Finding the Next Google

Things are going pretty well for paid search specialist FindWhat.com (Nasdaq: FWHT  ) . Last night, the company posted first-quarter earnings of $0.16 a share on a 56% surge in revenues. Both beat FindWhat's earlier guidance. Despite the challenges of seasonality, the company has grown its top line for 18 consecutive quarters. Pre-tax profits have grown sequentially in four straight years.

Thanks to continued improvement in its core businesses and the successful digestion of recent acquisitions, the company is now looking to earn $1.08 per share in pre-tax profits on $174 million in revenues this year.

Raising guidance only to top it has been par for the course over the last few quarters. Sponsored search is surging in popularity, giving even the smallest advertiser the opportunity to land an interested lead for just pennies. That pocket change adds up.

Just ask Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) . The Internet bellwether is huge, but it couldn't have amassed $197 million in free cash flow this past quarter without the help of its paid search subsidiary, Overture. Ask Jeeves (Nasdaq: ASKJ  ) also rocked the performance-based marketing world last week with its own healthy report.

Readers of Stocks 2004, meanwhile, are familiar with FindWhat. The stock has nearly doubled since being recommended at $14 a share just five months ago.

In addition to organic growth, the 141% top-line spurt that FindWhat is expecting this year assumes it closes a buyout of Europe's Espotting over the summer. That's not insignificant, as Espotting produced $30 million in revenues for the March quarter. That's more than FindWhat's $24.7 million for the same period, even though Espotting did so on leaner margins.

FindWhat may not stay hidden long. With Google continuing to make headway toward its anticipated IPO, it seems as if the market will only become more aware of the productive ways of the paid search niche.

Where do you stand on paid search? Do you enjoy text ads over the more intrusive pop-up and flickering flash ads? Are you a Web designer with an opinion on the monetization process of content sites? What is the next online marketing wave? All this and more -- in the Webmaster's Corner discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Aristotle Munarriz has been a vocal fan of the paid search providers, but he does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story.


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