Online advertising specialist ValueClick (Nasdaq: VCLK) is jumping like a scorched chinchilla today, gaining as much as 14% after a surprisingly strong fourth-quarter report. This time, there was no phantom tax benefit to explain the gains.

Like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) before it, ValueClick simply reported strong holiday sales as shoppers are getting used to finding deals online. Revenue jumped 17% over the year-ago quarter to land at $129 million, or about $4 million more than the analyst consensus. The sales trickled down to created $0.26 of adjusted earnings per share, comparing favorably to the $0.23 estimate.

The integration of the Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) portal with search results from Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) Bing was expected to disrupt the revenues ValueClick gets from Yahoo-related traffic, but that change did less damage than expected.

Even after today's jump, ValueClick arguably remains value-priced in contrast to rivals Google and Digital River (Nasdaq: DRIV), and may be buyout bait for a bigger and richer online operator.

The company isn't squandering its opportunities these days, and is in the habit of putting its cash flows to good use by buying back a lot of its own stock. ValueClick generated $90 million of free cash in 2010. The $42 million buyout of investing resource Investopedia was balanced out by the $45 million spinoff of advertising lead service Web Marketing Holdings, so that's a wash.

However, ValueClick freely admits that there are virtually no barriers to entry in the online marketing industry, and is facing down a bevy of bigger, stronger, and better-performing rivals. Our CAPS community gives the stock a less-than-flattering two stars out of five, and the 8.7% short interest in the stock includes a thumbs-down position from our own Big Short newsletter. From that point of view, this jump looks like a signal to open a short position as ValueClick is hovering around 52-week highs at the moment.

Want to learn more about ValueClick? Add the stock to your Foolish watchlist by clicking here.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. ValueClick is a Motley Fool Big Short short-sale recommendation. Google and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Digital River and Google are Motley Fool Rule Breakers selections. Yahoo! is a Motley Fool Global Gains recommendation. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Google, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.