Has Y! Just Given Up on Local/Mobile Search?

Yahoo logo

Yahoo released Q1 earnings yesterday (so did Apple of course). As as been pointed out, the company’s core business is basically flat. Partly this is a result of more intense display ad competition (Google, Facebook, etc.), more overall display impression “liquidity” (supply) and the pre-Mayerian outsourcing of PC search to Bing.

Yahoo revenues

Pressured by institutional shareholders CEO Marissa Mayer is spinning off the company’s remaining Alibaba assets into a $40+ billion holding company, appropriately named “SpinCo.” That news overshadowed Yahoo’s mixed earnings and boosted the company’s stock after hours yesterday.

Mobile revenues were one of several positive notes in the company’s earnings. Yahoo said it had $1.2 billion in mobile ad revenues in 2014.

Yahoo mobile earnings

There’s growth potential for Yahoo in its “MaVeNS” cluster: mobile, video, native (ads) and social. Mayer said this group of ad products generated $1.1 billion in 2014 revenue. Gemini (as a part of that) appears to be doing relatively well.

Yet even as Yahoo promotes itself now as a mobile-first company it continues to have a big hole in its offering: local search. You can do local queries in Yahoo Search (PC and mobile). But what’s available today — especially in mobile — is basic and doesn’t compete effectively with Google or Yelp or verticals/vertical apps. It doesn’t motivate repeat usage.

Yahoo local search

Back when Mayer took the helm she said she wasn’t going to compete in local. What she meant was she wasn’t going to go up against Google Maps and all the technology and investment behind it. But there’s a way to do local that doesn’t require going toe-to-toe with Google Maps or Apple Maps.

For some time I had thought that Yahoo would try and buy Foursquare to try and plug the local search/local-mobile hole. That obviously hasn’t happened.

However I continue to believe that to grow mobile search revenues and to attract and deepen mobile usage it needs to have a more compelling local offering. Yahoo has basically outsourced reviews to Yelp, maps to Nokia and search to Bing. That makes it difficult to imagine what Yahoo might develop internally that could capture and retain usage.

Acquisitions remain an option. Alternatively, rather than building out a new local-mobile search capability beyond what already exists, Yahoo could supplement with specialized vertical apps: restaurants and entertainment or city guides or travel. This approach might be more “do-able” and yield a better return for the company.

Yahoo could partner for some of the content (with a mix of third parties) and use internal assets to develop something different or unique. Regardless, I continue to believe that it needs to do something with local search in mobile. Given the company’s limited resources and apparent lack of will it’s not clear what or whether that will be.

What’s your view?

Where might Yahoo be able to build or buy a strong local-mobile experience? Or is it just a rabbit hole not worth going down as Marrisa Mayer seems to be implying?

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15 Responses to “Has Y! Just Given Up on Local/Mobile Search?”

  1. Andrew Shotland says at

    If she really is all in on mobile, it’s pretty amazing they haven’t even made token moves towards improving their local search capabilities. I would imagine, some really simple UI stuff on the home page could move the needle significantly.

  2. Greg Sterling says at

    Agree. I continue to be confused, surprised, mystified, stymied, stupefied . . .

  3. Andrew Shotland says at

    I’m just plain flabbergasted

  4. Street Fight Daily: Yahoo’s Local Search Struggles, Facebook Doubles Mobile Revenue | Street Fight says at

    […] Yahoo! Just Given Up on Local/Mobile Search? (Screenwerk) Greg Sterling: Mobile revenues were one of several positive notes in the company’s earnings. Yet […]

  5. mark slater says at

    bookings?

  6. Greg Sterling says at

    Mark: explain

  7. Brett Hallinan says at

    I thought for sure Yahoo would invest in their local platform, but as you noted everything we’ve seen has them moving in the opposite direction.  This is odd because mobile and local are somewhat synonymous.  When they outsourced local reviews to Yelp and eliminated their own reviews, that was a major sign.  Giving up on reviews and the social component gave business owners and consumers little reason to engage with Yahoo directly.  If they decide to invest in local, it will need to be an acquisition.  This would be terribly expensive, but my guess would be Yelp.  Put that Alibaba money to work.

  8. Greg Sterling says at

    It’s very strange. I agree. I think a targeted app strategy might work for them — along the lines of their “magazine” approach, though that’s mostly about original content.

  9. David Mihm says at

    A continuation of a longstanding trend, I’d say.  I think Mayer is skewed more towards media (see: Couric, K.) and if she’s going to make an investment in Local if would be on that front rather than the search or mapping front?  

    Also, the integration with Nokia seems a strange direction, when OSM seems to be working plenty well for so many other companies where a customized experience is critical to their business (Pinterest, Foursquare, etc.).

  10. Greg Sterling says at

    They could switch to OSM. The Nokia adoption may have had to do with the Bing relationship. Bing was/is relying heavily on Nokia/Here for maps.

  11. Andrew Shotland says at

    Guessing it has been two things:

    1. Priorities: She probably saw the Local service as fine as is – meaning it’s generating traffic/$ – and Wall Street was probably focused on Alibaba, Advertising, Mobile (which is not always defined as Local) & Web Search.

    2. Fear: As the person who oversaw Google’s early Local efforts, I assume she had a healthy dose of the Willies about this space.

  12. Greg Sterling says at

    Luke: I’m not afraid. Yoda: You will be, you will be http://yhoo.it/1zFvr7k

  13. Andrew Shotland says at

    We got a full tank of gas, half a packet of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses… HIT IT! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZ3zZ-aWi6U

  14. Greg Sterling says at

    Precisely

  15. Mary Bowling says at

    It seems like Yahoo is concentrating on paid ads and ad networks, but it surprises me that it doesn’t see that there is huge potential for paid ads in the local space if its local pages were only worth visiting. 

  16. Greg Sterling says at

    I agree Mary. It remains mysterious to me why they’re not investing more in local.

  17. Contractor Local Search Marketing Weekly | Jan 30th 2015 | Cartography Marketing | A Clearwater, FL Local SEO Company says at

    […] “What is Yahoo! doing about local search?” is a common question. Greg Sterling of Screenwerk wrote this week about his research on whether Yahoo! has completely given up on trying to compete in local. […]

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