Here’s the issue. As recently as yesterday, ComScore had reported that Google’s domestic search paid clicks were up just 1.8% in the first quarter on a year-over-year basis. Then this afternoon, Google reported a 20% rise in year-over-year paid clicks. The market’s quick conclusion: ComScore screwed up.
But that may not be an accurate conclusion. ComScore actually measures only a slice of paid clicks: It looks only at domestic Google search ads - it does not include AdSense, the company’s offering for non-Google sites, and it does not include non-U.S. business, which as the company noted today now accounts for just over half of total revenue. Google does not break out the specific slice that ComScore measures. So ComScore might be dead on, but there isn’t any way to know.
You can draw a variety of conclusions from this mess.
One, as some analysts have in fact pointed out, you need to be careful how you use the ComScore data, as has now been made obvious.
Two, both the Street and the press - me included - did not do a very good job of explaining exactly what ComScore was measuring.
Three, ComScore never did a very good job explaining to people what it was measuring; it tried to explain the slowdown, and still never fully explained its approach.
And four, Google’s refusal to provide any earnings guidance leaves the Street constantly trying to fill the vacuum with whatever third party data might become available.
Plenty of blame to go around.