Google closes in on mastering mobile

Analysts say Google showing strong advances with YouTube and mobile ads

Google may be the Internet company getting closest to figuring out mobile -- with a slew of mobile YouTube users and increasing smartphone ad clicks -- but it still hasn't quite mastered it yet.

On Thursday, during the search company's quarterly earnings call , the company said mobile advertising is on the rise, with 33% of clicks on Google ads coming from smartphones and tablets.

Smartphone click traffic jumped 105% year over year, but tablet click traffic jumped even more -- a whopping 339% increase over the previous year over year, the company said.

On top of that, Google CEO Larry Page reported that more than 40% of YouTube's traffic comes from mobile users. In 2011, the figure was just 6%.

"We are closing in on our goal of a beautiful, simple and intuitive experience regardless of your device," Page said in a statement on Google's third-quarter earnings.

With its highly popular Android mobile platform, where Google search is the standard, Google has a distinct advantage in the mobile world, where every Internet company is laser focused these days.

With an increasing number of social networking users accessing their favorite sites from smartphones and tablets, companies need to figure out how to generate revenue from users on the go. Basic advertising tends to look clunky on smaller devices, taking up too much space and frustrating users.

That's left social networks looking for other ways to pull in mobile revenue.

Facebook, for instance, listed mobility as one of its primary risks in documents the company filed with the Securities and Exchange COmmission before its initial public offering in 2012. More than a year later, CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg calls Facebook a mobile company, citing mobile growth as a major contributor to its increase in sales and profits earlier this year.

Facebook's advances in the mobile market also have helped push the company's stock price up to its $38 IPO price for the first time since the company went public in May 2012.

However, industry analysts have said Facebook has made big advances in tackling mobile but the company hasn't conquered it. Neither has rival Google, although it is getting closer.

"I don't think anyone has mastered mobile yet. It's mostly voodoo and smoke and mirrors," said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group. "Google is doing better than anyone else really but that's largely because they have a lock on advertising. They control most Internet ad models, which allows them to capture a disproportionately large share of every medium, including mobile."

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, noted that Google's quarterly mobile numbers look impressive, but the company was starting from a small base so the growth seems extra impressive.

"Google is doing the best in their class, including Facebook, in monetizing mobile," said Moorhead. "To continue doing well, Google needs to find better ways to monetize maps and local deals and ads. That is where the big money is."

Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, however, is more impressed with Google's mobile progress.

"Google is going great guns when it comes to mobile," Olds said. "As their most recent numbers attest, they've smoothly extended their dominating PC web search and content serving presence into the mobile device segment ... When it comes to mobile, Google is in the dominant position right now. Google's product strategy and the ecosystem they've fostered are really paying off here."

This article, Google closes in on mastering mobile, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

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