Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)'s PC search in the United States improved month over month from 3.6 percent to 11 percent and quarter over quarter from 2.3 percent to 10.8 percent, and from -2.1 to 10.8 percent, year-over-year, based on data released by digital research firm, comScore. The current search query data for the search engine giant is the first positive result since August, last year.
The search query data for January does not include mobile search data. According to analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML), the absence of mobile query data prevented them from seeing the full picture of the growth of Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s search business.
In a research note, BAML analysts, Justin Post and Joyce Tran wrote, "We note that some search advertisers (SEMs) are estimating that mobile queries have grown y/y to represent over 15% of total queries, so we think it is reasonable to add 500-1,000 bps to Google PC-only query growth to estimate total query growth."
The analysts believe Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)'s mobile searches are likely stronger than competitors. Post and Tran expect the search engine giant’s monetization to continue to improve (higher paid clicks per query), and would drive PC revenue growth over PC growth.
Based on the data presented by comScore data, Google Sites total audience for the month of January was more than 13 million, up from 11.6million in December. The total internet audience recorded by the research firm was 19.4 million.
Google’s competitors such as Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) recorded more than 2.3 million internet audience, while Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)'s Bing had over 3.2 million internet audience. Yahoo! Sites’ search data improved from -18.6 percent to -6.3 %, while Bing climbed from 4.3% to 18.5 percent year-over-year in January.
The figures show that the search engine giant gained a majority share of the search market. Google Sites search market share was 67%, Yahoo! Sites 12.1% and Bing 16.5%.
BAML analyst, Post and Tran believe Google would generate significant revenue from display advertising, YouTube monetization, and mobile. They warn that mobile transition could pressure the near-term revenue growth and margin profile of the company.
The analysts identified five possible risks for the shares of Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)'s including the faster than anticipated deceleration of PC search revenue, revenue growth pressure from competitor’s initiatives, consumers cyclicality with general exposures to economic verticals, saturation of key markets given Google’s dominant market share, and regulatory overhang.
BAML’s price target for Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)'s stock is $790 per share, which represents 15x 2014E EPS of $53 or 13x ex-interest EPS, plus $125 per share in cash.