Apr 27, 2021
Alphabet / Google Q1 2021 Earnings Call Transcript – GOOG, GOOGL
Alphabet, the parent company of Google, held their Q1 2021 earnings call on April 27, 2021. Read the full transcript of the call here.
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Speaker 1: (00:01)
Welcome, everyone, and thank you for standing by for the Alphabet first quarter 2021 earnings conference call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. After the speaker’s presentation, there will be a question-and-answer session. To ask a question during the session, you will need to press star one on your telephone. If you require any further assistance, please press star zero. And now I can hand the conference over to your speaker today, Jim Friedland, director of investor relations. Please go ahead.
Jim Friedland: (00:31)
Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. And welcome to Alphabet’s first quarter 2021 earnings conference call. With us today are Sundar Pichai, Philipp Schindler, and Ruth Porat. Now, I’ll quickly cover the safe harbor. Some of the statements that we make today regarding our business, operations, and financial performance, including the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on those areas, may be considered forward-looking. And such statements involve a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially. For more information, please refer to the risk factors discussed in our most recent form 10-K filed with the SEC.
Jim Friedland: (01:16)
During this call, we will present both gap and non-gap financial measures. A reconciliation of non-gap to gap measures is included in today’s earnings press release, which is distributed and available to the public through our investor relations website located at abc.xyz/investor. And now I’ll turn the call over to Sundar.
Sundar Pichai: (01:41)
Thank you, Jim. And good afternoon, everyone. After a hard year, people in some parts of the world are beginning to rebuild their lives, businesses, communities. But recovery is far from uniform across the globe, as the tragic scenes in countries like India and Brazil remind us. We are continuing to help support public health officials in their vital and urgent work. Our focus is on providing authoritative information. We are helping over a hundred government agencies and nonprofits, worldwide, distribute critical information and billions of PSAs about COVID-19 and vaccines. And Google Cloud technology is powering a virtual agent to help make vaccination appointments over the phone, supporting 28 languages and dialects, for those with limited internet access. We are focused on doing our part to help. In some parts of the world, the economy began to rebound, which created a rising tide in the first quarter that benefited a number of sectors, including existing and emerging companies and partners. For example, data suggests that investment in startups is at an all-time high. Our product releases are returning to a regular cadence. I’m particularly excited that our developer event, Google I/O, is back this year, all virtual and free for everyone, on May 18th through 20th. We’ll have significant product updates and announcements, and I invite you all to tune in.
Sundar Pichai: (03:11)
Today, I’ll briefly mention a few highlights from the past quarter and go a bit deeper on Cloud. Then, Philipp will discuss advertising and partnership developments. Finally, Ruth will cover the quarterly results.
Sundar Pichai: (03:26)
Quickly turning to product highlights of the quarter, our knowledge and information services, like Search and Maps, remain at the heart of our mission to provide helpful and accurate information during important moments. People have turned to Google search more than ever, since the pandemic began. We see hundreds of millions of searches every day for COVID and related health information. People are also searching for jobs. To help them, job seekers can now use search to quickly and easily find roles that do not require a college degree. And we are working together with top employment websites to make the service even better. Maps will be adding over 100 AI-powered improvements this year, such as Indoor Live View, which helps you navigate airports, transit stations, and malls using augmented reality.
Sundar Pichai: (04:22)
Last quarter, I mentioned Google News Showcase, our $1 billion investment in the news industry. I’m pleased to see continued momentum this quarter, with new launches in the UK, Italy, Argentina, and Australia. In Q1, we added more than 170 publications across 12 countries, with more coming soon.
Sundar Pichai: (04:44)
With respect to YouTube, people continue to find all types of informational content, from educational videos to podcasts. In fact, according to a recent study conducted by Ipsos, 77% of respondents say they used YouTube during 2020 to learn a new skill. YouTube Shorts continues to gain popularity with over 6.5 billion daily views as of March, up from 3.5 billion at the end of 2020.
Sundar Pichai: (05:13)
We’ve added a new metric to our transparency reports called the violative view rate, which will help us estimate what percentage of views on YouTube come from content that violates our policies. In Q4 of last year, YouTube’s violative view rate was between 16 and 18 views out of every 10,000. This is down over 70% compared to the same quarter in 2017, in large part, thanks to our investments in machine learning.
