Google's new privacy policy launched on Thursday, and, while the effects were minimal to start, consumers and lawmakers alike are concerned about its lasting effects

After looming over the web marketing world for the better part of the last two months, Google’s new privacy policy took effect on Thursday. The company’s new mandate has been a major conversation topic in the internet marketing community and across the web in general, with consumers and lawmakers alike concerned over its the unification of data and its application to inform content and results throughout all the company’s services.

On Friday, Brafton reported that the European Union is the latest government body to voice issue with the policy. Viviane Redding, EU justice commissioner, said that the mandate is already a violation of the EU’s transparency requirements. Some find this is an odd claim as Google has been quite proactive about notifying users, discussing the policy and its implications from day one. Ultimately, the search company has said that the plan will make Google a more attractive platform for consumers and marketers.

In the past, Brafton reported that the new plan will be a boon for web marketing campaigns, as it will make content appearing in organic search results and paid search more relevant to the user. We’ve also reported that U.S. internet users are conflicted about the policy and potential benefits, with nearly two-thirds threatening to close their accounts in light of the change.

In the next few weeks, different organizations will likely challenge the legality of the policy. That said, consumers using Google search are already seeing the results of the campaign of the updates. At this week’s SMX West conference, Google’s privacy policies and the future of search were a huge discussion topic. As Brafton reported, Google’s Susan Wojcicki spoke about some of the implications and fielded queries about the controversy surrounding the policy in her keynote.

The SMX conference offered marketers insights on the rising role of search in social and relevant content as key to SEO (in many ways related to the privacy policy). Experts in attendance offered technical SEO tips, but the conversations tended to focus on the evolution of search engine optimization.

The policy is just the latest step in Google’s effort to make its search results of the highest quality. Part of this plan is the ongoing release of Panda updates, which Brafton reported saw its latest release on Monday.

Google announced the roll out of Panda 3.3 in a post on its Inside Search blog on Monday. The update was a minor adjustment for the company. Google said it was just a refresh of the data to make its index more accurate. Panda updates have caused problems for some companies, which saw their cached pages drop drastically when the roll out occurred. Monday’s Panda update does not seem to have had the effects of some larger updates, but this may very well change in the coming days.

Google announced 39 other search adjustments for February. Among the most common areas focused on by Google’s search team were local search and general improvements throughout its searchscape. Focusing on quality content can help prevent any major effects when Panda updates inevitably come.

Moreover, Brafton reported on Friday that content marketing campaigns are becoming increasingly important and effective for businesses using them. Citing data from HubSpot’s 2012 State of Inbound Marketing report, Brafton found the value of original content marketing material on a business’ website is growing.

Among the highlights from HubSpot’s study is data indicating that 92 percent of businesses that publish content to their websites on a daily basis have garnered conversions as a result. Consumers and B2B buyers alike respond to quality articles and blog posts, and businesses producing this content will likely see the benefits.

Moreover, content marketing greatly lowers the cost of lead generation, as do other forms of new media marketing, such as social. According to the report, inbound marketing campaigns result in leads generated for about $135 on average, which is more than $200 lower than those collected from outbound marketing campaigns.

Among the channels included in inbound marketing are content, social, email and other SEO strategies. In general, web content of any kind that links potential prospects back to a business’ website performs better than other campaigns when factoring value into the equation.

As such, Brafton reported on Monday that branded website content is becoming more widely trusted by consumers and B2B buyers than paid search ads. As part of its State of the Media, U.S. Digital Consumer Report, Nielsen found that 52 percent of web users trust website content, compared to just 36 percent that who said they share a similarly favorable feeling toward paid search ads.

Web users are finding organic brand campaigns more trustworthy and actionable, and marketers have the chance to build this trust by reaching users more frequently with the growing popularity of smartphones.

Brafton reported on Friday that 53 percent of American mobile phone users now own smartphones. The study from Pew said that this is the first instance of smartphone ownership outgrowing that of feature phone use. Many of these consumers are frequent users of the mobile web, which means they’re shifting most of their web habits to their handsets.

Among the growing mobile web tasks is social media use, which is one of the most popular category for mobile apps. With Brafton reporting that nearly 2 billion people will be active on social networks by 2014, the channel’s utility for businesses will grow even further. Social media marketing presents myriad opportunities for companies to target their audiences more effectively. With prospects accessing Facebook, Twitter and other platforms on their smartphones, links to website content and other engaging posts can help generate leads among desktop users and those visiting on the go.

While the growth of social media will continue, the rate at which its user base expands is inevitably declining, according to eMarketer.

With the growth rate steadying and the channel becoming a critical component of web use and marketing, platforms are making their marketing features more advanced. Brafton reported on Tuesday that Real-Time Insights are likely coming to Facebook soon, so marketers can assess the success of their social media content instantly.

According to TechCrunch, current Facebook social media marketing analytics measure interaction and engagement quite well. However, the only issue is that it takes 12 hours at least for the campaigns to register in the system. Companies cannot make quick decision with their campaigns without data showing where to add more to an account that may be lagging.

Other new social measurement tools include the addition of a Follow capability on LinkedIn, so users and marketers can keep track of content and actions of the companies they interact with on the website, Brafton reported on Tuesday.

LinkedIn said that it will make the platform more interactive and augment its already burgeoning social media marketing capability.

Twitter also made headlines this week for bringing Promoted Tweets to mobile audiences. And, for marketers looking to build more organic followings, SMX insiders shared valuable tips on Twitter marketing.

Social media marketing continues become an increasingly competitive sector for these platforms, who look to add new businesses as users. Google+ has done well with the marketing wing of its platform, as new companies are moving to the site every day. However, getting users to spend a lot of time on the website has not happened just yet, with Brafton reporting that Google+ users spend an average of 3 minutes on the network. The figure is by far the least of any major social network, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Google+ is an integral component of Google’s new search strategy, as social data factors heavily in search results. In fact, Brafton reported the personal, social side of search was a huge topic at this week’s SMX West conference. Social activites’ influence on search is among the major concerns consumers have. The issues lawmakers and other regulators have differ slightly, and we’ll likely get a better idea of how widespread these concerns are next week.

Joe Meloni is Brafton's former Executive News and Content Writer. He studied journalism at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and has written for a number of print and web-based publications.