Yahoo!’s Big Small Business Opportunity

Yahoo! Small Business

Let’s forget about whether there are 10 million, 14 million or 22 million small businesses. In a way it doesn’t matter. Most of them don’t have a website or, if they do, it’s not especially polished or functional. (And let’s put aside landing pages for the moment.) There are also lots of webhosting competitors out there targeting small businesses.

Yahoo! is one of the biggest of the small business webhosts. And the company just simplified the process of creating an e-commerce site. That’s very welcome. But Yahoo! execs still recognize that even with the company’s straightforward process and phone support, it’s still too complicated for many people to set up a site on Yahoo!

I was at Yahoo! Search Marketing’s offices in LA earlier in the week getting a hands-on demo of Panama and hearing about the Yahoo! Publisher Network’s roadmap. On the latter subject I had entered a blog-free zone but let me say that YPN’s thinking is pretty interesting and broad about helping publishers (large and small) with sites, content and distribution.

Let’s say the split among small businesses is 80% services, 20% product sellers – my crude estimate for purposes of this post. Most service businesses need a professional looking site that’s easy to set up and maintain. Right now that’s still way to hard and “ad hoc.”

For its part, Yahoo! Small Business has self-service templates (380 of ’em) that allow for a pseudo-customized site. What I’ve argued to Yahoo! is that most businesses want simplification in terms of choices and only need customization at the margins. But they want true customization capabilities (i.e., logos, photos and some measure of control over formats and colors). Yahoo! has some of this but with its Flickr, mapping and other assets should be able to offer much more.

Speaking from personal experience, I abandoned building a website (for the time being) when the designer I was working with and I couldn’t come to fundamental agreement around certain concepts. I was unhappy with the mockups but couldn’t generate the code myself. I wound up just using the free WordPress templates and hosting and customized my header. That was far easier than doing anything else.

Now that we’re in the realm of “drag and drop” functionality online with AJAX somebody is going to come along with a very simple application to enable SMEs to create sites in an intuitive way using simply WYSIWYG text editing and drag and drop widgets or modules.

Yahoo! is in a position to be that company. They have the resources and a trusted brand. Having domain registration, site building and hosting is a perfect channel for search and other online marketing.

As I said in my earlier Panama post, the initial sign-up screen that certain new YSM advertisers will apparently see features a monthly budget box. This and other simplification features that Panama is offering (i.e., keyword generation, bid-price management) make it more likely that SMEs in larger numbers could self-provision an online search campaign.

Thus Yahoo! Small Business potentially becomes a very effective channel to acquire new search (and potentially display) advertisers. It also becomes a way, potentially, to further build out YPN. Now Yahoo! site building needs to become simpler and more accessible.

Yahoo! clearly understands all this well; it just needs to get around to making it happen.

____

Update: There are tons and tons of sites (and blogging platforms) that purport to offer simplified publishing or site building. (At least one of the comments below argues what I’m calling for already exists.) Fair enough. The problem is that there’s so much noise in the channel. Whom to you trust? That’s an equally big or maybe bigger issue than simple design tools.

12 Responses to “Yahoo!’s Big Small Business Opportunity”

  1. Update on Trends and Information » Yahoo’s Small Business Opportunity Says:

    […] Screenwerk writes: Yahoo! Small Business has self-service templates (380 of ‘em) that allow for a pseudo-customized site. What I’ve argued to Yahoo! is that most businesses want simplification in terms of choices and only need customization at the margins. But they want true customization capabilities (i.e., logos, photos and some measure of control over formats and colors). Yahoo! has some of this but with its Flickr, mapping and other assets should be able to offer much more. … Now that we’re in the realm of “drag and drop” functionality online with AJAX somebody is going to come along with a very simple application to enable SMEs to create sites in an intuitive way using simply WYSIWYG text editing and drag and drop widgets or modules. […]

  2. Vinny Lingham Says:

    Hi

    We have already built an AJAX store builder and it works with Yahoo Shopping at the moment. We’re looking at including other Yahoo API’s. Personals is already embedded as well. We have a wizard and template driven system and it was originally designed for e-commerce functionality, but are still finalising partnerships in that realm.

    Synthasite is currently in Closed Beta and will open in January 2007. It has been profiled a few times in places like TechCrunch already. We think it will be a great AJAX store builder!

    Vinny Lingham

  3. Yahoo’s Small Business Opportunity… » Vinny Lingham’s Blog Says:

    […] I read the funniest article today from Greg Sterling.  Can any of my loyal readers tell me what he is talking about […]

  4. Greg Sterling Says:

    I was unaware of it obviously. Can’t know everything 🙂

  5. evolvor media » Blog Archive » How Yahoo Can Beef Up It’s # of Advertisers Says:

    […] someone else (Google?) comes along and does it first. Oct 20, 2006 10:55 am under General, you can trackback from your ownsite […]

  6. Will Powell Says:

    Util Yahoo (et al) put “feet on the street” to get small businesses online you will not see widespread adoption. The challenge isn’t a techical one – it’s one of time management. Building a web site just isn’t on most small business owner’s mind. The cleaner on the corner just isn’t convinced that a web site will help drive business. He doesn’t see the benefit. He will not take the time to build a site (or even a one page ad listing his hours and contact info).

    And it’s a shame.

    As we all know, a one-evening effort at building a simple site using Yahoo (or one of the other well-known services targeted at small business sites) would increase business at a minimum of cost (free). Slap a coupon on the site and you’ve got my business. Email me occasionally with offers and I’ll trumpet your service to the neighbors. Email me when my order/cleaning/whatever is ready for pickup and I’d die of everlasting joy.

    The cost to a small business owner is time – and there are a lot of things competing for that attention.

    Again, the challenge is not a technical one. It’s changing the mindset of small business that a web presence is as essential as a yellow pages listing.

  7. ~rick Says:

    I downloaded the Yahoo SiteBuilder this week. Pretty cool that you can download the development tool before committing any $$$. Another site is Shopify.com. It is free to create your site. They host it and take 3% of sales. Just another option.

  8. alojamento website Says:

    Yahoo! is doing pretty well in this market and its hosting offered is top notch too.

  9. Kerry Says:

    Interesting article – thanks.
    Have you guys assessed Portal Feeder for the things you’re referring to? You may find it even more powerful than some of the benefits you’re aluding to here.
    The url will take you to a blog where there’s a link to a video which very briefly demonstrates the power of this system.

  10. Rick Says:

    Portal Feeder? Can you share a little more?

  11. jawatan kosong Says:

    Its kinda “small business” for giant company like yahoo. Need to compete with google and msn if want to survive and need to come up with great new business idea.

  12. Alojamento de Websites Says:

    Everyone likes Yahoo because it’s really simples

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