Top 20 Marketing Lessons We Can Learn from Yahoo

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Top 20 Marketing Lessons We Can Learn from Yahoo

Yahoo has experienced the highs of being one of the biggest and most profitable companies in the world, as well as the lows of going bankrupt as explained at,, and Several theories have been advanced as being behind the company’s downfall, and all these reasons can provide us with marketing lessons we can take as well. This article will look to list the top 20 marketing lessons we can learn from Yahoo.

Build around the core offering

As per,, and, Yahoo started off as “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web”. Its core was the search engine and indexed pages. Soon it migrated to being a portal. However, by the early 2000s, it was obvious that companies that were focused on a core competency would do well. The lesson here is the importance of identifying one customer problem you are solving and sticking with it.

Move with the times

Portal was hot in the 1990s, but by 2000, the game was more search and social. Yahoo stuck to the portal idea and wanted to build capabilities within but was never centered on a core offering as already mentioned. The lesson here is to always change with the times, especially since marketing is always evolving, and so do customer tastes and needs.

Be clear about the monetizing model

With Hotmail, it was obvious that email service was going to be very different to monetize as articulated at,, and Which meant Yahoo had to focus on its search capability to increase the advertising dollars. However, by sticking to the portal theory, it wanted to drive maximum traffic and, therefore, create revenue which did not happen. Be clear right from the start where the money is coming from.

Keep an eye on what competitors are doing

There was a time when Google search was available on the Yahoo search bar. Looking at the clear potential of Google becoming a bigger competitor, Yahoo should not have thought twice about acquiring it. If you have potential competitors in your world, first seek to dominate the space by giving superior value offerings.

Aim to serve the customer not to please the press or markets

Yahoo became less focused on how it could serve the customer better and more about looking good in the press or markets. The lesson we can learn from this episode is the importance of never losing sight of who is important to your business.

Have a clear mission statement

Without a clear mission statement for your company, your marketing efforts are unlikely to bear fruit according to,, and This is an area where Yahoo has struggled badly over the years as its mission statement has changed 24 times in 24 years.

Be clear about what you do

If a company isn’t clear about what it is, what it does, and why, how can its customers be? While competitors like Google have stuck with one clear mission, Yahoo has been unable to do this, and the results are there for all to see.

Don’t miss your chance

In marketing, once you miss a chance to connect with your target audience, it may not come back again as captured at,, and Yahoo had a chance to buy both Google and Facebook and let both opportunities slip, which is a painful lesson we can learn from the company.

Make the right decisions

In addition to failing to acquire Facebook and Google, Yahoo also made the wrong decisions when it comes to the companies it acquired. Yahoo purchased two companies in 1999 that Forbes now considers to be among the worst internet acquisitions of all time.

Have the right people in charge

According to experts, Yahoo has repeatedly hired the wrong CEOs. None of Yahoo’s CEOs, including Marissa Mayer, had a “strategic vision” that could compete with Eric Schmidt’s at Google. The marketing lesson here is the importance of having the right people in charge of your marketing.

Capitalize on shifts in user behavior

One of the biggest mistakes Yahoo made was the failure to successfully shift from one of the major desktop web businesses to a powerful mobile competitor as already mentioned and covered at,, and When it comes to marketing, always read the signs and capitalize on shifts in user behavior.

Importance of talent

At some point, Yahoo had some of the most brilliant minds in Silicon Valley. However, it started hiring mediocre engineers and did not put enough focus on keeping its talent density high. Similarly, having good leadership isn’t enough when it comes to your marketing efforts. Make sure also the foot soldiers are among the best around as well.

Innovation is not research

Yahoo has been one of the most prolific labs in terms of research as described at,, and A lot of great ideas have been cooked in Yahoo Labs. However, most of those ideas have had zero impact on the business. The reason behind this is that the company was never set up to do quick and effective technology transfer from the idea to the business.

Company culture

A good company culture will ultimately lead to good marketing campaigns. This was another major flaw as far as Yahoo is concerned as it never managed to build a good company culture. There was no push in the culture to have a real impact, innovate, or move fast.


Having foresight and anticipating how and where things will move down the line is important in marketing. This is an area where Yahoo was lacking as it lacked a firm and attentive ear to the ground which would have allowed it to know what its audience needed.


Yahoo was also happy to stay in its safe zone when it thought it was on top as discussed at,, and The lesson here is the importance of having the courage and trying new things with your marketing efforts.

Importance of customer experience

User or customer experience is another important reason for Yahoo’s decline. While trying to be everything to everyone on the internet, Yahoo failed to focus on the user experience -quality and speed of search results.

Online safety

In the current climate, users and consumers want to know that their data is safe with you when they interact and do business with your company as outlined at,, and, Yahoo’s data breach didn’t help its fortunes in this regard.

Do your homework

Many people attribute the botched Alibaba spinoff as Yahoo’s final nail in the coffin. One of the reasons why this deal failed was that the company failed to do its due diligence for whatever reason. In your marketing endeavors, make sure you do your due diligence before committing to anything.


Finally, even as you go about your marketing, make sure that every member of your team is held accountable, to ensure that your budget is being spent productively. One of the reasons Yahoo failed is because its leaders were let off the hook too many times, and weren’t held accountable.

As always, there is more to be uncovered on this and other related topics over at,, and