strong understanding beyond classic optimization of all your marketing elements including how they interact and how to strike an ongoing balance among them to align with search and marketing best practices.

Where does this fit in my overall sales and marketing strategy?

There are many technical complexities and best practices to stay abreast of in SEO and online marketing. That said, it is essential that your SEO implementation is driven by a strategy that is connected with your Web design, website functionality, customer service and audience communications strategies both online and offline.  Be sure that any Web marketing partners clearly communicate the tactics they use on your behalf, and that all your online tactics promote the best possible user experience of your brand and business.
The people in your Web audience are more important than search engine crawlers because they are the ones who can get excited about your brand, share your message, lift your legitimacy in today’s search engines and become your customers.  As we are seeing through recent search algorithm updates, technology is enabling search engine crawlers to ‘see’ and evaluate experience more and more like their human website-visiting counterparts. So the best way to win the SEO game is to present a Web experience that wins the confidence, trust and business of your customers.

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or http://www.BayshoreSolutions.com. For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, visit: http://www.bayshoresolutions.com/about-bayshore-solutions/methodology.aspx.

Insights Web Design, Development & Internet Marketing is brought to you by Bayshore Solutions

Apple, Google to face off in key smartphone hearing

CHICAGO, Wed Jun 20, 2012 – Apple Inc. will try to salvage a high-profile lawsuit against Google Inc.’s Motorola Mobility unit on Wednesday at a crucial hearing in the smartphone patent wars between the two tech companies.

Federal Judge Richard Posner in Chicago will hear Apple argue why it should be able to seek an order barring the sale of some Motorola phones. Posner’s decision could affect the iPhone maker’s ability to negotiate favorable licensing agreements in its legal fights against Motorola and other competitors like Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.

Apple has waged an international patent war since 2010, part of its attempt to limit growth of Google’s Android, the world’s best-selling mobile operating platform. Opponents of Apple, meanwhile, say it is using patents too aggressively in its bid to stamp out the competition.

Motorola sued Apple in October 2010, a move widely seen as a preemptive strike. Apple filed its own claims against Motorola the same month.

Posner issued a series of pretrial rulings that eliminated nearly all of Motorola’s patent claims against Apple, while maintaining more of Apple’s claims against Motorola. That meant Apple had more to gain at the trial, which had been set to start last week.

Yahoo hires former Google director to lead ad revenue

SAN FRANCISCO, Mon Jun 18, 2012 – Yahoo Inc. has hired former Google director and media veteran Michael Barrett to help lead its efforts to re-emerge as an entertainment and information destination that wins advertising revenue.

Barrett, who will take the title of Chief Revenue Officer, is one of new interim CEO Ross Levinsohn’s first key appointments, underscoring signs that Yahoo – a company that has suffered from strategy flip-flops under successive CEOs – is now thinking of itself as more of a media company than a technology company.

Those close to Levinsohn have said he is committed to building out Yahoo’s own video programming and striking more syndication deals in pursuit of ads that command a higher price.

This will be the second time that Barrett and Levinsohn have worked together. Both were once at Fox Interactive Media where Barrett also held the title of Chief Revenue Officer and oversaw worldwide revenue for properties including MySpace and FoxSports.com.

Barrett was most recently at Google where he led integration efforts following the acquisition of digital advertising platform Admeld Inc. where he served as CEO.

He will assume his new position in July and be responsible for Yahoo’s ad revenue and operations globally.

Apple expected to unveil applications to take on Google

SAN FRANCISCO, Mon Jun 11, 2012 – When Apple Inc. kicks off its annual conference for software developers on Monday, all the power players in the Apple universe will be on hand, save the one that is in many ways driving the agenda: Google Inc.

More than ever, the consumer electronics juggernaut finds itself in a pitched battle with the online search giant – in smartphones, cloud computing and the never-ending competition for the hearts and minds of the best software developers.

Apple on Monday is expected to announce its own mapping application, challenging the position of Google Maps as one of the most-valued features on the iPhone. It will unveil closer integration of its iPhone apps and iCloud storage service with all its devices, the latest riposte in its battle with Google’s Android smartphone software.

It may promote the latest in Siri, the voice interface that the company thinks can continue to set the iPhone and the iPad apart from the Android pack.

And there will likely be a new line of Macintosh laptops too – underscoring the leverage that a full line of hardware products can bring to what is mainly a software war with Google.

Apple is looking to differentiate its mobile devices from Google’s Android by further enticing consumers deeper into its app ecosystem, said Carolina Milanesi, analyst at Gartner Research.

“It’s all about loyalty and basically leveraging the opportunity of selling more to them,” she said. “I don’t think the consumers in the mass market are necessarily tied into the Android ecosystem in the same way that consumers on the Apple side are.”

Battling in many arenas, the rivals employ different weapons. Apple’s vise-like grip on its ecosystem – with the closely managed app store and its seamless integration with the hardware – stands in sharp contrast to Google’s free-for-all approach.

FTC picks legal sharpshooter for U.S. probe of Google

WASHINGTON, Thu May 31, 2012 – When the Federal Trade Commission recently intensified its probe of Internet giant Google, it hired the high-powered Washington lawyer who helped send Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh to the death chamber.

With little anti-trust experience but a long record of victory, Beth Wilkinson built a reputation as a tough litigator with cases like that of McVeigh and the defense of Big Tobacco against smokers’ lawsuits, and her hiring was seen by some as a sign that the FTC was contemplating a suit against Google.

