Google Sees Mobile as Key to Extend Search Might in 2010

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-01-23

Google Sees Mobile as Key to Extend Search Might in 2010

Google's strategy to "double down" on its core search business helped the company clean up as the top search property with 87.8 billion searches in December 2009, or 66.8 percent of the more than 131 billion searches conducted worldwide.

That's good for a 58 percent increase in search query volume over the past year, according to figures released Jan. 22 by researcher comScore. These world-leading totals helped Google rake in a fourth quarter 2009 profit of $1.97 billion and sales of $4.95 billion.

Google hopes to improve on these numbers through focusing on a convergence of mobile search, advertising and applications, including location-based technologies with a heavy dose of social networking.

Jonathan Rosenberg, senior vice president of product management at Google, attributed Google's successful Q4 to the company's doubling down on its efforts in search, AdWords search advertising and display advertising.

"Search did particularly well in 2009 and I think that may be the best example of what we feel we can do when we double down and focus," Rosenberg said on the company's Q4 earnings call Jan. 21. He cited Google's 550 search quality enhancements; a bigger and faster index; universal search expansion; and Google's new music search service.

However, Google's crowning search achievement arrived Dec. 7 in the form of real-time. Google indexes tweets from Twitter and public status updates from Facebook, as well as info from MySpace, news publications and blogs only seconds after the content is published online.

Rosenberg noted that two minutes after a force 4.1 earthquake struck California two weeks ago, Google's real-time search algorithms surfaced local Twitter tweets and news reports. The idea is that retrieving this type of content will keep users coming to Google.

It's difficult to gauge the financial impact of these real-time results, but Google CEO Eric Schmidt said on the call real-time search was "very successful."

Google Places Big Emphasis on Mobile

Google rivals Yahoo and Microsoft Bing would love to sniff Google's definition of "very successful" in search, but those companies will only account for 28 to 30 percent of the search market if they succeed in joining forces later this year. ComScore last week put Google's U.S. search share through December 2009 at 65.7 percent.

While Microsoft and Yahoo wait for regulatory clearance of their search pact, Rosenberg noted that Google plans to accelerate its search efforts in 2010. One key to Google's continued success is improving its time to result, or delivering users Web pages, maps, videos and other Web services to users faster than any other search engine on the market.

Google also plans to fortify its social search offerings. That doesn't mean Google is going to launch a social network to challenge the likes of Facebook or MySpace. Instead, Rosenberg said Google will move to make all of its existing products more social.

"We think you're more likely to trust a restaurant or a movie review from a friend of yours than from a stranger," he said. Google has already established a base here, albeit in its Labs, with Google Social Search, which surfaces reviews, blogs and other content from friends and contacts within Google's user base.

Google will also look to leverage location-based search and e-commerce along with its social search efforts. The company launched Place Pages to better surface local businesses and other attractions online, and tried to buy Yelp to bolster its local search assets.

Mobile aficionados take note: Rosenberg also said Google will place a greater emphasis on mobile technologies in 2010.

"More users, both from search and other products, are accessing us from mobile devices, and with all of the capabilities these phones that are coming out have -- GPS, cameras -- we think there is the potential to actually make this mobile Web better than the PC Web."

Smartphones based on Google's Android mobile operating system, such as Google's Nexus One, paired with mobile search, applications and advertising seem like a fine way for Google to extend its search dominance from the desktop to the PC.

Expect Google to wield mobile technologies as a weapon versus Microsoft, Yahoo and Apple in 2010.

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