Google On Deck: Search Still Strong

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Google ( GOOG) is expected to post good fourth-quarter earnings after the bell Thursday, thanks to a strong performance from its core search advertising business.

Analysts are expecting adjusted profit of $8.07 per share, up from $6.79 per share during the same period last year. Revenue is expected to jump 22% over last year to $6.05 billion.
Google

Google's search advertising business, which accounts for 90% of the Mountain View, Calif., tech giant's overall revenue, should remain strong, thanks to an increase in spending among advertisers in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Spurred by an uptick in online shopping during the holiday season, total ad spending jumped 23% year-over-year, according to a report released Tuesday from search engine marketing firm Efficient Frontier.

Google's search revenue, made up of small text ads that appear alongside search results, is expected to increase 22% year-over-year, in line with Efficient Frontier's figure, according to Evercore Partners analyst Ken Sena.

Analysts will also be watching to see if Google shares information about its non-core businesses, such as display and mobile advertising.

While Google is typically known for search advertising, it has recently focused on growing its display advertising business, which Yahoo! ( YHOO) has historically dominated.

Display advertising, which includes online video site YouTube and online advertising company DoubleClick, are marketing messages in videos and banner ads on web pages.

Google's display ad business is on a $2.5 billion annualized run rate, and the sector could account for more than 10% of the company's overall revenue by 2011, according to Hudson Square Research analyst Rory Maher, up from an estimated 6% this year.

Analysts will also be watching for any additional data related to Google's Android OS, as devices that run it drive mobile searches on Google. The company has previously said that 300,000 Android devices are activated each day, and this number could skyrocket soon, based on the deluge of Android phones and tablets announced during this year's Consumer Electronics Show.

Android recently unseated Apple ( AAPL) as the second most popular smartphone platform in the U.S. with 26% market share, according to Comscore. Research In Motion ( RIMM) still leads as the most popular smartphone, although the Blackberry-maker has lost market share to Android and Apple in the last several months.

But even with strong top-line results, Google's aggressive spending and investments could mitigate growth this quarter.

Google gave a $1,000 bonus to every employee during the quarter, which cost an estimated $24 million, according to Barclays Capital analyst Douglas Anmuth.

The company has also acquired pricey real estate, including a $1.9 billion building to serve as its New York City headquarters.

Shares of Google dropped 1.23% Wednesday to close at $631.75.

--Written by Olivia Oran in New York.

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