Google (GOOG) Earnings: A Perfect Proxy For Small Business

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Google’s (GOOG) earnings are ancient news now. The search company did much better than expected. The economy did not bring it down like a rhino killed off in the wild.

The company’s Q3 EPS of $4.92 was above Wall St’s forecast of $4.75. Revenue moved up a remarkable 31% to $5.54 billion. The number that almost no one expected was that the rate at which customers clicked on Google ad search links went up. Consumers are still interested in buying things and they find them mixed within the Google search results.

Google may get advertising from large companies like GM (GM) and Bank of America (BAC). They apparently find that the targeted environment of search is more a more powerful tool for getting customers. None of that is good for internet display ads, TV, or newspapers. In a recession, there is only so much marketing money to go around.

What is less obvious than the fact that big advertisers are moving to search is the strength of small business spending which the Google numbers uncovered. The hidden economy of tiny enterprises must be doing substantially better than some government numbers would tell.

Google may have some brand name marketers among its customers, but most of the volume of its advertising comes from hundreds of thousands of smaller companies around the world. Drop the word “baby” into the Google search box. The advertising is from topbabynames.com and babymommystuff.com.  Punch in the term “boats” and the paid links are to pontoonstuff.com and hotboatdealers.com.

Google’s results uncover the robustness of an unimaginable number of marketers who may only spend a few thousand dollars to vie for customers. But, they would not be spending the money unless, in the judgments of these modest operations, it worked.

The surveys from the Commerce Department and MasterCard Small Business would have the public believe that the economy is dying from the ground up at the same time that companies such as GM (GM) and Merrill Lynch (MER) are dying from the top down.

The Google earnings may be good for Google, but also allow for a remarkable optimism about the rest of the economic world. It is surviving dollar by marketing dollar and click-by-click, but it is still surviving.

Douglas A. McIntyre