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Six Things Marissa Mayer Can Do to Get Yahoo Back On Track

Fix the Product. Oh, and Keep Ross Levinsohn at All Costs

By Published on . 6

Six months ago I gave some free advice to Scott Thompson on what he should do as incoming CEO of Yahoo. Who could have known "ensure resume is accurate" needed to be item No. 1. Now Yahoo has a new CEO, Marissa Mayer, employee No. 20 from Google and the individual credited with more product creations and enhancements than Yahoo has seen in the last decade. Any company that has to make two CEO announcements within a year by definition has problems, but I believe a turnaround is possible. Here's where Marissa should start:

Overhaul the product. Everyone knows how successful Mayer has been at Google with product development. Now she arrives at a Yahoo lacking a lot of good ones. It has one brilliant one in IntoNow and another good, if underexposed one in Axis. Throw weight behind these, especially IntoNow and start ruthlessly jettisoning the rest, just like Google recently did with one of Mayer's creations, iGoogle.

Keep Ross at all costs, or buy Hulu. For the past few months interim CEO and presumptive permanent CEO, Ross Levinsohn, has put the company on a path towards media and content at its core. Now what? Well, keeping Ross, somehow, some way would be a great coup. Even if Yahoo is to be a tech company under Mayer's leadership, Levinsohn knows Madison Avenue and can communicate a vision well. If that 's not an option then think big. Use some of that Asia money to buy a deep integration between a great product (IntoNow) and a great content platform. Buy Hulu. Jason Kilar was briefly rumored to be a Yahoo CEO candidate and he could fulfill a lot of aspirations in content while allowing Mayer to run the tech business turnaround.

Link in with Armstrong, Costolo and Sandberg. There's no shortage of Xooglers, the digital space is now littered with people who once called Mountain View home, like Mayer. I'd start with those existing alliances like AOL with old Google sales chief, Tim Armstrong and the relatively new alliance with Sheryl Sandberg and the folks at Facebook. I'd also check the Twitter feed of former Googler and current Twitter CEO Dick Costolo about Mayer's appointment. Display sales and social media are two core components of what any turnaround would require.

Fix the search alliance with Microsoft. Give Steve in Seattle, aka Redmond West, a call and better understand how the search alliance monetization has to evolve to keep more revenue in the Yahoo coffers. The slow bleed of market share is an even bigger issues to the Yahoo bottom line due to deal structure.

Teach Yahoo a new trick. For years Google was called a one-trick pony. Search was the alpha and omega of what they did and they did it so well that they didn't have to do anything else. That's obviously changed but no one monetizes better than Google. Mayer spent enough time that she understands how to build a maximum monetization engine. She was also near to the expansion and focus on local (she spearheaded the Zagat acquisition) as well as social (Google+). These are all key future user-centric areas of the business and if she can get the product and monetization right, she's got a chance.

Believe your hype . Phrases like "whip smart" and "tireless champion of users" were used when describing Mayer upon her Google departure. Those are not phrases commonly associated with Yahoo today. Yahoo has been a one-way street of talent leaving Sunnyvale. Mayer has an image, she has a management style and she has a proven results background in technology. Now she has the ultimate task of firing those who don't fit the image cultivated over 13 years at Google and bringing in the right people to deliver on it.

The valley is in shock that Yahoo could land a talent like Marissa Mayer for the top job. Now Mayer has to elevate a downward-spiraling Yahoo. There's tremendous respect for what Yahoo was and what Mayer is , now it's a matter of what they will be together.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Copeland is CEO of GroupM Next, the forward-looking, media innovation unit of GroupM. Chris drives global search strategy for Group M's communications planning agencies ( Maxus , MEC , MediaCom and Mindshare), as well as agency clients.
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