Google Inc's advertising rates will get extra scrutiny as Wall Street ponders whether the proliferation of Internet-connected smartphones helps or hinders the money-making search engine that drives the company's profits.
Google's first-quarter financial results, due after Thursday's market close, will mark co-founder Larry Page's first year back in the chief executive's seat.
Page has moved aggressively to reposition the Web search leader in a shifting landscape where mobile gadgets and online social networking services are constantly vying for consumers. For a company like Google, being on top of the latest tech trends and capturing users' attention is crucial.
The new CEO continues to put his thumbprint on the company and I think that a lot of the discussion is going to be on what the strategy is going forward, said Michael Yoshikami, fund manager for Destination Wealth Management.
In this space, things are moving so fast, if you do the wrong things, in five or 10 years you can become irrelevant.
Google stunned Wall Street last quarter with a rare miss of analysts' profit and revenue expectations, sending its stock spiraling more than 9 per cent.
Investors were particularly spooked by a surprise decline in Google's average cost-per-click (CPC) - the money paid by marketers for search ads - which raised fears that lower-cost mobile search ads were to blame.
Google cited several reasons for the decline, including changes to its advertising formats, and many analysts expect another drop in the first quarter. But investors will be looking for any details about the overall direction of mobile search ad rates.
If they come out and say that mobile CPCs have moved up significantly since 2011 then we could see the stock run, because that means that even if this quarter comes in-line, you could see numbers move up for the entire year, said Sameet Sinha, an analyst with B. Riley & Co.
Meanwhile, some analysts and investors note that so long as mobile ads are supplemental to its desktop personal computer search ads, Google will benefit.
Wall Street has relatively muted expectations for Google's first-quarter results. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S expect net revenue, which excludes fees paid to partner websites, of $8.14 billion, up 25 per cent year-over-year and flat from the fourth quarter. Analysts are looking for adjusted earnings per share of $9.65.
The market right now is so greedy for good news, they're going to have to probably meet or beat both revenue and profit