Updated 1:45 p.m. Pacific with new details from Google’s earnings call.
Google reported its fourth-quarter earnings today, with GAAP EPS of $6.88 on revenue of $14.48 billion (minus traffic acquisition costs).
Analysts had expected Google to report somewhere around $7.08 earnings per share on roughly $14.61 billion in revenue. Clearly, Google missed the ball a bit this quarter.
For the entirety of Google’s fiscal 2014, Google recorded $66 billion in revenue, “up 19 percent year on year,” according to Google chief financial officer Patrick Pichette. About 30 minutes into after-hours trading, investors drove the stock down nearly 3 percent.
Stepping back, it’s noteworthy that we’re not looking at a train wreck. Google continues to drive massive revenue, and its revenue growth is not grinding to a halt. Similarly, as VentureBeat’s Ruth Reader noted last year, Google’s advertising business still “rests at the top of the food chain.” Google also cited other factors, including “strong currency headwinds,” which influenced its results this quarter.
Last quarter, Google says its aggregate paid clicks increased “approximately 14 percent” while the average cost per click dropped 3 percent. For comparison’s sake, Google said in October that its aggregate paid clicks “increased approximately 17 percent over the third quarter of 2013,” while the average cost per click “decreased approximately 2 percent over the third quarter of 2013.” In July, those figures were +25 percent and -6 percent, respectively. In April, +26 percent and -9 percent, respectively.
The trend here is simple: Google has managed to slow its declining average cost per click, and that’s a good thing. But Google’s aggregate paid-click growth is slowing — that’s not so good.
At the moment, investors appear most concerned about the growth of Google’s core advertising business, including the declining value of cost per click ads in an increasingly mobile-first world (sorry for the cliché).
Meanwhile, Google continues to make major bets on “moonshots” — experimental projects with potential long-term success but little immediate payoff, like Google’s self-driving car, which officially became fully functional in the fourth quarter.