How Much Does a Single Search Cost Google?

I was wondering how much it costs Google to perform a single search. So I searched in Google, and was not able to find any readily available data that looked reliable. So I used up the better part of Saturday morning working on creating my own number.
I was able to find some ComScore data on total searches from July 2009, and I got Google's financials from 2009 from the SEC site.
My calculation? I estimate that it costs Google .68 cents per search in July 2009 in direct costs, and another .50 cents in overall operating costs, or a total of 1.18 cents per search. That's considerably more than I would have expected. (Please check my math and sources!)
I also found that for 78 billion searches in the month of July 2009, Google needed 3.442 B of capital equipment to support those searches. (Excludes YouTube and other non-search capital). Thus each search performed that month needed 4.4 cents of capital equipment. I did notice on Google's later financials that their capital costs didn't go up that much, so their capital cost per search is likely dropping. (plummeting?)
I'm wondering if anyone has newer data or more accurate data that they could plug in? Please let me know in the comments section.
Here is a summary of my estimate:


July 2009






Worldwide Google Searches K


Age 15+ Home & Work Worldwide

Cost of Revenues $K


Represents 70% that is search related

Direct Cost/Search




Search Related Operating Costs $K


Note: Click on Income Statement

Op Cost/Search




Total Cost Per Search



July 2009 - My estimate


Capital Required $K



Represents 70% that is search related

Cap/Per Search $



   Google Q3 09 Monthly Revenue $K


 2009 Q3 earnings release  Not quite true, but I'm assuming all revenue from search

Revenue Per Search



Cap/Per MM Searches/Mo



$44K of capital gets you 1 million searches/mo capacity


(that’s 33K searches a day; 1.4K searches/hr


23 searches/minute - hmmm. Seems like a lot of 


capital to support just 23 searches per minute! Remember, though; this includes the cost to index the ENTIRE WORLD of web pages to support those searches.


# Seconds in a Month



Searches Per Second



In July 2009

K Searches/Sec



Cap Cost per K Search/sec



It takes $116 million in capital to support 1,000 searches per second and the indexes to all the web pages in the world (roughly)


Attached below is a PDF of my background calculations. This PDF was made from an Apple Numbers Spreadsheet.


Here is the Apple Numbers Spreadsheet with all my source information. Please let me know if you find errors. Apple Numbers is nice because it lets you combine many spreadsheets on one "canvas."


Here is the Excel spreadsheet that Numbers generates for compatibility. I regret I didn't name the tables before exporting, but you'll get the idea as you click to the various tables. (Note: There may be problems with the Posterous viewer for this file type, so if you can't see this file, it isn't you! Also, for some reason, Posterous only lets you view the Excel file, while it lets you download the Numbers file.)
Update: 6PM 1-15-2010
Found this data from Nielson Us Rankings for February 2010

Top 10 Search Providers for February 2010, Ranked by Searches (U.S.) Rank Provider Searches (000) Share of Searches   All Search 9,174,408 100.0% 1 Google Search 5,980,116 65.2% 2 Yahoo! Search 1,294,261 14.1% 3 MSN/Windows Live/Bing Search 1,142,344 12.5% 4 AOL Search 206,969 2.3% 5 Search 175,074 1.9% 6 My Web Search Search 91,288 1.0% 7 Comcast Search 55,122 0.6% 8 Yellow Pages Search 27,002 0.3% 9 NexTag Search 26,461 0.3% 10 Network Search 24,681 0.3% Source: The Nielsen Company

They show Google having done 9.2 billion searches in the US in February 2010, vs 78 billion searches worldwide for Google reported by ComScore for July 2009
This ComScore data shows that North America (more than just the US) represents 22.1% of worldwide search traffic. By this ratio, the Nielson US ranking divided by .22 would be 26.8 billion searches worldwide for Google if the US represented all of North America. If the US represents 50% of North America, then the Nielson data represents a worldwide number of 53.6 billion searches worldwide.

