Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is likely to shape the market's mood next week, when it comes through with its fourth-quarter results. The online search giant has blown Wall Street targets away through its first five quarters as a public company, thanks to a potent combination of improving fundamentals and an insistence on keeping mum when it comes to providing guidance to the investing community.

So far, the closest Google has ever come to delivering bad news was during its second-quarter conference call of 2005, when the company emphasized that the third quarter was a seasonally slow period and suggested that the unusually high buzz over its IPO a year before had set a high bar. Analysts who fell for that trap were on the short end of the stick, but that's been the norm for the market's finest model-munchers.

But let's be realistic. After being humbled for five straight quarters, analysts are getting aggressive with their optimism by raising their projections and profit targets almost monthly. In fact, over the past three months, Wall Street consensus estimates for Google's 2006 profitability have grown from $8.36 to $8.76 per share.

That means Google will miss, and when it does, it won't be pretty.

However, that miss won't come next week. Yes, Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) came up short last week for the same three-month span that Google will discuss next week, but the two paid-search giants are not connected at the hip. Google has been nibbling away at market share and growing much more quickly than its lagging rival.

There are certainly plenty of worrisome signs for Google to heed, such as Yahoo! rolling out its Yahoo! Publisher Network in beta this past summer and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) firing up its AdCenter. But it'll be a few more quarters before those threats congeal into any kind of realistic obstacle. I've kicked the tires of YPN, and although it's a decent product, the content targeting is pitiful. And that's because Yahoo! just doesn't have as great a breadth of sponsored text ads as Google does, despite being an industry pioneer on that front.

The competition has been fierce. Yahoo! was able to wrestle iVillage (NASDAQ:IVIL) away last year from Google as a paid-search sponsor. Google, meanwhile, had to overpay for a slice of Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) AOL to keep Microsoft from snagging its largest third-party revenue source. A dark horse in this battle is Ask Jeeves, which is gearing up to be another worthy contextual marketer after being acquired by IAC/Interactive (NASDAQ:IACI). Google is going to have to face all of these challenges in the future.

But again, that's not going to be next Tuesday, as Google takes to the podium with "$1.76 per share" for the quarter as the backdrop from analysts. My bet is on Google coming out ahead, but not as far ahead as in the past. The stumble may happen later in the year -- as analysts and the competition finally catch up to the Google monster -- but not now.

Not now -- but soon.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a huge fan of Google, and it would be his homepage if it weren't for He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.