Internet search engine Google officially launched its operation in Israel Monday, expanding its search products available to the Hebrew speaking private and business consumer. "With this launch, we have increased our investment and activities in Israel," Meir Brand, CEO of Google Israel told The Jerusalem Post. "We are focusing on our three core users being consumers, advertisers and site owners to localize programs for their benefit." Brand added that the company has set out to bring as many products as possible to the Hebrew speaking market in the next 18 months. Google launched its Hebrew version approximately four years ago and announced last year that it would open a Tel Aviv office, with Brand as the country manager. The company quoted a survey conducted by the TIM research company in December 2005 saying that three out of every four Internet users enter the Google site at least once a week. While Brand wouldn't put a value to the investment or the size of the Israel operation, he insisted the company is continuously growing as the market requires. "The real investment is in the Israeli economy and the local [search engine] market," he said. "It's a long-term investment and we continue to bring in new products for surfers and develop search advertising capabilities for companies here." Asked to comment on reports that Google was considering establishing a Research and Development facility in Israel, Brand said the company was always looking for talent and has a policy of going to where the talent is. "Given the wealth of talent in Israel we shouldn't be surprised if at some point in the future Google opens and R&D center here," Brand said. Meanwhile, Google has identified 'search advertising' as a focal point for its Israel campaign - an area which Brand said has tremendous potential for the Israeli business arena. "It's advantageous for small businesses and larger enterprises and especially exporters looking to expand their advertising reach abroad and in different languages," he said. Its new advertising campaign 'AdWords' allows businesses to place text notices connected to search criteria that a potential market might enter. The advert will appear on the left hand side of the Hebrew page when the search is completed, giving information relevant to the user's requirements. Brand said that despite the high percentage Internet usage in the country, only 5% of advertising is found on the Web. "We therefore see great economic potential in this area and opportunity for us and the advertising sector in Israel to develop it," he added. Walla pegs growth on advertising Hebrew search engine company Walla on Monday reported 2005 earnings that more than tripled amid strong advertising growth. "In 2005, the advertising market showed impressive growth and we expect this to continue," said Ilan Israeli, CEO of Walla. "The Internet allows for advertising capabilities which have proven effective and which are not available in other media forms." Meanwhile, Israeli expects advertising costs will continue to rise this year. "The gap between the advertising prices and the impact it has in the medium is still an anomaly," he said. "This gap gives indication of the strong growth trend amongst Israeli portals." Walla, a competitor to Google Israel in the Hebrew search engine market, said its 2005 net profit rose to NIS 12.3 million from NIS 3.6m. the year before while revenue jumped 61% to NIS 75.6m. Revenue for the fourth quarter nearly doubled to NIS 21.4m. while net income rose slightly to NIS 4.2m.