Google gives away a lot of free stuff, which is cool, even if the company does make $20 billion a year. Its latest offering is an online “dashboard” that small businesses can use to track behavior by their customers and potential customers. As described in this article at TechCrunch, the new service enables local businesses to learn things like: how often their name comes up in search results, how often people use Google Maps to find their business and where those people live. Of course, there’s something in this for Google as well (you don’t rake in $20 billion a year by being stupid). The company hopes its new service will inspire more small businesses to buy Google ads and keywords. And with good reason: Silicon Alley Insider’s Nicholas Carlson reports on a study that found half of businesses that buy search ads at Google don’t do it again the following year. “If it’s true that local businesses are uninterested in search advertising because it doesn’t generate enough return on investment,” Carlson writes, “the growth prospects for search engines companies like Google must be considered greatly diminished.” (Translation: get the free stuff while it lasts.)
Free calls on your cellphone. You’re probably familiar with voice over internet protocol. It’s the technology that Skype and other companies use to offer free calls via the internet (although you have to pay a monthly subscription). Now VoIP is coming to cellphones. As reported by Mobile Burn and others, Skype is now testing VoIP on several smartphone platforms, including BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and iPhone. The application worries wireless carriers like AT&T enough that they’ve banned VoIP from their networks. But you can still use it wherever there’s a WiFi hotspot to make an internet voice connection.
Is healthcare reform healthy for small business? Most small and medium enterprises are against any healthcare reform that mandates coverage for employees. But a new study by an MIT economist, funded by a group called Small Business Majority, finds that America’s 27 million small businesses will benefit from healthcare reform, saving them hundreds of billions of dollars. (We’ll drink to that.)
Joke of the week. Everyone knows it’s healthy to laugh, so we figure even a smirk is worth something. With that in mind, here’s our joke of the week. The printer at a travel agency was turning out faint documents. So one of the agents called the repair shop. The young man who answered told the agent her printer was probably just dirty. She could haul it in for a $75 cleaning. Or she could get out the manual and try to clean it herself. Pleasantly surprised, she asked the young man if his boss knew he was turning down business. “Actually,” he said, “it was my boss’ idea. We usually make more money on repairs if we encourage people to try and fix things themselves first.”