Will Marissa Mayer’s appointment as Yahoo’s new president and CEO impact your long-term local marketing plan? The answer may very well be yes.

As Google Employee No. 20, Mayer played an influential role in Google search and launched 100 well-known features and products during her tenure, ranging from image, book and product search to toolbar, iGoogle, Google News and even Gmail.

But Mayer’s most recent work involved heading up local, maps and location services for Google. Mayer was behind some of the major local search stories we’ve been talking about recently, like Google’s acquisition of Zagat, the launch of Google+ Local, and the ongoing evolution of (and new competition to) Google Maps.

The fact is, Mayer lives and breathes local, knows the increasing importance of local search, and is an expert in creating innovative user experiences in the space.

If she makes local a priority at Yahoo – which still commands one of the largest audiences on the Web with 700 million monthly users – she may help to revive its once dominant local search platform, Yahoo! Local.

As recently as last April, analysts including Greg Sterling were asking whether Yahoo! Local was on the chopping block. But the offering survived the closing of about 50 Yahoo sites/products and in May, Yahoo surprised us by launching Yahoo Marketing Dashboard, a free offering with premium services, that includes business listing offerings, online business reputation management, website traffic and online sales analysis, and more.

Now with Mayer’s new role, Yahoo may really be back on the map as yet another platform for local marketers to watch and reconsider.

 

Let’s take a look at Yahoo! Local today. The site, which attracts in the neighborhood of 22 million unique monthly visitors (compared to Yelp’s 71 million monthly users), provides an overly basic user experience with minimal advertising opportunities for local businesses.

Users are presented with simple business listings featuring Yahoo user reviews and a compilation of reviews from other local sites. Local offers were added to Yahoo! Local in 2010 – and the beta version of the site features daily deals and a compilation of deals provided by sites like Groupon and LivingSocial – but the inventory is limited.

The Yahoo! Local mobile experience is also sparse with a generic mobile website and no app, although local business search is available via the Y! Search app.

Local businesses can choose between two listings options: a free basic listing with phone number, address, store hours, and products and services; and a paid enhanced listing to add a company logo and tagline, up to 10 photos and a detailed business description. Additionally, Yahoo! Local offers homepage, city guide, and category-specific ads as well as local coupons and deals.

Given where things stand at Yahoo! Local today, what changes might we expect for the offering with Mayer at the helm, and how will that affect your local business?

  • Mayer’s first directive may be to build out Yahoo! Local listings to allow businesses and users to add much more content ranging from menus to videos – while eliminating the current paid barrier. Local businesses will need to create new content or repurpose existing content from their listings elsewhere to build out their Yahoo! Local profiles.
  • Mayer might team up with a popular local search site (she is an active Foursquare user) to integrate more reviews, deals and social media features. Mayer said at the time of Google’s acquisition of Zagat that “getting local search right is important, and to do that you need great reviews.”
  • Given her role launching Google+ Local, Mayer also understands how important integrating social media into the local search experience will be for Yahoo! Local to be successful. It will be important to watch what partnerships come to be with Mayer in charge and how that impacts your local marketing plan.
  • While Yahoo maintains nearly the same number of business listings as a competitor like Yelp (17 million vs. 19 million, respectively), Mayer’s commitment at Google to create “pages for all known places” might be a goal for Yahoo! Local. Yahoo may incentivize businesses to add or claim their listings, giving your local business a nice bonus for participating.
  • Mayer would likely significantly build out the currently limited Yahoo! Local mobile experience. Mayer knows that mobile is the next big thing in local: she recently discussed how 50% of usage for Google Maps comes from mobile devices, so she knows where that opportunity lies there. Mayer may focus on leveraging features like geo-targeted ads and augmented reality in ways that give Yahoo! Local a leg up on the competition. If so, your local business should evaluate the offerings and see if it makes sense to buy in to some of them.
  • I think many of us would agree that Yahoo! Local (and frankly, all of Yahoo) would benefit from a visual makeover. Right now, the site lacks the clean and streamlined design that many credit Mayer for championing at Google. We might expect Mayer to lead a major redesign of Yahoo that would extend into local – new colors, fonts, graphics, etc. – and vastly improve the ability of businesses to share content and users to find it.
  • Having designed and developed Google’s search interface, Mayer may take a look at Yahoo! Local search and make some changes. An interesting concept that Mayer has discussed is her work on “contextual discovery” – or in her words, “search without search.” Mayer thinks there are ways to take one’s history, location and context to present interesting and unexpected results tailored to the individual. It will be interesting to see if Mayer finds ways to turn that thinking into action to Yahoo! Local, and important for businesses to ensure they use the right keywords to get found by the right consumers in their searches.

If Yahoo! Local improves, it would provide your business with access to an older and wealthier demographic. According to Nielsen data provided by our friends at Bing, more than 30% of Bing/Yahoo! searches come from users in the 55+ age demographic, and more than 20% have household incomes greater than $100,000.

Additionally, Bing/Yahoo! ads will be more affordable for local businesses than those on Google, which is currently more saturated.

We’ll be keeping an eye out on where Mayer puts her initial focus, because if it’s on local, it may be worth putting Yahoo! Local back in your marketing mix.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Local Search Column

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About The Author: is an award-winning print and online Yellow Pages executive with broad domestic and international experience, and is the Local Search Association vice president of communications. She also blogs about the industry on the Local Search Insider blog. Follow @localsearchassn on Twitter.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter



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