Since going public in 2004, Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) has emerged as the premier name in Internet search and advertising, while rivals have been unable to slow its success or popularity.

The Mountain View-Calif., based company formed the core of its business in Internet search, connecting web surfers with the content they are looking for. In the first half of 2002, Google overtook its largest rival, Yahoo! (NASDAQ: YHOO), for the first time, serving more search queries than any other company. It has led ever since October of 2004, comScore data shows.

In December of last year, Google increased its lead over rivals, conducting an estimated 3.0 billion search queries, or over half of all searches conducted on the Internet. Yahoo, Google's closest competitor, served less than half, or 1.4 billion, Nielsen//NetRatings reports.

The company has also faced increased pressure from Redmond Wash.-giant, Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) who released an improved search capabilities in September of 2006. The new engine, dubbed Live, has had little impact on Google, however.

Our checks indicated that Google continues to gain share of queries and budgets, and there is still no indication of MSN having any impact on Google's search query volume, research analyst Justin Post, Merrill Lynch, said in a note on Wednesday.

Google is more than a search company, however. The firm has expanded to offer maps, email, and even Internet based productivity software.

Google's popularity has been driven in part by its international appeal as well as the rapid uptake of some of Google's applications beyond traditional Web search, said Bob Ivins, managing director of comScore Europe. Examples include the 40-percent year-over-year growth in visitors to Google Image Search, the 71-percent growth in visitors to Gmail, and the 62-percent growth in visitors to Google Maps.

The results of a survey released last week by online branding magazine,, gives further evidence of the search giant's popularity. The Google brand topped the list as the brand with the most impact globally, beating out companies such as runner-up Apple, and other well known brands such as Nokia, and Coca-Cola.

Perhaps the firm's greatest strength, however, is its advertising platform, which is used by millions of websites around the globe. The firm's advanced technology aims to place the most relevant ads onto sites, keeping advertisers and webmasters happy.

At this year's SEMDirector's Inflection Point conference in San Diego, a gathering of Internet advertisers, Google appeared to be making greater strides to expand beyond the web.

Biggest incremental takeaway is that we expect much more visibility on Google's multimedia advertising capabilities, which seem likely to include newspaper, radio and even TV.

Sentiment on Google's ability to increase share from innovation remained very positive, and most advertisers at the conference anticipate disproportionately increasing their spending on Google in 2007, Post continued.

Shares of the company have grown over 500 percent since its IPO of around $100 three years ago.

Shares of Google rose 1.41 percent, or $6.98 to $501.30 by in late afternoon trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market.