Should you buy Alphabet (GOOGL 0.43%) (GOOG 0.46%) ahead of its 20-for-1 stock split tomorrow or wait until after? If you intend to buy and hold Alphabet for the long term, the answer shouldn't much matter, given that stock splits neither add nor detract from a stock's intrinsic value.

Alphabet's growth, profitability, and capital allocation over time will determine the fate for long-term investors. As an existing Alphabet shareholder, I'll be watching three things on those fronts in the second half of the year.

How much will the digital-ad world slow down?

Alphabet's digital-advertising businesses, including Search, Youtube, and Ad Networks, grew 22.3% last quarter. But the question isn't if things will slow down, but by how much.

Investors seem to be bracing for a big slowdown in the aftermath of several bleak June consumer-confidence surveys. Adding to worries, social media peer Snap pre-announced back in May that its revenue outlook had deteriorated relative to guidance given just one month prior. All of these tea leaves point to a slowing digital-ad market, which is Google's core business.

However, Alphabet's stock is so cheap that it appears to be pricing in a very big slowdown. While the market appears to be bracing for the worst, Search ads are generally among the most efficient formats for advertisers. That's especially true over the past year, as new iOS privacy changes have hurt the targeting capabilities of social media rivals. Thus, it's possible Google's ad revenue may not be quite as sluggish as some anticipate.

In fact, advertising agency MAGNA projects search ads will rise 18% globally in 2022, and this was a relatively recent projection. While advertising for goods and e-commerce may slow significantly, MAGNA still believes travel, entertainment, and sports betting will see high ad budgets this year as the world emerges from COVID-19. Since Alphabet has traded down to just 20 times earnings -- earnings that still incorporate significant losses from its cloud and Other Bets segments -- a mid-teens growth rate would look pretty good.

If ad revenue growth does slow below that, we'll see if management has the discipline to rein in spending, perhaps from its money-losing Other Bets moonshots. Other FAANG companies have announced hiring slowdowns or layoffs in recent weeks, but Alphabet has yet to join that camp. Will they announce cutbacks on the second-quarter earnings call? Or is business good enough that management doesn't have to?

Is cloud growth holding up, and when will it become profitable?

While some expect cloud growth to slow if the economy slows, I'm not so sure. When a company wants to get leaner, more efficient, and have access to the latest technology, it could accelerate its move to the cloud, not curtail it.

Alphabet's cloud unit grew a healthy 43.8% last quarter, so investors should monitor if that decelerates markedly or not. Cloud growth rates can decelerate and accelerate due to several one-off factors, but any big deceleration should bring an explanation from management or a question from analysts on the upcoming earnings call.

Unlike the other major cloud platforms, the Google Cloud Platform is still losing money, to the tune of $931 million in operating losses last quarter. However, those losses have been narrowing with each passing quarter. It would be encouraging, especially in this environment, to see those losses continue in the right direction. 

Investors don't appear to be giving Alphabet much credit for its cloud unit. However, if the company can show a path toward breakeven, and perhaps a time frame to reach profitability, that could potentially be a positive catalyst for investors.

Antitrust legislation: Will it really happen?

Finally, a significant antitrust bill is making its way through Congress this summer, but it's still unclear if it will pass. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act appears to be gaining momentum but will have to be passed this summer if it's to become law before the mid-term elections. If it doesn't pass, the bill could be delayed indefinitely or scrapped altogether.

The crux of the legislation would be to prevent technology platforms from preferring their own products and/or services on their platforms. As an example, the legislation could prevent Alphabet from preferring its own travel services or hardware at the top of searches. There are also concerns that fees charged to app developers for sales through the Google Play store could be cut. 

I don't see how this would materially impact Alphabet's business, but the bill has received intense pushback from large tech companies, so perhaps there's some real teeth to it. Alphabet has had to pay billions in anti-monopoly fines over the years, mostly from the European Union, which has passed more stringent laws regulating Big Tech. Investors should monitor if this bill gets passed and what the consequences might be.

The big picture

Unless the answers to any of these questions come in much worse than expected, Alphabet looks attractive for the long term. Its near-monopoly in Search still has years of growth ahead of it, most believe we're still in the early innings of the cloud computing transition, and Alphabet's willingness to invest in cutting-edge technologies could yield another big business at some point.

With an undemanding valuation and management increasing share repurchases, Alphabet has both offensive and defensive qualities that make it a great core position.