Predicting earnings is rarely a perfect art. Analysts miss, and they miss often. When a stock comes in below its expectations, shareholders naturally worry. But when a company blows past Wall Street's targets, it can be a bountiful feast for investors. There could be something exciting going on if even professional analysts have underestimated a company's prospects.

That said, let's take a closer look at a few of the companies that humbled the prognosticators this past week.

We'll start with Google (NASDAQ:GOOG). Thanks to a 96% upside explosion in its bread-and-butter online advertising, the company earned $1.32 a share. If you remove one-time tax benefits, stock-based compensation expenses, and an in-process research-and-development charge, Google earned $1.51 per share. Analysts had been expecting the online giant's earnings to come in closer to the $1.35 mark.

That's the way it's been for Google. It has trounced the targets in four of its first five quarters as a public company. The results sent the shares barreling toward a new all-time high, and expectations are being raised even higher now as the company enters the seasonally potent fourth quarter, where many advertisers ramp up their marketing budgets for the holidays.

SanDisk (NASDAQ:SNDK) was another topper. The company earned $0.55 a share while the market was expecting $0.35. The flash-memory titan has been the welcome beneficiary in recent consumer trends toward the platform's compact storage functionality. From digital cameras to portable drives to even new mobile phones, demand for SanDisk's wares ran brisk, with sales soaring by 44%. Yes, flash rocks. I mean that literally, now that even Apple Computer (NASDAQ:AAPL) has embraced flash memory for its new iPod nano. Even if data storage is perceived to be a commodity, SanDisk is the proven and cost-efficient leader serving a niche that only continues to grow.

Cymer (NASDAQ:CYMI) is the third company we'll take a closer look at this week. The semiconductor equipment maker earned $0.35 a share in its third quarter, well beyond the $0.20 per share that analysts had been expecting. Specializing in the production of light sources for lithography machines, Cymer has a specialized niche has served it well recently. Analysts who didn't see the outperformance coming probably slept through the company's strong second-quarter report over the summer, when Cymer also blasted past Wall Street's profit targets. This may be interpreted as a good sign for the lithography industry -- with public companies such as ASM Lithography (NASDAQ:ASML) and Canon (NYSE:CAJ) standing to benefit. But what it ultimately means is that Wall Street doesn't get Cymer yet. That's why the chances of another healthy report remain bright until analysts -- pardon the pun -- see the light.

So keep watching the companies that lap expectations. Over time, it will be a rewarding experience for investors. That's the kind of surprise that market watchers relish in the Rule Breakers newsletter service. The strategy has paid off, with the average Rule Breakers selection having trounced the S&P 500's market return. Want in? Check out a 30-day trial subscription.

Either way, come back next Monday to learn about more stocks that blew the market away.

The Motley Fool has kicked off its ninth annual Foolanthropy campaign! Nominate your favorite charities on our Foolanthropy discussion board through Nov. 1. For guidelines on what makes a charity Foolish, visit www.foolanthropy.com .

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a fan of toppers, but he does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.