Worldwide Search Market Overview by Region
July 2009
Total Worldwide – Age 15+, Home/Work Locations
Source: comScore qSearch

  Searches (MM) Share (%) of Searches Search Usage Days Per Searcher Searches Per Searcher Worldwide 113,685 100.0% 11.0 103.3 Europe 36,446 32.1% 11.8 116.9 Asia Pacific 35,001 30.8% 9.3 84.7 North America 25,095 22.1% 12.5 110.6 Latin America 10,524 9.3% 13.0 130.4 Middle East - Africa 6,619 5.8% 10.5 97.3


Mega System! Real-Time Twitter/Blogging/Note-Taking for MassTLC2010

SUMMARY: All you need to know is this: Click on this link www.masstlc2010 from anywhere.
- Your smartphone when you're at the MassTLC 2010 unConference,
- Your desktop if you can't come, and want to follow along. Cool real time tweets PER SESSION!
- Anytime after the event, browse to this location to view EVERYTHING about any session! Thanks Chris and Nick!

I love it when things work out great. I love it even more when they work out way better than you ever thought. And when you can even use software at a party (see below).

For last year's unConference,  I asked Nick Tommarello to create an iPhone web-app (looks like an app, but no install needed) so everyone could know what sessions were on the agenda wall without having to go back and look at the wall. He did it, and it worked great. That system is still running, and you can look at all the sessions from 2009 at Try it on a browser or an iPhone or Android.

This year, a new player came on the scene and really upped the ante. Chris Myles, who was part of the Anything Goes Lab session in July, came to me a few weeks ago and described a system for fully capturing everything that goes on at the unConference. Frankly, I was swamped with getting the conference going, and it looked really complicated, and I didn't have the brain cells to figure out how it would all work.

Well, fast forward to the last minute, the very time that Nick and I reserved for updating this year's smartphone app. We re-engage with Chris and I start trying to figure out how his whole thing works. Again, I'm kinda stumped. But then finally Chris tells me what I really needed to know: Just hook to these three links, and everything will work. Well today, we did that, and by gosh, this nice clean web-app connected to the Chris Myles megasystem actually works! It will allow all the attendees to capture and view tweets, notes, video, audio, and photos, all in real time, and all properly filed under each session.

So, here's a look at the system:

UI and Core System: (Nick)

- Broswer or web-app
- Ability to quickly add all the sessions to the database at the event
- Browse sessions on Android, iPhone
- Automatic generation sign-in and hash tags for Twitter
- Automatic generation of tagged/hashtagged posting via email

Back End Megasystem: (Chris)

- Build a Blogger page for each room/session (over 100)
- Put real time feed of session specific tweets on each Blog page
- Capture all session tweets in FriendFeed for archival storage
- Replace the real time feed with archival feed after the event on all pages
- Grab all the emails in a Gmail account (for archive purposes and replying to folks later)
- Send emails to Posterous Blog with proper tags per session
- Each Blogger page will later become the "curated" session history. 
- Each session curator will be able to easily find all tweets and content in the Posterous unCut
- Each session blog page will have a Disqus comment section for threaded conversations.

Says Chris: "Instead of having all the Session content scattered throughout the webosphere, we will be gathering the content back into virtual online sessions. These focused virtual sessions will be used to curate key takeaways and content so participants, and those unable to attend, can continue the valuable discussions, shared knowledge and energy long after the unconference is over"

What does all this mean? It means that the over 600 people can truly document and at the same time observe, what is going on in all the sessions. And, for people who cannot come to the event, I believe we will have the most extensive, most organized real-time system for viewing (and maybe even participating in) a remote unconference.
Here's a portion of what the system looked like last year. This year, we've added automatic links to each session that let you:
- Sign into the session and tweet your attendance
- Take notes in the session , then email the notes, post to the blog, and tweet a link ...all automatically
- Take photos, video or audio, and then email it to the blog, which will automatically post a tweet to our handle, @masstlcun
Here's what the system looks like this year. Try it! on your phone or your computer. This year's unConference has four sessions (five was too many last year...people were exhausted!). We also have the system working for the pre-party, so when you get to an area, like Ping Pong, you can sign via twitter. You can then tweet with the hashtags, or maybe document the valiant wins or crushing defeats via email posts by just clicking the Session Notes link. You can also see everything that's been uploaded to the Posterous blog by clicking the "View Blog" button.

thanks to Nick for his work in both years, and to Chris Myles, for his wonderful new contribution.