Yahoo, Microsoft Promise To Support SMBs With New Services

by , May 2, 2012, 7:35 AM
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Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have become the jewel for search engines and social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter, which earlier this year launched a self-service ad platform. Now Yahoo and Microsoft have added SMB services, each launching their own version and rebranding tools.

Yahoo Small Business will introduce the Marketing Dashboard for SMBs, filled with free features and premium paid services to analyze metrics and competitive analysis, as well as monitor online reputations and site performance. A new tool will allow SMBs to maintain business listings across the Web, so consumers searching for company names can find consistent information.

Supporting SMBs has become a "highly profitable and attractive business," according to Tom Byun, GM at Yahoo Small Business. He estimates that Yahoo supports about 1.5 million SMB customers, along with about $3 billion in ecommerce sales from its merchant product line.

BIA Kelsey estimates that 45.7% of SMBs will make similar budget investments in advertising this year compared with last, while 43% plan to increase the amount. SMBs on average spent $3,100 in Q4 2011 on advertising -- slightly down from $3,200 in the year-ago quarter, according to the research firm.

As part of a dashboard toolkit, Yahoo will support a new directory service, similar to the one offered by Localeze. The feature allows SMBs to monitor directory information about their company across the Web. It relies on the Yahoo directory as a template for information. A tab in the dashboard monitors local business listings based on the description.

When directory sites across the Web do not contain the same information as the main directory, the information becomes highlighted in the color red. An upgrade subscription for the directory service allows owners to upload the company's business profile to more than 100 sites, such as Yahoo Local and Yelp. Some include mapping services.

For now, text remains the information that SMBs can push out to search engine directories, but Shannon Parker Hane, director of product marketing at Yahoo Small Business, expects that the service will eventually add fields for pictures and videos.

The strategy follows a promise made by Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson to capitalize on data that Yahoo collects. The dashboard pulls in information about site traffic, enabling SMB marketers to understand key Web site performance metrics from a variety of tools, including Google Analytics. It offers analysis on page views, average time spent on the site, bounce rates, unique visitors and percentage of new visitors.

A deal between Yahoo and two digital marketing agencies -- Constant Contact, and Orange Soda -- will support premium paid services through the dashboard. Constant Contact will maintain email marketing campaigns, while Orange Soda manages search engine marketing campaigns and SEM optimization. Aside from tracking stats, the dashboard allows marketers to subscribe to services that allow them to see the time and the email addresses of others who subscribers forward campaigns.

Yahoo's partnerships with Constant Contact and Orange Soda do not violate service agreements with Microsoft. The Microsoft Bing team will continue to support Yahoo SMB advertisers for paid-search engine marketing. Microsoft Advertising will rebrand its service for SMBs to "Bing, powered by Bing and Yahoo! Search," as well as simplify the way that small business search advertisers sign up with Microsoft.

The idea is to make the process more intuitive, according to Matt Lydon, GM of SMB Advertising for Microsoft Advertising. Microsoft wants SBMs to know they are buying paid-search ads on Bing and Yahoo search engines. "The better the service, the longer the lifetime of the customer," he said.

Microsoft's agreement to sign up for ads on Bing was 14 pages, and on average took up to 25 minutes to complete, Lydon said. "Imagine that being your first experience with Bing as a small business owner. Now the process is a couple of pages and takes five minutes."

When asked the percentage of revenue that comes from SMBs, Lydon said 98% of companies advertising on Bing are small businesses.

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