Google Q4 Light as Google+ Storms to 90M Users

Google Jan. 19 said it earned $8.13 billion for the fourth quarter, missing targets from financial analysts. The good news? Google+ now has 90 million users.

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) reported revenue of $8.13 billion on earnings per share of $9.50, missing targets from financial analysts even though the company's profit grew to $2.71 billion from $2.54 billion a year ago.

Wall Street, which was looking for sales of $8.43 billion and $10.51 earnings per share, reacted accordingly. Shares of Google fell 10 percent to $575 in after-hours trading Jan. 19. Google may disappoint investors with its numbers, but it offered a piece of great news for social media addicts.

Google+, the company's six-month-old social-network challenger to Facebook, now has 90 million users worldwide. That's up from the 40 million Google+ users Google CEO Larry Page announced during the company's Q3 earnings report in October.

Page offered this comment pumping up Google's progress via press statement after the bell:

"Google had a really strong quarter ending a great year. Full-year revenue was up 29 percent, and our quarterly revenue blew past the $10 billion mark for the first time. I am super-excited about the growth of Android, Gmail, and Google+, which now has 90 million users globally-well over double what I announced just three months ago. By building a meaningful relationship with our users through Google+ we will create amazing experiences across our services."

Those "amazing experiences" presumably include a broad, deep integration of Google+ into existing Google services. Google, for example, recently moved to make search more personal by injecting Google+ posts and photos in search results that are tailored to each user.

This effort, Search, plus your world, has been criticized for favoring Google content over that of other Internet companies. The company has also integrated the network with Gmail, YouTube and other services, and launched brand pages.

Search experts expect Google will eventually uses its huge mine of data on users to find a way to sell advertising against Google+.

Meanwhile, Google's Q4 traffic acquisition costs, or the money it pays to advertisers for traffic, totaled $2.45 billion, or 24 percent of the company's ad revenue. With TAC, Google reported revenue of $10.58 billion for Q4, a 25 percent boost from Q4 2010.

Paid clicks, or those clicks related to ads served on Google sites and network partners, increased 34 percent from the year-ago quarter, and 17 percent over Q3 2011. However, average cost per click dropped 8 percent from Q4 2010 and Q3 2011, which explains in part why Google missed earnings expectations.

Google closed the quarter with $44.6 billion in cash and a full-time employee head count of 32,467, up from 31,353 workers in the previous quarter.