With financial analysts, online ad-focused press and pundits bowing to Google's fourth quarter success, a jaw-dropping feat considering the recession and woes of rivals Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL, Google CEO Eric Schmidt discussed not only what got Google there, but what will help Google grow in the future.
Schmidt said that Google's core focus is on the "huge, untapped potential in search ads," noting that future search for Google should be more dynamic. He pointed to SearchWiki, in which people can rank results, as an example of what helps Google make things more relevant for users. He stressed better search quality, but then slipped this in:
"Wouldn't it be nice if Google understood the meaning of your phrase but rather just the words that are in the phrase? We've made a lot of discoveries in that area that are going to roll out in the next little while."
Schmidt is not talking about universal search, which draws together all Web elements -- text, blogs, video, etc. -- and renders them on a page. Schmidt is alluding to smarter search -- semantic search, which uses XML and RDF data from semantic networks to disambiguate search queries and Web text to improve search results.
For a lot of you, this is old news or even something you may disagree with because there are several necessary ingredients for semantic data. But if you regularly read Google Watch or ReadWriteWeb, you know Google has been slipping this in for awhile.
Earlier this month, Marshall Kirkpatrick noted that Google is exposing semantic data in search results. I later confirmed that this evolved from Google's Q&A practice that dates to 2005. It's just become more noticeable lately, is all.
But to hear Schmidt actually allude to it is a step forward and portends greater things for 2009. This year, Google search will start making greater connections for us online than ever before. I wonder what happens when semantic search meets our social graph? Imagine the social Web context that can be surfaced from that. Scary, no?
So when journalists and financial geeks rave about Google's Q4 financials, it's good to bear in mind what got Google there; highly relevant search, served with highly relevant ads. The fresh Big Mac with the hot, crispy fries.
Schmidt isn't one to forget the fries, as he noted: "We are producing more relevant ads against more queries every time. Relevancy against commercial queries equals ROI, which equals revenue for Google."
While some of us wring our hands about the failed Google Web services such as Google Video and Print Ads, it's good to see Schmidt boils down the essentials.
Other things Schmidt said: DoubleClick integration is going well, with Google learning the "search and the art of display ads," something Yahoo can teach them about.
Schmidt also talked about Google Android development, noting more phones are coming to run the 800 applications in the Android Market.
Oh, and according to Schmidt, the "cloud is now mainstream."
Woo-hoo! I'm glad somebody told me that because, well, I didn't get that idea at Lotusphere earlier this week where cloud was the show theme.
Speaking of Google's cloud, have you seen that Google is pushing people to its paid version of Google Apps? TechCrunch has; check this out.
Google is capping business use of its free Google Apps accounts to businesses or groups of 50 people or less. Any more, and users must subscribe to Google Apps Premier Edition for $50 per user, per year.
So Google wants more users to pay for Google Apps and stop freeloading on its servers. Shocker! That's only news if you believe it's news, folks.