Be the Portal, Google

Should Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) parlay its search engine goodness into becoming the mother of all portals? Yesterday, David Meier argued that the popular company would be best served by sticking to its search knitting. With my Dueling Fools juices flowing, I have to say that I disagree.

Maybe it's just destiny that will have Google barreling toward portalhood anyway. After all, Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) started as a simple search engine before it stumbled on the killer app of doling out free email. Google has walked a virtual mile in those shoes, launching its own Gmail service earlier this year after establishing itself as the definitive destination for site seekers.

Ultimately, one has to argue, what business is Google in? It's not search, exactly. Last year, selling advertising accounted for 97% of the company's revenues, and that figure has edged up to 98% so far this year.

So if the bulk of your intake comes from selling ads -- whether it's on paid search results, email pages, or my rent-ready forehead -- isn't Google's goal to grow the number of pages that it serves up?

In Froogle, the company is already a worthy ecommerce enabler. Through Google News, it's a consolidator of news-driven content. Is Google going to become a portal someday? One can argue that tomorrow showed up early. Even if we will never agree on how to define a portal in the first place, how can we deny that the busier the matchmaker that Google becomes, the more lucrative its potential becomes?

Google is already connecting the dots. When it acquired the leading blog site Blogger and digital photo-sharing specialist Picasa, it was simply a matter of time before it got the products working together -- just as it recently began allowing its bloggers the opportunity to make a little money off their published rants through its AdSense text ads.

Portals get a bad name because of the many failures along the way. Sites such as Excite, Lycos, and AltaVista have gone through various owners, yet the reason they have been discarded into secondhand bins is because they lacked the traffic that Yahoo! -- or even Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) or Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) AOL -- ever had.

Google has the traffic. It's a gift that shouldn't be squandered. Does that mean that Google should roll out online services such as personals or job ads like Yahoo! has or enter the auction game to face a formidable eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY  ) ? Should it branch out into proprietary content? I don't think that Google needs to diversify its revenue base. Paid search is a growing field. However, now that Google is a public company, it is all but mandated to forge ahead and grow. That means serving up more pages to satisfy the sponsored demand. Be the portal, Google!

Where do you see Google in five years? Will it still be the leader in search? How would you grow the company? All this and more in the Google discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Aristotle Munarriz is a satisfied Google user. However, he does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story.


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