Sundar Pichai: (05:42)
And we also mentioned Chrome OS, which, this quarter, celebrated 10 years. It’s been a valuable tool for millions of students and teachers during the pandemic. According to third parties, Chromebooks were the most popular device in K through 12 education, globally, for the last year. Next I’ll move to Cloud, where we continue to see strong performance across both Google Cloud Platform and Workspace. Q1 revenue grew 46% year over year, with GCP’s revenue growth rate, once again, meaningfully about Cloud overall. We continue to unlock the value of the Google ecosystem by signing multi-year, multiproduct partnerships with companies like Global Payments and Grupo Global. And just yesterday, we announced a new Google-wide partnership with Univision, which is migrating to our Cloud, continuing to distribute content on YouTube, and reaching customers via play-in ads.
Sundar Pichai: (06:42)
In Cloud, there are three distinct market trends shaping our growth and driving our product and go-to-market strategy. First, we see very strong customer moment in the data cloud. Our expertise in real-time data and analytics is winning companies like Twitter and Ingersoll-Rand, who are moving their complex data workloads to Google Cloud. Our strength in AI and ML is also helping financial services customers like HSBC, Commerce Bank, SAB Group, and BBVA improve efficiency of payments, reduce fraud and risk, and deliver faster payment solutions. This past quarter, we released new functionality for BigQuery, delivering significantly better performance for business intelligence queries.
Sundar Pichai: (07:29)
Second, we are seeing customers wanting a robust infrastructure cloud in order to create operational efficiencies and reduce IT cost. We are winning large IT transformation deals with the companies that are migrating their data centers to Google Cloud. Multicloud remains a differentiator, as it provides the easiest and most open development environment for customers like [inaudible 00:07:52], allowing them to access and move their data between various clouds.
Sundar Pichai: (07:57)
Third, we continued to deliver helpful innovations to enable hybrid work with Google Workspace. This includes digital tools for frontline workers like nurses and retail store workers, as well as new security offerings. These innovations have helped grow our revenue per seat and the number of seats in the last quarter. Workspace is being adopted by customers, including Keralty in healthcare, Sun Life in financial services, and the Airbus in manufacturing and aviation.
Sundar Pichai: (08:29)
Now, a brief update on our other bets. Waymo’s fully autonomous public ride hailing service in Phoenix is providing hundreds of rides per week. In San Francisco, Waymo’s begun limited employee testing. I’m pleased by the progress here and look forward to Waymo’s continued momentum under the leadership of new co-CEOs Takedra and Dmitri.
Sundar Pichai: (08:51)
Calico and its partner AbbVie announced that it has entered clinical stage programs for new drug therapies for cancer and neurodegenerative diseases like ALS, Parkinson’s disease, and traumatic brain injury.
Sundar Pichai: (09:06)
Before I close, I want to mention that, in 2021, in the US alone, we plan to invest over $7 billion in offices and data centers and create at least 10,000 new full-time jobs. And as we do this, we continue to make progress on our sustainability goals. We have matched our operations with 100% renewable energy for the past four years, and we are working towards operating on carbon-free energy, around the clock, by 2030, a far more ambitious goal that we hope will be transformative for the industry. Five of our data centers in Europe and North America are already operating near or at 90% carbon-free energy around the clock.
Sundar Pichai: (09:51)
We are also working towards our commitment to help 1 billion people make more sustainable choices with our services by 2022. One example of how we are doing this is the new AI-powered feature in Maps that will show the route with the lowest carbon footprint, when ETAs are the same. You’ll also be able to compare the carbon impact between routes.
Sundar Pichai: (10:16)
Finally, as we look ahead to the rest of 2021, our four big themes continue to guide us. First, building and providing the most helpful products and services. Second, continuing to earn the trust of our users by investing in high-quality information and keeping users’ data safe and private. Third, strong execution as a company, particularly as we start to reopen our offices. And fourth, building sustainable value in our own business and for our partners.
Sundar Pichai: (10:51)
As always, thank you to our Googlers around the world for a great start to the year. Everyone, I look forward to seeing you at I/O. Over to Philipp.
Philipp Schindler: (11:01)
Thanks, Sundar, and good afternoon, everyone. It’s great to be joining you again today. We’re pleased with the strong growth in Google services’ revenues in the first quarter. Year-on-year performance reflects elevated consumer online activity, broad-based strength in advertiser spend, and lapping of the initial impact of the pandemic on advertising revenues that began in March last year.
Philipp Schindler: (11:23)
In the first quarter, in Search, we saw sustained strength across most categories, led by retail. We also saw strong performance in tech and CPG. In YouTube, we had phenomenal growth driven by direct response, followed by continued strength in brand. We’ve seen great momentum in TrueView for action ads, with the number of advertisers using the format doubling over the past year.
