Google Inc. Q3 2008 Earnings Call Transcript Local Highlights

Google’s Q3 Earnings call took place yesterday and here is the full transcript of the call.

For your convenience I have extracted those comments that relate to Maps, Local and Local Mobile. There are a number of juicy nuggets and it is worth the read:

Eric Schmidt
Geo-Mobile another core component and new opportunity for us geographically relevant in location based advertising is valuable to users in our view, who are working, developing advertising products that match ads to geographic data. We think that is a big opportunity for us.

Sergey Brin
First of all, this quarter we significantly increased the size of our index. To put this in perspective now, every four hours we index the same amount of information that is equivalent to the entire US Library of Congress. I would encourage you, by the way, how can you see this? I encourage you to search for information that might not have that many references about on the web, whether it is a neighbor or local place, something like that, and just to see how much more information we have been able to put on the index.

We also have continue to take our other corpuses that are not just web pages, things such as books and videos, and we continue to blend more and more of those into the first page of results, across all of our domains. The numbers of these blended results has increased significantly over the past quarter. I would encourage you to try searching, for example, for Michael Phelps. You will see video of swimming and whatnot.

We have also been investing a lot in geographic and local information and I am sure many or all of you have used Google Maps and Google Earth. They are really big monetization opportunity because they are such a local searches and there are many local businesses. Now we have been able to expand just a data available there, so we can provide a better end user experience by launching Map Maker to over 100 additional countries. This is our product of lets end users create and edit the maps for their own countries and regions and by doing so the users have already added over 50,000 kilometers of roads and 75,000 business listings.

I should mention that an increasing percentage of our local search queries now deliver user generated maps content. We have launched Street View in Japan and Australia, and we saw significant increases in usage there. Of course free tune as now available on BlackBerries, and many Java enabled phones in addition to the other phones that already had it. It can be pretty handy, you know, when you do a search for now business or store, restaurants something like that, you can just click on the Street View and see what it actually looks like and make sure that is the place you want to go.

Q & A follows…

Justin Post – Merrill Lynch
Thanks. Now you have had a bunch of mobile phone launches. I am wondering if you can give us an update on what you are seeing on the query volumes and maybe an estimate on when that could be maybe 5% of your total volumes

Eric Schmidt
This is Eric. We said publicly for the last few months that we are seeing an explosion in mobile search volume. It is a lot of it has been enabled by the fact that these new sets of devices have much more powerful browsers. So, they are on 3G or E-Video networks and they have more powerful browsers and people are busy browsing. You know just an amazing amount of time. We do not show the exact numbers, but I can tell you that the compound growth rate is one of the fastest growing things in the company.

Ross Sandler – RBC Capital Markets
Thanks for taking my question, just two quick questions. First on the retail category, so eBay painted a pretty disastrous picture for ecommerce and the consumer in general last night, stating that there was a meaningful slowdown in activity beginning in August and deteriorating in the mid-October.

Clearly that company is having some specific issues, but you did not mention retail as a category of weakness in your prepared remarks and judging by your numbers, especially in the US that would suggest that you are pretty well diversified.

So, can you comment on the current trends in the retail category

Hal Varian – Google
Well, when you look at the US aggregate statistics, we definitely saw weakness in US offline retail the numbers that are reported by the government. One thing that we think at Google is that when there is a recessionary environment, people are counting their pennies, they are going to be researching their purchases, looking for bargains, and this potentially has something of an upside for Google. We referred to this last time I called it the Wal-Mart effect that as people shop more carefully they are going to be researching the things they buy. So as Eric said, we do not really know what is going to happen. This is a speculative statement but we think that this effect could actually work to Google’s benefit potentially.

Youssef Squali – Jefferies
Second, a question for Sergey. You talked earlier about GeoLocal with product like Maps and Earth is big monetization opportunity, so we have talked about them for a long time and they remain opportunities. One of the issues there has been this direct access to the advertisers to the local merchant. Have you – are we any – are we closer to cracking the code on that?

Sergey Brin
Yes, let me talk about it. Certainly GeoLocal has been a substantial source of investments on the part of our company and you are absolutely right. I think it is a really big monetization opportunity but it is going to have a pretty long bootstrap time because there are so many small businesses and you have to get them all in the loop.

Technology is evolving quickly with respect to things shifting to mobile phones and some of them will have GPS now, some of them do not, some have cell ID different device and things. I do think that this is an investment that we are going to have to keep investing in for some time till we get really big payoff.

I should mention we already have fairly substantial revenues from geo local, so it is not the case but somehow this is I mean this is a good chunk of our business and I expect that when we do finally bootstrap lots and lots of local advertisers. When there is some settling of the best user experiences for doing this both on mobile devices as well as on the desktops, I think you will see a substantial ramp there.

