Or "How Yahoo can save itself"
NOTE 1: I’ve been working on this topic, on and off, since Carol Bartz was let go in 2011. Now that Marissa Mayer is CEO, I figured it’s was time to complete my writing.
NOTE 2: Despite what you may have heard, don’t drink bleach.
I like Yahoo.
Simply put, I believe that the company and its products and services, are very valuable to the web. However I’m not fond of the way it’s being run. I’m still baffled to this day why Carol Bartz replaced their search algorithm with Bing’s and started referring to Yahoo as a “web portal” and not a “search engine”.
Seriously… Who the heck in Silicon Valley still says “web portal”?
Sure management has made some additional mistakes, like selling off Delicious and laying off over 600 employees in 2010, then 140 more in early 2011 (which would have resulted in losing many of their better programmers), but what’s done is done.
And now, with the recent firing of Carol Bartz, Yahoo has the opportunity to bring in someone who can fix the company and set out a clear goal to make people want to “bleed purple” once again.
So the question now is, “how can Yahoo be saved”?
There are many strategies for doing this, and many people may not agree with my outline below, but we can all agree on one thing. The company needs to start turning higher profits. If that means keeping OMG!, then so be it.
Getting back to its roots!
At this point, I should make it clear that I don’t work for Yahoo, never have, and I don’t have any connections to Yahoo. Everything written here is from a person who is not part of the Silicon Valley milieu, which to my understanding is probably a good thing.
Yes, Yahoo needs to get back to its roots. Remember that it is a technology company, first and foremost, and focus on improving its key product, search.
Of course to do this they will need to break their partnership with Microsoft’s Bing.
So how exactly can they start turning a higher profit with search?
Well to answer that we need to look at Yahoo’s advertising products. They have to make it easier for everyone to get their ad on the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages). Of course this is going to require a complete revamp of their Search Marketing and Small Business Advertising services, potentially merging it all into one. The easier you can make the process for a person / business to signup and start spending money, the better. Especially if you can offer better rates than what Google does.
Sure it would be easier to buy a service like BuySellAds.com, but why spend money that you don’t have to.
(Please remember this is just an outline, so I will not go into greater details.)
But how do you get people to start using it?
Simple! Seth Godin said it best in a 2003 TED Talk “sell to the people who are listen“.
And just exactly who is listening? Well lets see, a quick overview would include web developers, the SEO community (including search marketers) and the tech pundits.
When Yahoo released Pipes in 2007, the tech community virtually exploded with awe and wonder. I remember first hearing about it on a episode of “This Week in Tech” and how many of them couldn’t believe this was a product from Yahoo. This small example shows that the market is listening.
Do a good enough job on creating something these people will want to use and they will start selling it for you.
The Apple, Google, Bing & Yahoo Paradox
As relations between Apple and Google become even more strained, Apple may consider moving away from Google as their search partner. So where could they go? We certainly know Bing is not an option since it is a Microsoft product, so why not Yahoo?
An Apple – Yahoo deal could easily be done, especially if Yahoo was to focus on mobile and local search. This would result in a quick and steady, injection of finances into the company.
If Yahoo was to focus on mobile and local search, this may even allow them to further develop Fire Eagle.
Yahoo’s Publisher Network
Did you know Yahoo once had a service call Publisher Network? I didn’t.
Apparently this was closed in April 2010 and merged with Microsoft to become the Search Alliance.
If this service was to be resurrected and marketed to bloggers, and had the ability to integrate into services like tumblr, as an additional revenue stream, it could quickly gain traction and be another reason why businesses should start using the updated “Search Marketing and Small Business Advertising” service.
Yahoo’s Web Analytics
What would make this service unique is it could become the central hub for the Publisher Network & Search Marketing / Advertising services, and best of all it would remain completely free.
However… From the looks of things, Yahoo’s Web Analytics hasn’t evolved much in the last few years, as where Google Analytics has. Personally I am not fond of the 2012 Google Analytics update. It feels too fragmented and disorganized. I feel like I’m performing more clicks than before.
I don’t like talking about buying businesses, especially when you have something already built in house, but this is one of the rare occasions where I would suggest scrapping the current Web Analytics and purchase a service like Woopra.
Don’t change the team, don’t change the product, just make it a free service and build the Publisher Network & Search Marketing / Advertising data into it.
(Of course there are ways to monetize a service like this, but I’d like to just keep things simple for now.)
Improvement to service and bottom line
Sure, the outline above is simplified, but without writing a whole dissertation it gets the basics across. Focus on the people that are listening. Give them something better than what they are using. It doesn’t have to be light years ahead of the competition, just enough to make people want to use it compared to someone else, better addressing the need.
Essentially by improving key features related to search this will help improve Yahoo’s bottom line. This is not to say that search can not be improved, far from it. However, by focusing on these essential related services first, it will instil confidence into those that are “listening” that greater change is to come.
Additional Services Integration
Consider this an epilogue. I pretty much could write a whole other article related to how search could be improved, but here are some ideas I would like to toss out.
1: Start using YUI Library for all your products, especially search. Programmers and developers know this open source framework best. Yahoo has been working on this set of tools for a long time, and it goes to show how dedicated they are to improving the web. It also goes to show they still have some great talent that is not being utilized.
2: Image search with Flickr . The lack of support for this service, along with the lose of Delicious, are one of my largest peeves with Yahoo. They have this amazing service where people are doing the majority of work for them. Why have they not integrated this directly into their image search? Seriously… This should be a no brainer.
3: Popular links improve search results. Right? Right! Well… sort of.
Okay, this is pretty much a continuation of my second point. Delicious was, is, a bookmarking service that Yahoo bought in 2005 and then sold in April 2011. In the 6 years that Yahoo owned the service they virtually didn’t do anything with it.
Again, just like Flickr, Yahoo had all this great data being aggregated for it by the public, so why weren’t they doing anything with it? This data could have easily been accounted for in the search algorithm, but it wasn’t.
All in all, I wish Marissa Mayer all the best in improving Yahoo and restoring its reputation & services to what they once were.
Wikipedia has a full list of Yahoo sites & services.