Philipp Schindler: (11:46)
In Network, exceptional growth was driven by AdMob and Ad Manager, with particular strength in app campaigns. Google other revenues were driven by growth in GooglePlay and YouTube’s non-advertising revenues, followed by hardware. I would now like to take a few minutes to dive deeper into the trends we’re seeing in our business. As Sundar touched on earlier, the pandemic is evolving in different ways across the world. Some countries are in advanced stages of reopening. Others are facing re-acceleration of cases, and there’s everything in between. It’s never been more important to help businesses navigate the pandemic, as circumstances change.
Philipp Schindler: (12:25)
On Travel, we’re starting to see a renewed interest from users, as they turn to Google to plan their next trip, even before they ready to book. Every Travel partner is looking to understand where demand is going, and we’re helping them find these opportunities through insights and automation. For American Airlines, for example, that meant using our insight tools to anticipate demand on untapped routes. These newly-prioritized routes had a significantly higher booking rate in Search this quarter compared to last quarter. Also, just last month, we made it free for hotels and travel companies to list their booking links, similar to what we did with Shopping last year. For consumers, it means-
Philipp Schindler: (13:03)
… similar to what we did with shopping last year. For consumers, it means more choice. For hotels and travel companies, it means free exposure on Google. For advertisers, it means paid campaigns can be augmented with free listings. We are already seeing positive results across the board.
Philipp Schindler: (13:18)
Let me switch gears now and talk about retail, where we had a very strong quarter. As you know, we’ve taken important steps over the past year to accelerate an open retail ecosystem. We made product listings free, removed commission fees and opened our shopping platform to Shopify and PayPal. We’re also helping retailers with some key opportunities, such as innovating an omnichannel as the line between digital and physical retail continues to blur, and tapping into commercial intent on YouTube and other surfaces. Let me talk about both. Over the last six months, people’s shopping preferences have shifted constantly in response to changing conditions. It’s not just online, it’s not just offline. It’s a mix, and that’s our sweet spot with Search, Maps and YouTube. Last quarter, we talked about a surge in searches for available near me and curbside pickup. That trend has not changed. Searches for local and businesses are up 80% versus last year. Omnichannel is here to stay.
Philipp Schindler: (14:19)
Take Dick’s Sporting Goods. Throughout the pandemic, they accelerated curbside pickup, pickup in-store and ship-from-store fulfillment options in Search. This approach contributed to 100% year-over-year increase in e-commerce sales in 2020. And just recently, they activated YouTube to build awareness for new store concepts. Michaels, the arts and craft store also activated their omnichannel fulfillment approach using Search and Maps. And to meet surging demand for art supplies, they used TrueView for action to tap into the vast number of arts and craft searches happening on YouTube. In 2020, their e-commerce sales were up 350%. We are also doing more to help merchants tap into the incredible innate commercial behavior across Search and YouTube. Google merchants can plug their product features right into their video action campaigns, and early adopters have seen huge results. Luxury cosmetics company Clarins HK added beautiful product imagery from their Google Merchant feed as an extension and saw 68% conversion rate uplift within three weeks. Any merchant can now light this up with a single click in our Google Merchant Center.
Philipp Schindler: (15:26)
Speaking of YouTube, we are helping advertisers address both brand and performance goals at scale, driving higher return on ad spend at a time when they needed most. We’re only a few years in on direct response and we think there’s significant opportunity for innovation that will improve the user experience and provide better ROI for advertisers. On the performance side, advertisers of all sizes are actually seeing incredible results. Like Globo Group, fitness company Les Mills was hit hard when their 20,000 partner gyms closed during lockdown. They accelerated digital and grew app subscribers by almost 7X with TrueView for Action. We’re seeing strong growth in YouTube’s brand business, fueled by global consumer trend from linear TV toward streaming video. With over two billion monthly logged in users and over one billion hours of video watched every day, YouTube is offering advertisers efficient reach to large audiences which are incremental to those found on TV. Large brands are benefiting from this trend. Taco Bell saw 27% incremental reach for their limited time offer campaigns, and Kellogg’s saw incremental reach of over 30% for their recent Special K campaign.
Philipp Schindler: (16:38)
Before I close, I want to take a minute to highlight our work with partners. Sundar mentioned Google News Showcase. We now have deals with 600 plus publishers across more than 12 countries. Le Monde in France, Der Spiegel [inaudible 00:16:51] in Germany, Clarin in Argentina, Evening Standard in the UK, just to name a few, and we’re continuing to expand the program. We’re also developing more valuable relationships with some of our strategic partners. By teaming up, we’re able to build new experiences for our users while helping our partners innovate and grow. We’ve gone well beyond ads to bring the best of Google across Cloud, Play, YouTube and more to help them do just that. Sundar mentioned Univision. In the quarter, we also announced T-Mobile, Albertsons, Allianz and Munich Re. I want to thank our customers and partners for their collaboration. We’ve always said we succeed only when they succeed. And I also want to think of product, partnership, sales and support teams for their amazing work and innovation. I’ll now hand off the call to Ruth.
