Editors' pick: Originally published Oct. 28.
Eighteen years after its founding, the world's biggest online advertising company, now a search, mobile and video juggernaut with a $600 billion-plus market cap and over $200 billion in annual sales, is still growing the number of ads it sells at a 30%-plus clip.
That's an accomplishment that doesn't get enough credit, one that highlights both the company's ability to execute against its many opportunities and how the broader online ad industry keeps growing at the expense of older forms of media.
Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL - Get Report) reported third-quarter revenue of $22.45 billion (up 20% annually) and adjusted EPS of $9.06 (up 23%), topping consensus analyst estimates of $22.05 billion and $8.64. Revenue growth was nearly even with Q2's 21% pace, and would've been at 23% if not for currency headwinds.
Alphabet's Class A and Class C shares were up fractionally to $819.56 on Friday. Their strong performance since Alphabet's Q2 beat is putting a lid on today's gains.
Fueling most of the Q3 growth: Ad revenue from Google's own sites rose 23% to $16.1 billion. Also helping was the fact that Google's non-advertising revenue rose 39% (better than Q2's 33%) to $2.4 billion. Ad sales on non-Google sites remained pressured, rising just 1% to $3.7 billion as display ad dollars continue shifting towards Facebook (FB - Get Report) and other social media platforms.
Though Facebook and (indirectly) Amazon remain notable threats to the company's ad business, Google's paid clicks -- the number of times a user clicked on or viewed an ad for which the company received revenue -- rose an impressive 33%. That's better than the 29% growth posted in both Q2 and Q1, and it more than offset an 11% drop in cost per click (ad prices) caused by a shift towards YouTube and smartphone search ads.
The continued surge in Google's mobile search volumes is clearly playing a big role in driving paid click growth. The company's many efforts to keep search a crucial part of the average consumer's smartphone experience continue paying off -- examples include voice search investments, the inclusion of links to mobile app content within search results and the AMP initiative, which allows mobile web pages from publishers to load almost instantly from search results.
Also paying off are the numerous moves Google has made to increase the screen real estate given to both PC and mobile search ads, the effort it has put into keeping search ads appealing and relevant to consumers relative to other online ad formats and the many tools it has been giving advertisers to better target customers and measure how well their ads perform, both online and offline.
Then there's YouTube, which gets over half its video views from mobile and has become a big advertising channel for many brands and online merchants. On its earnings call, Google mentioned YouTube's 6-second Bumper ads continue seeing strong uptake with brands, and that it has rolled out measurement tools which show YouTube ads are nearly twice as likely as TV ads to drive search activity (Google can win on two fronts when this happens).
A big common thread between the YouTube and smartphone search ad growth is how much Google isn't simply replacing PC search and display ad dollars via effective mobile and video monetization, but expanding its available market. Many smartphone searches involve location-based queries that would've never been made if a user only searched through a PC, and thus provide fresh opportunities to sell local ads. And YouTube is grabbing share not just from display ads, but from a TV ad market stung by cord-cutting and declining ratings.
TheStreet previously covered Alphabet's earnings in a live blog.
Likewise, Google's non-ad businesses are growing its total opportunity thanks to the company's top-2 position in the mobile app store and top-3 position in the public cloud services markets. Both Google Play and Apple's App Store continue seeing strong growth as consumers up their spending on mobile apps and in-app purchases, and after a slow start, Google appears to be grabbing share in a burgeoning cloud infrastructure market with the help of big investments, aggressive pricing and unique machine learning and analytics services.
Going forward, Google's Pixel phones, launched early in Q4, also provide a big non-ad growth opportunity. With Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 debacle providing an assist, all signs point to a strong debut for the high-end Android phones.
Google's report did feature a small number of things to be concerned about. The cost per click decline increased to 11% from Q2's 9%, and while traffic acquisition costs -- TAC, the ad revenue Google shares with partners -- remained flat as a percentage of ad revenue at 21%, this was only because Google sites revenue (carries a lower TAC) grew much faster than ad network revenue.
Individually, both Google sites and ad network TAC rose due to the higher costs associated with mobile search and programmatic (automated) ad sales, and it looks like this trend will continue in the near-term.
And Alphabet's Other Bets reporting segment, which features Nest, Google Fiber, the self-driving car initiative and other non-core businesses and "moonshot" projects, posted an $865 million operating loss on just $197 million in revenue. But after having risen annually in prior quarters, the Q3 operating loss was smaller than the $980 million loss posted in prior quarters, as Alphabet demands more bottom-line accountability for various projects.
Arguably the biggest takeaway from the earnings report, though, is that Google's strategy for meaningfully growing its addressable market is going swimmingly, in spite of giant revenue and user bases and stiff competition for eyeballs and e-commerce traffic. And while two of the levers behind this strategy -- mobile search and YouTube -- are well-evolved at this point, many of the others are still in their early innings.