Q4 saw big growth not only for Google's social network but for its display, mobile, and deals products as well.
Google+ has surpassed 90 million users, CEO Larry Page said during the company's Q4 2011 earnings call today. More importantly, he claimed engagement metrics are keeping pace, with 60 percent of users engaging with the six-month-old social platform daily and 80 percent engaging weekly.
[Update: The engagement figures are highly flattering to a product that Google is eager to see succeed. To some, they are too flattering to be believed.
Many have pointed out Page's 60 percent and 80 percent claims could be interpreted to refer to the rate at which logged in users access any Google product - for instance Gmail or Google search - not strictly Google+. His exact words were, “Engagement on Plus is also growing tremendously. I have some amazing data to share there for the first time. Plus users are very engaged with our products - over 60 percent of them engage daily, and over 80 percent weekly.”
Google declined to elaborate on what exactly those engagement figures referred to.]
Additionally, Page did not indicate whether activity has been driven primarily by search, Gmail, direct navigation, or other sources. The company's recent search update, Search Plus Your World, highlighted Google+ data and profile pages prominently within search results pages.
The CEO appeared to respond to allegations that the move had unfairly sidelined more popular social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, saying, "We provide a lot of third party social data in search. Companies generally have been walling that data off, and we'd love to use more of that."
During the quarter Google also saw big growth in a more mature business: display ad sales. The DoubleClick Ad Exchange saw major growth, doubling the number of buyers and sellers in a year, and now has customers in 26 countries. From Q3 to Q4, the number of active advertisers using interest category marketing increased 60 percent, said product VP Susan Wojcicki.
Wojcicki added that video formats are ever more important to brand advertisers. The company's TrueView skippable ad unit has rolled out more broadly on YouTube and Google's display network, with view rates ranging between 15 and 45 percent. With the greater adoption, ads that can be skipped now represent over 60 percent of Google-sold in-stream ads, a 4X increase since the beginning of 2011.
Google also continued to grow its Offers deals platform for offline merchants, expanding it to 30 cities. The last time ClickZ checked in, Offers was only available in 17 markets. Also during the quarter, Google began selling national, as opposed to local, Offers to companies like Toys R Us, JetBlue, and REI.
Overall Q4 revenues grew 25 percent to $10.58 billion, the first time the company has recorded more than $10 billion in a single quarter. Full-year 2011 revenue was up 29 percent compared with 2010.
That revenue growth was driven in part by a sharp increase in paid clicks. Aggregate paid clicks, including both Google-owned and network sites, grew about 34 percent compared with Q4 2010, and 17 percent compared with the third quarter of 2011.
It's worth noting that, after an amazing hiring spree in Q3 (more than 2,500 full-time staff added), Google's headcount grew more slowly in the fourth quarter. Employees grew by just over 1,000, from 31,353 to 32,467.
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Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects.
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