Thank you, Philipp. Our very strong financial results in the first quarter reflect both lapping the impact of COVID on our business beginning in March 2020, as well as the benefit of excellent underlying operating performance. My focus will be on year-over-year comparisons for the first quarter, unless I state otherwise. I’ll start with results at the Alphabet level, followed by segment results, and conclude with our outlook. For the first quarter, our consolidated revenues were $55.3 billion, up 34%, or up 32% in constant currency, reflecting elevated consumer activity online and broad-based increases in advertiser spending within Google Services, as well as ongoing strength in Google Cloud.
Our total cost of revenues was $24.1 billion, up 27%, primarily driven by other cost of revenues, which was $14.4 billion, up 25%, followed by TAC, which was $9.7 billion, up 30%. Within Other cost of revenues, the biggest factors are: first, content acquisition costs, primarily driven by costs for YouTube’s advertising supported content, followed by costs for subscription content; and second, costs associated with data centers and other operations, offset partially by a reduction in depreciation expense due to changes to estimated useful lives of servers in certain network equipment.
Operating expenses were $14.8 billion, up 4%. In terms of the three component parts of OpEx: first, the increase in R&D expenses was driven primarily by headcount growth; second, sales and marketing expenses were essentially flat, reflecting headcount growth, which was offset by lower spend on ads and promo, as well as on travel and entertainment; finally, the decline in G&A reflects the benefit of lapping the unusually high allowances for credit losses recorded in the first quarter of 2020 due to the impact of COVID, offset by charges relating to certain legal matters. Headcount was up 4,694 from the fourth quarter, including more than 1,800 Fitbit employees who joined us in Q1. Again, the majority of new hires were engineers and product managers.
Operating income was $16.4 billion, up 106%. And our operating margin in the quarter was 30%. Other income and expense was $4.8 billion, which primarily reflects unrealized gains in the value of investments in equity securities. Net income was $17.9 billion. Operating cash flow was $19.3 billion, with free cash flow of $13.3 billion in the quarter and $50.7 billion for the trailing 12 months. We ended the first quarter with $135 billion in cash and marketable securities.
Let me now turn to our segment financial results. Starting with our Google Services segment. Total Google Services revenues were $51.2 billion, up 34%, consisting of Google Search and other advertising revenues of $31.9 billion in the quarter, up 30%, with strength across most categories led by retail. YouTube advertising revenues of $6 billion, up 49%, driven by exceptional performance in direct response and ongoing strength in brand advertising. Network advertising revenues of $6.8 billion, up 30%, driven by AdMob and Ad Manager. Other revenues were $6.5 billion, up 46%, primarily driven by growth in Play and YouTube non-advertising revenues, followed by hardware, which benefited from the addition of Fitbit revenues. Google Services operating income was $19.5 billion, up 69%, and the operating margin was 38%.
Turning to the Google Cloud segment, including GCP and Google Workspace, revenues were $4 billion for the first quarter, up 46%. GCP’s revenue growth was again meaningfully above Cloud overall. Strong growth in Google Workspace revenues was driven by growth in both seats and average revenue per seat. Google Cloud had an operating loss of $1 billion. As to our other bets, in the first quarter, revenues were $198 million. The operating loss was $1.1 billion. Let me end with our outlook for each segment and our investments more broadly. For Google Services, for the remainder of 2021, year-over-year comparisons will be affected meaningfully by the impact of COVID last year with a greater benefit in Q2 from an easier comp relative to what you saw in Q1, and then beginning to lap stronger performance in the second half of the year. In the first quarter, we continue to benefit from elevated consumer online activity and broad-based strength in advertiser spend. It is too early to say how durable this consumer behavior will be as economies recover and restrictions on mobility are lifted. Within other revenues, Play benefited from an increased level of user engagement starting in Q1 last year due to the pandemic, which we are now beginning to lap.
In terms of investment levels within Google Services, we still intend to invest aggressively to support the extraordinary opportunities we see. That being said, in some areas like travel and entertainment and marketing events, the pace of investment through the balance of the year may be affected by the pace of COVID recovery globally. As for Google Cloud, our approach to building the business has not changed. We remain focused on revenue growth and we will continue to invest aggressively in products and our go-to-market organization, given the opportunity we see. The operating results in Q1 in part reflects some notable items in the quarter: first, the lapping of the unusually high allowances for credit losses recorded in the first quarter of 2020, as I already mentioned; and second, lower depreciation expense due to the change in the estimated useful lives although the dollar benefit will diminish throughout the course of the year across segments. As we’ve noted previously, operating results should benefit from increased scale over time, however, at this point, we do remain focused on continuing to invest to build the cloud organization for long-term performance.
