Yahoo makes a play for small business ad dollars, dives into proxy fight

The company launched a marketing dashboard for SMBs and lobbied shareholders to approve its board candidates

Yahoo launched a free marketing dashboard on Wednesday to boost its advertising appeal for small and midsized businesses by simplifying digital marketing for them.

The move comes as part of new CEO Scott Thompson's strategy to narrow the company's focus and boost its profit.

Yahoo's dashboard tracks search listings in local search results and on platforms including Yelp, flagging listings that don't include the business in question, for example. It also pulls information from social networks and other sources to show businesses what's being said about them around the Web.

The dashboard additionally offers paid services, including Yahoo advertising and reputation management packages.

"The goal is to help small businesses manage their online marketing, but also to help them discover new marketing opportunities," said Shannon Parker Hane, director of product marketing at Yahoo's small business unit.

Parker Hane said the main way to access Yahoo advertising in the dashboard now is through its recommendation of managed search-marketing campaigns through Orange Soda. But Parker Hane said the dashboard will feature more marketing opportunities in future iterations.

Karsten Weide, an analyst with IDC, said that the dashboard launch shows Yahoo is muscling into the growing field of small and medium-sized business doing digital marketing.

"It's a very, very nice interface," Weide said. "Once you're in there, I think it's really straightforward to book your campaign and track it afterwards."

"It's certainly going to help boost [Yahoo's] SMB revenue," he said.

Also on Wednesday, Yahoo issued a letter to shareholders urging them to vote for its slate of board candidates rather than the alternative slate put forth by activist shareholder Daniel Loeb, who leads the hedge fund Third Point LLC, which owns more than 5 percent of Yahoo's outstanding shares.

The letter said Yahoo's candidates "have strong records of significant accomplishment at the highest levels of media, advertising, marketing, Internet, technology, and finance, including corporate finance and restructuring, and insight into customers' perspectives."

"[W]e believe that, based on the specific qualifications of Third Point's nominees relative to Yahoo!'s business and opportunities, the candidates nominated by the board's Nominating and Governance Committee are significantly superior to those proposed by Third Point," the letter said.

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