Jonathan Rosenberg – Google
Eric, do you want me to add anything. Yes? This is Jonathan. The biggest thing I would reinforce from Sergey’s comments is, this is an area where we are winning. Maps is the most popular mapping site in the world. We have got all sorts of data now for over 160 countries. We are also doing some very exciting things in terms of ramping our ability to get data for areas where there are not very good maps, where we are harnessing the power of users to enter information in.

On the local side, what we are doing really goes beyond the traditional Yellow Page types of activities and I mean we are taking all the information that a business would want or a user to see; reviews, hours of operations, photos, web results, and we are embedding all of those on to these maps which have a great deal of traffic. So, if you just run a query, steakhouse in Chicago or something like that and when you click on the map and select a particular listing, you can now do things like click on Street View and actually see the restaurant. So we are very pleased with the traffic that is being driven.

One other thing I would actually suggest you try one of the coolest maps applications I saw. Go to to see the precision of Swiss trains in real-time and you will actually get a visceral sense of what it is going to be like for people when all of this stuff works on their browsers and works in mobile devices.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
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7 thoughts on “Google Inc. Q3 2008 Earnings Call Transcript Local Highlights”

  1. Its good to know they are making a lot of money in local….and they plan to get ever more of the small businesses involved.

    I think they should have a detour available…and send the small business operators over here…just before they enter their info in the LBC 😀

  2. The 15 SEO’s I work with started including Google Local Maps listings as part of the package we try to offer clients. We can only guarantee that we will try to get listings and ranking through best practices of course. We obviously cannot guarantee anything except that we will work X amount of hours. But Larry, Sergey, and Eric have (I assumed) always designed the monitization of Google Local into the process. We are waiting for the day that they charge for the local listings like they so for paid search. Do you think this is the intention? Paid listings on top of “organic” local listings? Cheers –

  3. Hey Mike,

    Thanks for breaking it down to the high points. I think this is important information given all the negative news about the economy lately. It’s good to keep things in perspective and also discuss elements of business that are growing. I remember the roundtable discussion at SMX Local wondering when Local was really going to take off. I’d say this is a pretty good sign that things are heating up.

  4. @Ed
    The question of when Local is really going to take off is a red herring. There are so many unspoken assumptions in the statement and it ends up being like a misdirection by a magician. If you buy into the statement you end up missing what is really happening and by the time you see it, it will have passed.

    What you are seeing is the acceleration of a new market with a typical S shaped curve. The only question is where on the curve are we.

    The answer to that question is that it really depends on what market/industry you are in. Any new opportunity such as Maps, like every new technology/market before it, becomes visible and valuable one market segment at a time. Maps has already done so in a number of markets, and those will grow over time. Maps has already redefined the Yellow Pages of the new era and it is just a matter of time before all market segments understand that. This has been the case at least since the introduction the Local Universal.

    When you analyze the total visitors/views of local content in Google, it is approaching 1/6 of their visitors/views of the main serps on the desktop alone. They are making real money on those views and are already aggressively monetizing that. The only questions remaining are how are the going to monetize mobile in the Google way…ie providing ads as relevant content as opposed to eyeball control.

    Google has surplus cash that they need to be investing somewhere. It needs to be in a growth area or capital will move elsewhere. This is as true in a recession as any time. Their bet is on Local in all of its iterations. One or more of them in the mobile arena will certainly stick as it already has on the desktop. That won’t happen though until, as Brin points out above, the user experience becomes more standardized and consistently attractive.

    From where I sit and the comments above, I believe that they are already monetizing local search in a manner consistent with their view of ads. That is to add them into the mix when they are relevant and useful to the viewer. Given the uncertainty of hardware and technology in mobile, that has been slower than the desktop. But in the great majority of local searches they are actively presenting paid ad content now.


  5. I wonder if Google won’t start hiring more local sales reps to take advantage of the potential in local search? The only real thing stopping them from making more revenue from this is that local businesses rarely ever buy their own ads online.

  6. @William

    Google has only dabbled with the “feet on the street” concept with their Business Referral Rep. It has never moved very far or with any intentionality. It never had as a goal anything more than sign ups for the Local Business Center.

    They are very wrapped up in the high margin, high productivity per employee model of self provisioning of ads. When they need better representation they have always worked with SEM/advertising firms.

    I think that will be the case in local for a number of years. They will only encroach on that turf when their returns start slowing and that is the only path left for growth for them.

    I could be wrong but I think this type of effort is an anathema to their collective conscience (and profit).


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