4 ways new CEO Marissa Mayer could save Yahoo from self-destruction

The following is a guest post.

There’s been plenty of buzz around Yahoo’s decision to appoint Google luminary Marissa Mayer as their new CEO. Even though Mayer’s appointment marks the umpteenth time that Yahoo has appointed a new CEO over the past decade, industry analysts and the media have been treating her appointment as a godsend for the beleaguered tech company.
And they have good reason to cheer on the new CEO. Marissa Mayer spent over a decade with Google since the company’s inception, and she oversaw production and design on some of the most visible and influential features of the company. Google Search, Google Images, Google Maps, Gmail all have Mayer to thank in part for their success. Yahoo should be so lucky to win over such talent.
There’s no question that Yahoo is in the midst of an identity crisis. The question of whether or not Mayer has the vision to turn the company around is the one thing on everyone’s mind. Here are four ways that I think the new CEO could make a real difference with the company.

Bring the Yahoo homepage into the 21st century
Have you been to Yahoo’s homepage recently? If you have, you might start to understand why the company is in so much trouble. The homepage is a hodgepodge of flashy ads and random news headlines, complete with a sidebar offering a glut of extra Yahoo services. On a bad day, the homepage looks like aamateaur news blog with a penchant for AdSense. On a good day, the page looks like AOL’s homepage, and that’s not exactly a great thing.
Mayer’s specialty lies in creating clean, visually appealing user-friendly interfaces. The simple but powerful aesthetic developed by Google could have some real power at Yahoo. Everything about Yahoo seems too busy, too vague, or too outdated. The easiest way for Mayer to plot a path to success is to clear the clutter and start from a fresh perspective.

Carve a place for Yahoo among the big players
Yahoo needs to find its niche. Facebook is the king of social networks, Google has the search engine and mapping services down pat, and Twitter is the master of light and speedy social media. Yahoo has to quit trying to be all of these things at once and simply focus on one key element of the web experience if they want to not only survive, but thrive.
Needless to say, I’d be applying for a job at Yahoo right now if I knew what they should offer to the world that would revolutionize their presence on the web. They can’t beat out Google or Bing on searches—at least not now—but they might have something with their daily news offerings. I think Mayer already understands that the company needs to focus with laser precision if they’re going to get anywhere.

Innovate, don’t duplicate
Yahoo needs to follow that classic adage for new businesses: find a consumer need, and then develop a solid plan to fulfill that need. Yahoo has the resources and the people to do some major research and innovation in the web/tech world. Why shouldn’t they try to do something totally different in order to stand out among their competitors? It’s not like they have much more to lose with their reputation.
I’d be very disappointed if Yahoo decided to settle for some middle of the road strategy that focused on well-established markets. I don’t think the outlook could be very good if Mayer decides to make Yahoo search more appealing or tries to pull a Google+ and attempt a social media revolution. No, now is a time for Yahoo to innovate. Give us something we’ve never seen before.

Make the Yahoo narrative more positive
When was the last time you heard something good about Yahoo? Whenever you hear about the ailing company, it’s inevitably something about the poor state of their stock, the ever shifting line-up of executives, and their perpetual runner-up status as a web service. Mayer needs to fundamentally shift the narrative surrounding Yahoo from bummer to buzz—the more negatively people perceive the company, the less chances they’ll have at success. Just how Mayer will change the narrative is anyone’s guess, but one thing’s for certain: people need to feel excited about Yahoo before they trust that the company will turn things around.

What’s your take on the situation?

A freelance writer and blogging extraordinaire for seven years, Alvina Lopez now mainly contributes her expertise about online colleges to accreditedonlinecolleges.com. Her ultimate goal is to help future students discover their potential by enrolling in the right program for them. She also writes about trends in education, personal finance, and sustainable living. She loves getting feedback from her readers at alvina.lopez@gmail.com.