Getting people to click on paid advertisements is crucial for Internet search companies and in that department Google just jumped even further ahead of its main competitor, Yahoo.
The number of clicks on Mountain View, Calif.-based Google's Web site increased nearly 20 percent in April compared with a year ago, according to several analysts who Thursday cited data from the research firm comScore.
That was Google's biggest such increase since November, when comScore said its ad-click count rose 27 percent, according to a report by UBS Investment Research.
Clicks on Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo, which already is far behind Google in ad clicks, fell 4 percent in April.
Google shares rose $14.76, or 2.6 percent, to $583 at the close of trading. Yahoo's stock price fell 9 cents, or 0.3 percent, to close at $27.07.
A Google spokesman said the company doesn't comment on comScore figures, and Yahoo executives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Analysts tend to be cautious about comScore data, which they say doesn't track all Internet searches and sometimes can be misleading. Last month, for example, Google reported ad revenue to the federal government that turned out to be much higher than what analysts relying on comScore data had predicted.
Still, comScore generally remains highly regarded. Just two weeks ago, it drew great attention when it found Google had become the nation's most popular Web site by surpassing Yahoo in the number of unique monthly visitors. Some analysts were impressed Thursday by its latest ad-click data.
"It's a much stronger figure than we expected," said Susquehanna Financial Group analyst Marianne Wolk, who owns no Google or Yahoo stock.
Google's ad clicks actually dropped 2.5 percent from March this year. But Wolk discounted the significance of that, because March tends to be unusually busy for advertising. She also noted that Google has been trying in recent months to eliminate less meaningful clicks on ads, such as those that occur when a person accidentally causes an ad to pop up.
Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray, who also owns no Google or Yahoo stock, concurred that the April ad-click data bodes well for Google's bottom line.
"The news is good for Google," Munster said. He noted that Google saw a big improvement in its April ad clicks compared with March and February, when the increases were about 3 percent from a year earlier.
"Google continues to be the oxygen of the Internet, people need it and interact with it every day and the company benefits as a result."