Alternatively, anti-trust experts said, the agency could be using Wilkinson’s reputation to push Google to settle, essentially saying: Deal with us at the negotiating table or you’ll deal with her in court.

FTC Commissioner Thomas Rosch, who met Wilkinson when they practiced law together, said he worked with her 11 years ago on her first anti-trust case and was impressed by her determination.

The case never went to trial, but Wilkinson insisted on going ahead with a planned mock trial.

“At the time, I said ‘I’m going back to San Francisco,'” said Rosch. “She stayed for the rest of the mock and she won the mock. She’s a quick study … and she’s very diligent.”

Google did not infringe Oracle patents: jury in smartphone trial

SAN FRANCISCO, Wed May 23, 2012 – Google Inc.’s Android mobile platform has not infringed Oracle’s patents, a California jury decided in a high stakes trial fought by the two Silicon Valley giants over smartphone technology.

The verdict was delivered on Wednesday in a San Francisco federal court, and confirmed by a Google spokesman. An Oracle attorney declined to comment on the decision.

Because the same jury could not unanimously agree on the copyright allegations earlier in the case, the latest verdict on patents effectively puts an indefinite hold on Oracle’s quest for damages. Oracle at one point was seeking roughly $1 billion in damages.

The jury found earlier that Oracle had proven copyright infringement for parts of Java. But the jury could not unanimously agree on whether Google could fairly use that material.

Oracle sued Google in August 2010, saying Android infringes on its intellectual property rights to the Java programming language. Google says it does not violate Oracle’s patents and that Oracle cannot copyright certain parts of Java, an “open-source” or publicly available software language.

Without a finding against Google on that fair use question, Oracle cannot recover damages on the bulk of its copyright claims.

Google names Dennis Woodside new Motorola Mobility CEO

NEW YORK, Tue May 22, 2012 – Google Inc. completed its $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. and named a new chief executive for the cellphone maker, who vowed to focus on “fewer, bigger bets.”

Google, which made the deal to gain access to Motorola’s vast trove of technology patents, said on Tuesday that Motorola Chief Executive Sanjay Jha has stepped down and has been succeeded by Dennis Woodside, former president of Google’s Americas region.

Woodside oversaw planning for the Motorola integration, according to Google. Jha will be retained to help manage a transition period.

The deal closing came just days after the companies won approval for the acquisition from the Chinese government. European and U.S. regulators approved the deal in February.

To gain approval in China, Google said the company promised to keep its Android mobile phone software open and free for at least five years and agreed to charge fair and reasonable fees for technology licenses.

Motorola spokeswoman Jennifer Erickson said Woodside’s “fewer, bigger bets” would mean a simpler strategy: Fewer but bigger phone launches for Motorola Mobility, which will be an independent subsidiary of Google.

Woodside hired a slew of outside executives to run the company, including Vanessa Wittman, former chief financial officer of Marsh & McLennan Cos Inc, as CFO of Motorola Mobility.

Trimble Navigation to buy Google’s SketchUp

SAN FRANCISCO, Thu Apr 26, 2012 – Trimble Navigation Ltd. has agreed to buy SketchUp 3D modeling platform from Google Inc. for an undisclosed price, the companies said.

As part of the SketchUp platform, Trimble will partner Google in developing SketchUp’s 3D Warehouse – an online repository where users can find, share, store and collaborate on 3D models, the companies said in a joint statement.

Trimble, which makes surveying, mapping, and marine navigation equipment, said SketchUp will enhance the integration of its field presence with the wider enterprise.

SketchUp is a free 3D modeling platform that helps in designing 3D models within Google Earth – a virtual map of most of the planet’s surface.

The platform enables users to create collections of models, including 3D buildings, and share them with fellow modelers around the world.

SketchUp, which was a tiny startup when it was bought by Google in 2006, now boasts of millions of active users.

“With over 30 million SketchUp activations in just the last year, we’re awfully proud of our accomplishments,” John Bacus, SketchUp product manager wrote in a blog post.

The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2012, and it would not be material to Trimble’s 2012 earnings.

Trimble’s stock was trading flat at $53.98 in morning trade on the Nasdaq on Thursday.

Apple, Google, Intel fail to dismiss staff-poaching antitrust lawsuit

SAN JOSE, Calif., Thu Apr 19, 2012 – Apple Inc., Google Inc., Intel Corp. and four other technology companies were ordered by a judge to face an antitrust lawsuit claiming they illegally conspired not to poach each other’s employees.

District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose rejected the companies’ bid to dismiss claims brought under the federal Sherman antitrust law and California’s own antitrust law, the Cartwright Act.

In a decision on Wednesday night, Koh said the existence of “Do Not Cold Call” agreements among various defendants “supports the plausible inference that the agreements were negotiated, reached, and policed at the highest levels” of the companies.

“The fact that all six identical bilateral agreements were reached in secrecy among seven defendants in a span of two years suggests that these agreements resulted from collusion, and not from coincidence,” Koh added.

Other defendants in the case included Adobe Systems Inc., Intuit Inc., Walt Disney Co’s. Pixar unit and Lucasfilm Ltd. Koh dismissed a claim brought under California’s unfair competition law.

Lawyers for the defendants were not immediately available for comment.

The proposed class-action lawsuit was brought by five software engineers who accused the companies of conspiring to limit pay and job mobility by eliminating competition for labor, costing workers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Their claims are similar to those raised in 2010 by the Department of Justice when it settled antitrust probes against the companies.

Without admitting wrongdoing, the companies agreed not to take steps to restrict competition for workers, including setting limits on cold-calling and recruiting.