In terms of other bets, we continue to invest with a focus on the long-term value creation opportunity. Turning to CapEx at a consolidated level, the results reflect ongoing investment in our technical infrastructure, offset by a slower pace of investment in office facilities, given the ongoing impact of COVID. Within technical infrastructure, servers continue to be the largest driver of investment as we continue to invest to support Cloud, Search, Ads and machine learning. Finally, with respect to capital allocation, our primary use of capital continues to be to support organic growth in our businesses, followed by retaining flexibility for acquisitions and investments. We complement these growth drivers with a return of capital. As we indicated in our press release today, our Board has authorized the repurchase of up to an additional $50 billion of our Class C stock. Thank you. And now, Sundar, Philipp and I will take your questions.
Speaker 2: (25:42)
Thank you. As a reminder, to ask a question, you will need to press star-one on your telephone. To withdraw your question, please press the pound key. And the prevent any background noise, we ask that you please mute your line once your question has been stated. And our first question comes from the line of Brian Nowak from Morgan Stanley. Your line is now open.
Brian Nowak: (26:03)
Thanks for taking my …
Speaker 3: (26:03)
… Morgan Stanley. Your line is now open.
Speaker 4: (26:03)
Thanks for taking my questions. I have two. First one for Sundar. I appreciate the color on the four key priorities. I wanted to dig a little more into the build and provide the most helpful products and services. Maybe if you can sort of talk to us about Search, how do you think about the key investment priorities and innovation areas to continue to make Search more and more helpful for your users and your advertisers? And the second one for Philipp, maybe similar question on YouTube. You’ve done such a great job in innovation around YouTube. Where do you see the largest incremental opportunities for further innovation at YouTube to deliver more outsized value for your advertisers? Thanks.
Thanks. On Search, great question, I still think we are in a very early stages. Recent example, which I was proud of, was when the ship was stuck in the Suez Canal and then it got out, if you ask the question to Google, I think very soon after that we had the right answer. It seems obvious to do except we need to provide right answers and without giving wrong answers or misinformation for many other things. So, to do that is where all our underlying investments go and that’s how we think about it over the long term.
BERT last year I think was a great example of it. It was one of our biggest quality improvements, and that was based on the transformer breakthrough from our Google AI team, which laid the foundation for it. So, we are continuing to invest that way in the deep technology as the web is scaling up. There’s more information than ever before, so that’s a big part of what we are doing. Beyond that, there is a lot of opportunity to improve the user experience. You’ve seen our efforts around shopping, that’s one aspect of how we are working hard to improve the experience there. So, but we are looking at it pretty deeply. Philipp?
Yes. On the YouTube side, let me start with our Direct Response business, growth was truly exceptional this quarter. DR was practically non-existent on YouTube a few years ago, and it’s now a large and fast growing business, and we’re just getting started in my view. People already, as you know, go to YouTube to decide what they want to buy and we want to make it easier for them to buy and make the discovery process overall a lot easier. And for creators, we launched new shoppable capabilities, so viewers can actually make purchases from their favorite creators directly on YouTube. Just as an example, as part of our Brand Connect program, Calvin Klein tested these and drove over, I think it was, 200% lift in brand search and sold out multiple products actually. For merchants, they can now bring their product feeds directly into their video campaigns, and I think we’re still scratching the surface on what’s possible really with commercial intent on YouTube. And then there is, of course, the opportunity to be a major platform for brands. Historical approaches to reaching audiences through, let’s just say, call it linear TV don’t really work anymore. Advertisers are using YouTube now to reach the audience they can’t find anywhere else. And remember more 18 to 49-year-olds are actually watching YouTube than all linear TV combined. And brands are also seeing more incremental reach on YouTube compared to TV. So, we’re starting to see advertisers by a mix actually of awareness and more action-oriented formats. They’re driving reach and results across the funnel from awareness to consideration to action. So, we see a lot of really interesting opportunities here.
Speaker 4: (29:46)
Great. Thank you both.
Speaker 3: (29:49)
Thank you. And our next question comes from Doug Anmuth from J.P. Morgan. Your line is now open.
