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Once again, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) has proved that it's the class of online search engines.
Big G delivered another strong quarter last night, capping off a year that proved to be far more challenging for its lesser competitors.
Quarterly revenue grew 17% to $6.7 billion. Putting this in its proper perspective, analysts expect Yahoo!'s (Nasdaq: YHOO ) , AOL's (NYSE: AOL ) , and Ask.com parent IAC's (Nasdaq: IACI ) year-over-year revenues to decrease during the same period when those companies report in the coming days.
Adjusted earnings rose 33% to $6.79 a share, blowing past Wall Street expectations of $6.50 a share. What can you say? Google is like my teen son playing Modern Warfare 2 -- it rarely misses its targets.
The report was encouraging in many other ways. Advertisers are willing to pay more per lead, since the number of paid clicks rose by only 13%. Google's AdSense sites also grew faster than Google-owned sites. (Trust me, that's a good thing -- it shows that Big G isn't alienating third-party publishers.)
The stock did initially sink on the news in after-hours trading last night. Expectations were high, and not just because the stock closed higher during yesterday's red-arrow market. I guess some folks were holding out the hope that Googleplex water fountains would begin spewing Dom Perignon, and that some Gmail techie would unearth the cure to male pattern baldness.
Google is as Google does -- and that's a good thing.
It may never unseat Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU ) in China, or pose a legitimate threat to Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) in application software. Android may only wind up being a niche smartphone operating system. None of that matters, as long as it remains the global champ in paid search.
It really hasn't been a surprise to see the company do so well, even while display advertising cheerleaders Yahoo! and AOL are backpedaling. There is really no better ad platform than Google AdWords for canvassing the Internet with relevant text ads.
We'll be back to do this all again in three months, but the story is unlikely to change. Google will keep growing faster than its peers, and faster than what analysts are expecting.
What do you think of Google's report last night? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.