Marketers ignore Google at their own peril. Not being on Google's first page of search results "could be detrimental to your company," said Michael Dan, digital planner at Doremus. "Google is essential if you want to succeed in digital."
Indeed, Google has continued to dominate search and digital marketing, fueled by the growth of mobile—aided by its newly acquired mobile ad network, AdMob—and video, as well as various product rollouts and enhancements. It also faced new challenges, including pressure from social media sites such as Facebook and executive changes.
Overall, it wrapped up 2010 with net income of $8.51 billion, up 30.5% from the previous year. First quarter 2011 showed more moderate gains, with $2.49 billion in net income, up 12.4 % from the year-earlier period.
Several business sectors fed Google's growth: For example, Google Instant was added as an enhancement to AdWords and boosted the number of paid-search responses on a page. Another new product, Google Boost, enabled small businesses to create contextual search ads from their Places account, which appear as pushpins in Google Maps and in the Sponsored Links section of Google.com.
The Google Content Network, its ad network for display advertising, also continued to be a strong driver. And earlier this year, Google unveiled Offers, to compete with Groupon. Google's major b2b advertisers include Accenture, FedEx, General Electric and Siemens. "We've seen great increases in the last 12 months [in the b2b vertical], especially in mobile," said Sam Sebastian, director of b2b and local markets at Google.
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Display ad sales have been a strong complement to search, Sebastian said, adding that, video ads are increasingly part of the mix. For instance, Google recently tapped its YouTube platform for GE's "ecomagination" cause marketing campaign.
In January, Google announced that CEO Eric Schmidt would step down and assume the role of executive chairman, while co-founder Larry Page would take the reins as CEO and co-founder Sergey Brin would oversee strategic products. Industry watchers are trying to decipher the long-term implications of those moves.
"The big question is: Are they a technology company or a media company?" said Matthew Berk, exec VP-product engineering at performance advertising company Marchex Inc. He said that if Google was returning to its roots as an "engineeringcentric culture" it could affect its attention to sales and customer service.
"They are a phenomenal and very large partner of ours," Berk said. "We're highly invested in them."
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