Doug Anmuth: (29:55)
Thanks for taking the questions. I have two. First, Ruth, just want to ask you about Cloud. You saw some significant benefits just from the change in useful life, but I think in the past, you talked about 1Q perhaps being the biggest loss of the year. I was just curious if that’s still the case in your view going forward? And then, secondly, just given the management transition that we’ve seen at Waymo, should we expect any change in terms of how things are operated there going forward? Thank you.
Thanks for the question. So, in terms of Cloud and overall performance, I think, the main point I would say is I wouldn’t extrapolate generally from quarter-to-quarter given we’re still in the early stages of building the business. We do intend to continue to invest meaningfully in Cloud given the opportunity. And so as you said, there were a couple of things that benefited margins in the quarter, both the depreciation expense item, but also lapping the unusually high allowance for credit losses that were recorded back in the first quarter. So, the main takeaway is we’re continuing to invest. We’ll invest aggressively in products and go-to-market where we’ve talked about quite consistently over time, and it’s much as operating losses and operating margin will benefit from increased scale over time. At this point, we do remain focused on investing to build the organization for long-term performance.
And, Doug, on Waymo, John is stepping down, our CEO, and he’s been planning for this transition, and Dmitri and Tekedra have been working closely with him. And so, we’ll continue our investments there. Pretty excited that the fully autonomous experience of Waymo One is available in Phoenix, and we are also accelerating the development of our next-generation Waymo Driver to deploy it in San Francisco. And this past quarter, Waymo had begun limited rider testing in San Francisco, and so really focused on making sure we make the hard technical progress, so that we can operationalize this, and so we’ll continue as executing toward that.
Doug Anmuth: (32:15)
Okay. Thank you both.
Speaker 3: (32:18)
Thank you. And our next question comes from Brent Thill from Jefferies. Your line is now open.
Brent Thill: (32:26)
Thanks. As it relates to some of the harder hit industries, I’m curious if you could just characterize the shape of the recovery what you’re seeing across travel and in some of the other sectors? And have there been any verticals that you have yet to see recover that may pull out in the second half of the year? Thank you.
So overall, what we indicated is the strong results reflect, in part, lapping the impact that we saw starting late in Q1 of last year, and then a pickup in a number of areas. I think the main thing we’d want to leave you with is that we are seeing, in part, an acceleration in the shift to digital, but it is too early to forecast the extent to which these changes in consumer behavior and advertising spend will endure. There’re some obvious examples, if you think about, for example, the bump in consumption for things like outfitting your home to work from home, obviously that doesn’t repeat. And so our main thing is that we think it’s premature at this point to really assess that how durable this consumer behavior trends are.
Brent Thill: (33:38)
In travel, specifically, can you just give us any color in terms of what you’re seeing on that front?
Nothing more to add. Philipp had a couple of comments about some of the areas where we’re trying to innovate to be helpful to our partners, but beyond that nothing to add.
Brent Thill: (33:53)
Great. Thank you.
Speaker 3: (33:56)
Thank you. And our next question comes from Justin Post from Bank of America. Your line is now open.
Justin Post: (34:03)
Maybe one for Philipp and one for Ruth. First, Philipp, you mentioned a couple of times the durability of the improvement is tough to gauge. Maybe you can help us understand what the key drivers of Search are that you’re thinking about over the next couple of years? Is it queries, product improvements, certain changes in verticals like shopping, how are you thinking about driving Search growth? And then maybe for Ruth, model showed great efficiency last year on the cost side and margins. Anything you’re learning or experiences during the pandemic that we can think about post pandemic on cost efficiencies or things like that? Thank you.
Yeah. Thank you. Thank you so much for the question. I usually look at the different components of Search as basically four key drivers. The first one obviously being the queries, so are we really the best place for users to turn to when they need information? The second one is, I would call it, is coverage. So what percent of coverage is really commercial and then what percentage are we actually covering with ads? And then we need to ask ourselves, “Do both of these have upside?” The third one is click-through rates or individual ad click-through rates close to being optimized. Is there more we can do here by just delivering better creative, better ads, better answers? To what extent can we deploy next-generation machine learning here? And then the last one is obviously the CPC, right? How much is someone willing to bid for click on their ad?
And this is obviously to a large extent driven by the quality of traffic we’re sending, and then conversion rate is a big driver of this. So, we’re working very closely with our partners, advertisers and so on, across the world to help them optimize their conversion rates and their ROI. Those are really the four big components and I’m excited about all four of them actually.
And in terms of your question on efficiency, appreciate the question. I think, at the highest level, the approach is unchanged. Our approach on investing capital allocation is first and foremost to support long-term growth with financially sustainable businesses. It’s about being sharper within product areas and then making sure we’re investing, and what I keep referring to is operational excellence, things like our technical infrastructure, systems to improve productivity, to improve velocity of our product teams, and then the very important efforts around privacy and security and content moderation.
