How Google (Alphabet) Makes Money

Google advertising comprises the majority of total revenue

Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL Class A and GOOG Class C) is a collection of different businesses with Google being the largest. The company offers a variety of software and Internet-related services and solutions, including web browsing and searching, cloud computing, streaming entertainment, mobile operating systems and applications, and more. Alphabet leverages its various platforms and services to generate a substantial portion of its revenue from advertising.

One of the primary ways Alphabet generates revenue through advertising is through its Google Ads program. Whenever a user searches for anything using Google's search engine, an algorithm generates a list of search results. The algorithm attempts to provide the most relevant search result for the query as well as related suggested pages from a Google Ads advertiser. Google generates fees from advertisers when users engage with the ad in some way, such as by clicking on it or by simply seeing the ad. Advertisers also pay Google to have their pages suggested to users and will attempt to outbid each other for the top spot on the search result list.

Alphabet also generates some ad revenue from the Google AdSense program. The program works similarly to Google Ads, but it differs in that it enables non-Google websites to incorporate Google display advertising on their pages. When a visitor clicks on a display advertisement on a member's website, a portion of the revenue is paid to the site owner while Google keeps part of the fee.

Alphabet competes with companies that provide online platforms for connecting people with information and relevant advertising, digital content and application platforms, enterprise cloud services, and more. Major competitors include Inc. (AMZN), Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Apple Inc. (AAPL), Meta (META), formerly Facebook, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (BABA), and others.

Key Takeaways

  • Alphabet leverages its search, web browsing, mobile operating systems, and cloud computing to make money through the sale of advertising and various service fees.
  • Advertising generates the majority of revenue, but Google Cloud revenues are growing rapidly.
  • Alphabet announced a 20-for-one stock split to be paid out as a one-time special stock dividend to be administered on July 15, 2022.

Alphabet's Financials

Alphabet earned $20.6 billion in net income during Q4 of its 2021 fiscal year (FY), the three-month period ended Dec. 31, 2021. Net income rose 35.6% compared to Q4 FY 2020. Revenue for the quarter was reported at $75.3 billion, up 32.4% from the year-ago quarter.

Alphabet said that it continued to enjoy strong growth in its advertising business during the quarter. The company's Pixel phones reached a quarterly sales record despite supply constraints. Alphabet's cloud business also saw strong revenue growth.

Alphabet's Business Segments

Starting in Q4 FY 2020, Alphabet began separating its business into three reportable segments: Google Services, Google Cloud, and Other Bets. The company provides a breakdown of revenue and operating income for each of these segments. It also reports certain unallocated corporate costs, including corporate initiatives, finance and legal costs, and costs associated with certain shared research and development activities. Corporate costs also include hedging gains (losses) related to revenue. All of these corporate costs are excluded from the segment breakdowns below as well as in the pie charts above. Prior to Q4 FY 2020, Alphabet separated its business into two reportable segments: Google and Other Bets.

Google Services

The Google Services segment is comprised of a range of products and services, including ads, Android, Chrome, hardware, Google Maps, Google Play, Search, and YouTube. The segment generates most of its revenue from advertising. Other sources of revenue include sales of apps, in-app purchases, digital content products, hardware, and fees received for subscription-based products such as YouTube Premium and YouTube TV.

Google Services generated $69.4 billion, or about 92% of total revenue, in Q4 FY 2021. Advertising revenue, at $61.2 billion, comprised 88% of the segment's revenue. The segment's revenue is up 31.3% compared to Q4 FY 2020. Google Services posted operating income of $26.0 billion, up 36.3% from the year-ago quarter.

This figure surpassed Alphabet's total consolidated operating income of $21.9 billion due to operating losses in the other two segments as well as unallocated corporate costs. Google Services is thus the only segment that currently makes positive contributions to Alphabet's overall operating income.

Google Cloud

The Google Cloud segment is comprised of Google's infrastructure and data analytics platforms, collaboration tools, and other services for enterprise customers. The majority of the segment's revenue is generated from fees received for Google Cloud Platform services and Google Workspace (formerly known as G Suite) collaboration tools.

Google Cloud generated $5.5 billion in revenue during Q4 FY 2021, comprising about 7% of total revenue. It was up 44.6% compared to Q4 FY 2020. The segment is still not profitable, posting an operating loss of $890 million during the quarter. However, that loss was smaller than the $1.2 billion operating loss reported in the year-ago quarter.

Other Bets

The Other Bets segment is comprised of a number of different operations that are not individually material. Some of Alphabet's Other Bets include its autonomous driving business Waymo. Most of the segment's revenue is generated through the sale of internet services as well as licensing and R&D services.

Alphabet's Recent Developments

On Feb. 1, 2022 Alphabet announced in its Q4 FY 2021 earnings release that its board of directors had approved a 20-for-one stock split, which is to be executed in the form of a one-time special stock dividend. If approved by shareholders, each stockholder of record as of the close of business on July 1, 2022 will receive a dividend of 19 additional shares of the company's stock for each share held, following the close of business on July 15, 2022.

How Alphabet Reports Diversity and Inclusiveness

As part of our effort to improve the awareness of the importance of diversity in companies, we offer investors a glimpse into the transparency of Alphabet and its commitment to diversity, inclusiveness, and social responsibility. We examined the data Alphabet releases to show you how it reports the diversity of its board and workforce to help readers make educated purchasing and investing decisions.

Below is a table of potential diversity measurements. It shows whether Alphabet discloses its data about the diversity of its board of directors, C-Suite, general management, and employees overall, as is marked with a ✔. It also shows whether Alphabet breaks down those reports to reveal the diversity of itself by race, gender, ability, veteran status, and LGBTQ+ identity.

Google (Alphabet) Diversity and Inclusiveness Reporting
  Race Gender Ability Veteran Status Sexual Orientation
Board of Directors          
General Management ✔ (U.S. Only)      
Employees ✔ (U.S. Only)
Article Sources
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  2. Google Ads Help. "Where Your Ads Will Appear on Google."

  3. Google Ads. "FAQ," Select, "How much does Google Ads cost?"

  4. Google Ads Help. "How the Google Ads Auction Works."

  5. Google Ads Help. "Get Your Ads Above Google Search Results."

  6. Google AdSense Help. "AdSense Revenue."

  7. Google AdSense Help. "How AdSense Works."

  8. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. "Alphabet, Inc., Form 10-K, For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021," Page 7.

  9. Alphabet, Inc. "Alphabet Announces Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year 2021 Results," Page 1.

  10. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. "Alphabet, Inc., Form 10-Q, For the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2021," Page 31.

  11. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. "Alphabet, Inc., Form 10-Q, For the fiscal year ended September 30, 2020," Page 32.

  12. Alphabet, Inc. "Alphabet Announces Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year 2021 Results," Page 2.

  13. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. "Alphabet, Inc., Form 10-K, For the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2021," Pages 8, 70.

  14. Google, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. "2021 Diversity Annual Report," Download PDF, Pages 8, 48-62.

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