If I Were Running Yahoo...

By Aaron Goldman, VP of Marketing & Strategic Partnerships
Appeared in: MediaPost's Search Insider

August was a busy month for me. In addition to my day job helping run Resolution Media, I took a stab at running Google and Microsoft -- all while tending to my 5-month-old, Eliara, launching a new digital marketing and media blog, and sitting on a keynote panel at SES.

What can I say? I'm Type-F.

Today, I'll share my 2 -- er, 10 cents on what I'd do if I were Chief Yahoo.

1. Say no to Microsoft once and for all. This whole back and forth -- we won't sell for $33... ok, we will sell for $33 -- has been a major distraction at a time when Yahoo cannot afford any distractions. It triggered a mass employee exodus and left those remaining continually looking over their shoulders. Yahoo needs to close the book on this dark chapter and get on with it.

2. Replace Jerry Yang as CEO. The only way to truly "get on with it" is for Yahoo to show it's serious about charting a new path. And no better place to start than at the top. By all accounts, Yang is a highly intellectual, spirited leader with strong vision. But none of that matters. His name was tarnished during the MSFT negotiations, flip-flopping more often than Sarah Palin on the "Bridge to Nowhere." It's time for him to step back behind the curtain and bring in some fresh blood.

3. Start developing original content again. I never really understood why Yahoo got out of the content development business in the first place. My guess is it got a severe case of Google envy and decided to heck with creating content when you can make a fortune off other people's. It's time to concede the "starting point of the Web" to Google and focus on becoming the "premier Web destination." Now, I'm not advocating Yahoo do away with its "open" strategy. Rather, just like Facebook, it can leverage outside developers to make its own assets more useful to its consumers.

4. Buy Kosmix. In addition to developing original content, Yahoo needs to do a better job of packaging third-party content. Kosmix aggregates content from a variety of sources and displays it in a manner that's friendly to consumers and search engines alike. Leveraging this formula to become a leading destination for health information, Komix has cornered the market on long-tail queries ranging from diseases to symptoms. Google "Difficulty Closing One Eye" and you'll see it at the top. Hey, if you can't steal search share from Google, why not steal search results? Especially given how aggressively the Big G has been in developing its own content aggregators (eg, Knol) that are bubbling up to the top of its SERPs.

5. Buy Mozilla. Another way to combat Google is by enabling people to do more than search and find. Mozilla Labs recently unveiled Ubiquity, a Firefox plug-in that allows users to type natural language commands and move seamlessly between searching, finding, and acting. For example, you can type "Google restaurant near Wrigley Field" and then select a result and type "map-this" and then "email this to Jeff" to send a map of the location. Even just applying this functionality across Yahoo properties is a quick win. Oh yeah, and owning Firefox would allow Yahoo to displace Google syndication (which was just renewed for three more years), not to mention really stick it to Steve Ballmer by becoming his biggest competitor in the browser market (that is, unless Google Chrome takes off.)

6. Buy Twitter. Imagine overlaying Ubiquity with Twitter. If you could program the algo to learn from what you and your friends are doing or discussing, you can go one step further from searching, finding, and acting to recommending what to search, find, and act on.

7. Tear up the Google search syndication deal. 'Nuff said here. The search ad marketplace needs vibrant competition. Besides, I've got some ideas on how Yahoo can better monetize its search results...

8. Run Display Ads on SERPs. I've been calling for this since October of 2007. With images now firmly entrenched on SERPs via universal search, consumers are ready for non-text ads. Introducing display ads would allow Yahoo to generate higher eCPMs for each query and move more branding dollars into search. Additionally, it would enable third-party tracking and, in turn, activate post-view measurement for proper attribution and cookie tracking for behavioral targeting.

9. Charge CPC for enhanced natural search listings. Another way to make more money from each SERP is to put a price on Search Monkey listings. Yahoo has long taken heat for its blurring of the church and state lines with paid inclusion. Just as with PI, Yahoo wouldn't alter its algo to give preferential treatment to paid Search Monkey listings. Rather, it would give Webmasters the option to display text listings at no charge or enhanced listings on a flat CPC like PI.

10. Buy RH Donnelley. The key to search monetization is tapping the long tail. Supposedly, the reason Yahoo did the Google deal was to help it make money off those obscure one-off queries. Google, with its 1 million+ advertisers, has an ad for just about every search. Yahoo needs to get access to the hoards of small and medium-sized businesses that are only buying Google today. RH Donnelley has over 600,000 advertisers, having sold Yellow Pages ads to them for years. Yahoo and RHD already have a relationship but the print reps aren't having much success selling search. I propose giving away YP ads as added value with search buys. Short term, it's a money-losing proposition, but print's a dying medium anyway. Jumpstarting the bidding on the long-tail terms will pay off in the long run.

OK, that'll be a dime for my thoughts. Now what company should I run next?


Copyright © 2008 Resolution Media, Inc. All rights reserved.