And I think to your question, the experiences of this past year underscored really the value of having made those investments to protect and support operational excellence. It really served us well and customers in our ability to deliver throughout this period of time. So, that framework is unaltered. I think that part of what you’re seeing in the first quarter, I’ve said it a couple of times now, but there are some notable items in the quarter. The lapping of the allowance for credit losses, the benefit from depreciation life, and then there were certain things that were due to COVID just the lower impact for things like T&E and marketing. And so, the main point is we will continue to invest for long-term growth, so that in both areas, Google Services and Cloud, and we’ll continue to maintain that framework that you referenced about looking for efficiencies where they are, but ensuring that we can deliver for users and customers.
Justin Post: (37:23)
Great. Thank you.
Speaker 3: (37:26)
Thank you. And our next question comes from Colin Sebastian from Baird. Your line is now open.
Colin Sebastian: (37:34)
Great. Thanks. Good afternoon. Sundar, first, you’ve highlighted for years that machine learning is clearly a strength and differentiation of the overall platform, including in cloud services where we’re also seeing competitors focus more on their capabilities here. So, I’m wondering if you could talk about the pace of change around data science and how Google can sustain its competitive advantage in those areas? And then, Philipp, I wanted to follow up on the momentum in Search that you attribute to Google Shopping. Is it fair to say that the shift to free product listings has led to the desired increase in retail advertising across the platform, or are there other reasons beyond the pandemic that you attribute for that success? Thanks.
Colin, thanks. Obviously, yes, we are thinking about AI. It all starts with foundational R&D we do. I think we are one of the largest R&D investors in AI in the world. And so thinking ahead and doing that and we’re doing it across all the foundational areas, and we are taking many diverse approaches. So, as we make breakthroughs, I earlier spoke about transformers and how that translated as BERT to improve search quality. And similarly, we are very committed to taking the AI improvements and bringing it through our GCP offerings to our …
… to our GCP offerings, to our enterprise customers as well. So it’s an approach we are deeply committed to, and we’re thinking about it at all layers of the stack. So this is why you see us work hard on TPU’s, and we think about the tool chain for developers on top of all that. And when I look at the progress ahead, I think there’s a lot more progress coming down the pipe. And so I’m pretty excited. And it’s why I feel Google GCP will be differentiated over time as a competitive advantage place [inaudible 00:39:44].
Yes. And on the shopping side, look, it’s been a year since we brought Bill onboard, Bill Ready, and we pivoted our shopping strategy to better support retailers and consumers, trying to really build an open retail ecosystem. And we’re pleased with the progress we’re making. As you said, free listings and zero commissions, they’ve actually lowered barriers for online retail. Shopping ads continue to be a powerful way for retailers to promote their products. And the combination of free and paid is a meaningful one.
We had a set of new partnerships with Shopify and PayPal that are giving retailers a lot more choice, and we will continue to simplify the [inaudible 00:40:23] end-to-end user and merchant experience, of course. In particular, we’re trying to streamline and working hard to streamline the backend experience for merchants, especially for hybrid retailers, so retailers that play in both brick and mortar and in digital. And overall, we went to make it much, much easier for retailers to get started on Google and have their information appear across services. And I mentioned the overall strength in retail before. So, thank you.
Speaker 5: (40:54)
Speaker 1: (40:55)
Thank you. And our next question comes from Mark Mahaney from ISI. Your line is now open.
Mark Mahaney: (41:00)
Thanks. I wanted to ask about your attempts to retain advertisers. And I ask it this way. I think we’ve had record numbers of new business formations in the country and around the world, on the unfortunate impact of COVID. But my guess is it’s been a huge tailwind for your business. At the same time, we’ve had this real tip over, I think, of linear TV ad budgets in the back half of the year, to online channels like YouTube. So talk about these new advertisers that you’ve brought on to the Google platform, what you’ve been able to do, how confident you are in your ability to retain them, your advertiser retention strategy. Thanks a lot.
So, I can take those. A lot of the new advertisers that you’re referring to are obviously SMB’s, and there is no doubt that this has been a challenging year for SMB’s. The pandemic has disrupted how many of them connect with their customers. But frankly, the pandemic has also been a catalyst for key consumer trends, obviously creating a lot of new opportunities for small businesses.
