Google revenue was lower than expected during the fourth quarter of 2011, but its social network is growing like a weed.
Google on Thursday reported net revenues of $8.13 billion--$10.58 billion gross revenue less $2.45 billion in traffic-acquisition costs--which was lower than the consensus estimate of $8.37 billion and a more pessimistic prediction of $8.31 billion from Wells Fargo Securities.
Google's stock, which had risen more than six points during the day, fell by almost 60 points in after-hours trading shortly after Google posted its results.
[ What's ahead for Google? Read Google's Growth Path: 6 Challenges. ]
Google CEO Larry Page said in a statement, "Google had a really strong quarter ending a great year," noting that his company had concluded a quarter with more than $10 billion in revenue for the first time. Yet, clearly something is amiss: The amount of money Google receives per ad click is down 8% and the amount Google pays to its partners to acquire this traffic is up 18%.
On Google's conference call for investors, Susan Wojcicki, Google's senior vice president of advertising, and others suggested that Google's push for better search quality affected its cost-per-click numbers.
Page, on the conference call, moved quickly from revenue figures to more-compelling product growth data. He praised the performance of Android, Gmail, and Google+ and proceeded to cite statistics to justify his enthusiasm.
Android activations have reached 700,000 per day and there are now some 250 million Android devices worldwide. Gmail has reached 350 million users worldwide, which appears to put it ahead of Yahoo Mail (about 300 million users) and close to, if not ahead of, Microsoft Windows Live Hotmail (between 330 million and 360 million users). And Google+ has reached 90 million users, more than double what was reported three months ago.
Such statistics presumably correlate with future revenue opportunities for Google. Along these lines, Page observed, "We see a lot of potential for us to make money on Android."
Page and his fellow executives provided little substantive information about Google's plans for Motorola Mobility, other than insisting that Motorola will be treated just like any other Android hardware partner. And once again, there was no mention of Chromebook sales.
Yet if Google's hardware plans remain undisclosed, its software plans are more obvious: Google has become a social advertising company, because social interaction boosts engagement and engagement enhances advertising.
"By building a meaningful relationship with users we can start to offer them just what they need, exactly when they want it," said Page.
In previous investor conference calls, Page has said that Google wants to make products that everybody uses twice a day, "like a toothbrush."
Now that Google is social, you might be reaching for your toothbrush more often, to make calls, to send messages, or to just hang out.
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