It wasn't Larry Page's best day as Google CEO. That's because he had to deliver his first missed quarterly earnings results to investors.
Blame it on Google's strong foray into advertising, as well as the woes in Europe. Or blame it on cost-per-click, or CPC, price declines. There's plenty of blame to go around in Google's fourth-quarter results. But it's hardly all bad news.
"Google had a really strong quarter ending a great year," said Page. "Full-year revenue was up 29 percent, and our quarterly revenue blew past the $10 billion mark for the first time."
Specifically, Google reported revenues of $10.58 billion for the quarter ended Dec. 31. That's a 25 percent increase compared with the fourth quarter of 2010.
Google-owned sites generated revenues of $7.29 billion, or 69 percent of total revenues, in the fourth quarter. That represents a 29 percent increase over year-ago revenues of $5.67 billion. Revenues from outside of the United States totaled $5.60 billion, representing 53 percent of total revenues in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Average cost-per-click, which includes clicks related to ads served on Google sites and the sites of its network members, decreased approximately 8 percent over the fourth quarter of 2010 and decreased approximately 8 percent over the third quarter of 2011.
The CPC Culprit
And therein lies one of the culprits. Indeed, when assessing Google's missed earnings, the blame largely revolves around CPC price declines, according to Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence.
"There are various theories about why CPC prices dropped, none of which were fully satisfying to the financial analysts who kept asking about it on the earnings call. Google wasn't particularly clear or helpful either in trying to explain it," Sterling said.
"I don't think, however, this is some kind of red flag or negative turning point for Google. Its business remains very healthy by almost all measures. And it far outpaces all its immediate rivals in terms of online ad revenue: Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook."
One of the bright spots for Google is the company's extracurricular activities. Page said he is excited about the growth of Android, Gmail, and Google+, which now has 90 million users globally -- well more than double what he announced three months ago.
"By building a meaningful relationship with our users through Google+ we will create amazing experiences across our services," Page said, noting he is very excited about what Google+ can do in 2012. Page sees tremendous opportunities to help users and grow Google.
Sterling agrees that the Google+ membership numbers are impressive, but said those numbers are not enough. "The engagement" figures were not actually reflective of daily or weekly Google+ usage," he said. "They turned out to be Google account usage and sign-ins."