And obviously consumers are spending more time online. They’re buying more online. They were willing to try new brands, and they’re eager to support local businesses, SMB’s. So searches for “support local businesses” are up significantly since last year. And we’ve been focused, really, on helping SMB’s with simpler tools so they can actually embrace digital a lot faster. And that’s where we have really invested over the year, making everything simpler. We had a very wide range of solutions to help them get online, get discovered across all of our key products, search, maps, YouTube, and so on. And there’s multiple, multiple fascinating stories from them coming back to us. And we see this positively reflected in our rates here as well.
Mark Mahaney: (42:55)
Okay. Thank you, Phillip.
Speaker 1: (42:58)
Thank you. And our next question comes from Michael Nathanson from MoffettNathanson. Your line is now open.
Michael Nathanson: (43:05)
Thank you. I have two, one for Phillip, one for Ruth. Phillip, on the questions on search, I wonder, when you step back, which categories, which geographies, do you think you’re still underrepresented as a percentage of marketing spending, where we could see potentially even more lift to come.
Michael Nathanson: (43:25)
And then, for Ruth, we always asked in the past about CapEx spending, to change your useful life. But I wonder, has this pandemic changed, maybe, your approach to the office space that you bought and thinking about how the company is going to deploy capital in terms of space going forward, and how we think about the future of CapEx, next couple of years, based on post pandemic?
Phillips seems to be on mute. I’ll go ahead and start on the CapEx question.
Michael Nathanson: (44:03)
Okay. Go ahead. Yeah, sure.
So in terms of CapEx, I think I’ll address two parts. You asked about office facilities, but I do think it’s important to note we are continuing to invest in our technical infrastructure, and that’s what you saw again here, this quarter. And we’ll continue to do so, to support growth that we’re seeing in cloud and search and ads and machine learning. No change there. So you’ll be seeing that.
But the core of your question was really about office facilities. And I think we’ve been very clear. We do value bringing people together in the office, and we’re looking at a hybrid work-from-home/work-from-office model. As we look forward at developing our real estate footprint for offices, what we factor into it is, first, we are growing our head count. We are looking at less density per employee. So even with a hybrid work environment, we will continue to need space. And so, we’re continuing to build out our campuses and office facilities. What you saw in the first quarter was a slightly slower pace of that and a slower pace on fit-outs, as well, as we’re evolving what does the space look like. But we expect to continue to pick up the pace there, as we fit out our spaces for this kind of new re-imagined environment. So yeah, we’ll, continue to be investing in campuses around the globe, as we have been.
Yes. And on your first part of your question, look, we’re looking at our business from a very global perspective and are excited about it. Keep in mind we’re not just addressing above-the-line marketing budgets from an addressable market perspective, so not just traditional advertising, TV advertising, and so on. Below the line, budgets are really significant. Everything, promotional pricing, product placements, sponsorships, and so on and so on. So there’s this massive acceleration in e-commerce due to the pandemic.
Still, more than 80% of commerce is still offline. So there’s a huge opportunity here, across the world, for us to tap into those other budgets that were really traditionally used in a very different context. So there’s plenty of room for growth here. And I talked about how we look at it from a query perspective, from a commercial intent perspective. We’re trying to use machine learning really smartly here.
But the real focus in the end has to be, how do we actually make our partners successful? How do we drive incremental ROI for them? And as long as we continue this, well, I think we should continue to see budgets move our way as well.
Michael Nathanson: (46:31)
Speaker 1: (46:34)
Thank you. And our final question comes from the line of Brian Fitzgerald from Wells Fargo. Your line is now open.
Brian Fitzgerald: (46:41)
Thanks, guys. You mentioned the strength in the supply-side products in the network business. Wondering if you might be able to comment on how the demand-side products are doing. And maybe in a similar vein, some of the changes you’ve made in that technology over the last few years may have had the effect of drawing some of your advertiser customers more deeply into your tech stack. Wondering if this is also creating a strong on-ramp in GCP, specifically around data analytic products like BigQuery. Thanks.
So, in terms of overall on network revenues, as I think I noted briefly in opening comments, what we’re really seeing is the ongoing strength in advertiser spend. Both Phillip and I talked about that. Particularly what we saw was AdMob and Ad Manger and particular strength in app campaigns, and all of this just underscores what each of us commented on, that the results do reflect what was broad-based strength across our partners’ properties in the first quarter.
Brian Fitzgerald: (47:59)
Speaker 1: (48:03)
Thank you. And that concludes our question-and-answer session. I’d like to turn the conference back over to Jim Friedland for any closing remarks.
Jim Friedland: (48:10)
Thanks everyone for joining us today. We look forward to speaking with you again on our second quarter 2021 call. Thank you and have a good evening.
Speaker 1: (48:21)
This concludes today’s conference call. Thank you for participating, and you may now-