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Amid Alphabet Hubbub, Google May Be Making Headway on Its Mobile Money Problem

New data shows Google gaining ground on its existential mobile dilemma.

Asif Islam / Shutterstock

With Alphabet’s earnings on Monday, most eyes will be on the first glimpse behind the curtain of its moonshots. After all, it’s fascinating stuff.

But equally important, if not more, is the health of Google proper, the business that pays for all that stuff.

There are some tea-leafy signs that its health is good. Specifically, Google might be finding ways to milk more ad money from mobile devices, which are less lucrative than desktop ads. That is, Google is gaining ground on the most looming challenge for its core business, as it has reassured investors again and again for the past year.

A new report from Adobe shows that advertisers increased their spending on mobile search during the holiday quarter, up 22 percent. And most of that increase probably boosted Google: Its market share inched up in the U.S. (now at 68 percent), while share fell for nearly-forgotten Bing and Yahoo. And Google saw a better uptick in the rate of mobile users clicking through ads than its rivals too, per the report.

Plus, Google may see a windfall from the search deal it cut with Yahoo last quarter (the one cut with the big antitrust asterisk).

Then there’s another potential stream for Google on mobile.

Last week, the company rolled out tests on Android allowing app downloads directly through mobile search, without going through its app store. It’s part of the furious efforts inside Google — like its streaming experiments — to index all the content within apps and break down their distinction from the mobile Web.

For advertisers, the new tests provide an alluring place to pour money — money right into search. So says mobile marketing firm Tune. Because now marketers can promote their apps and then (this is the super-critical part for ad folks) measure how they perform based on specific search keywords. They can’t do this as easily within the app stores of Apple and Google.

Is this Google’s new mobile money-maker?
Is this Google’s new mobile money-maker?

“The app stores are complete black boxes. They don’t share this information at all,” said Peter Hamilton, CEO of Tune, a Google partner.

If they see good returns with this information, advertisers may devote more mobile spending to Google, or so goes the logic. It’s critical for Google that they do, since Facebook is just raking in mobile ad dollars, particularly from app promoters.

How much more could Google make from these app ads? “It would be like trying to figure out how valuable AdWords would be when it launched,” Hamilton said, referencing the odd little auction platform born in 2000 that became a multi-billion dollar behemoth.

Now, of course, all of this is predicated on the assumption that mobile users keep going to Google to search for things. There are many signs that they aren’t. The possibility that they stop remains Google’s (and Alphabet’s) biggest existential threat.

Good news for Google, though. According to Adobe, Google is catching up to Facebook on the other digital ad bucket, display. Facebook’s click-through rate on those ads rose 77 percent during the fourth quarter; Google’s jumped 219 percent.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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