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Report: Google Gets Audit OK for IPO

An independent audit confirmed Google's financial health and cleared the way for a public stock offering in April, according to a report in yesterday's New York Times.

Citing executives, the newspaper said that an accounting firm hired by Google recently affirmed that it is in compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley law setting corporate governance requirements for publicly traded companies. Though not required by the Securities and Exchange Commission, such an audit prepares Google for an IPO that some estimate could value the company at up to $20 billion.

The Times reported that Google's board of directors could give approval for a registration of shares as early as this week, setting up a public offering in late April. Google does not comment on reports about its stock offering.

Google's public offering of shares, widely expected for months, could serve as a catalyst to more innovation in search marketing, as Google would have $4 billion to $5 billion in cash to escalate its fight for search dominance against cash-rich rivals Yahoo and Microsoft.

The IPO could spark other ripples through the search industry, according to Fredrick Marckini, chief executive of Arlington, MA, search marketing firm iProspect.

“The more capital that goes in, the more innovation, the more awareness, and that will snowball,” he said. “We're really seeing it already.”

Marckini thinks Google's IPO will be a watershed event for the search marketing business, driving more consolidation of search services firms with ad agencies and online ad services providers. Already, online ad company aQuantive in December acquired GoToast, a provider of keyword-bidding tools. Marckini said ad agencies likely would follow suit to gain expertise in the area.

“It's universally accepted that search engine marketing is no place for beginners or learners,” he said. “Agencies are baffled by how unexpectedly complicated search engine marketing is.”

Brian Morrissey covers search marketing for DM News.com. To keep up with the latest search marketing news subscribe to our free e-mail weekly newsletter Search Engine Marketing by visiting www.dmnews.com/cgi-bin/newslettersub.cgi .

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