How Yahoo Product Managers Are Kicking Google’s Butt

by drjim on October 5, 2009

Yahoo Product Managers Have Found A Way To Beat Google

Yahoo Product Managers Have Found A Way To Beat Google

If you had the choice of being a product manager at either Yahoo or Google, which company would you choose? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most of us would choose to work at Google.

The press is filled with glowing stories about how great everything that Google touches is. Of course, there’s the free food at work angle also. Likewise, Yahoo has been getting savaged in the press as they lose visitors, botch marketing agreements with Microsoft, and generally drop the ball.

However, it turns out that we might be making the wrong decision. In the battle for capturing viewers for financial information, the Yahoo product managers are winning the battle hands down…

Statistics Don’t Lie

Randall Stross over at the New York Times has taken a close look the ongoing battle between Google and Yahoo for Web users who are looking for timely financial news. You might think that things are close or that Google is coming on strong. You’d be wrong. Right now Yahoo’s financial site is attracting 17.5x the traffic that Google’s financial site is getting. You read that correctly: not 2x, not 10x, but 17.5x!

This is not a recent occurrence either. For the last 19 months (1.6 years if you care) Yahoo Finance has been #1 in this category. Google is currently ranked 17th. Yahoo was able to attract 21.7M unique visitors while Google has only been able to attract 1.2M unique visitors.

What Yahoo Product Mangers Are Doing Right

In talking with Yahoo’s product managers Stross found that they had taken the time to sit down with their target audience and discover what they wanted – and what they didn’t want. This research revealed that the more financial information that was presented to users, the greater their anxiety became.

Once the Yahoo product team had this break-through realization, they went ahead and took a page out of Apple’s product playbook and created a very simple design that had a clean look that didn’t overload the visitor with too much information.

The Yahoo team also realized that one of their greatest assets was other Yahoo sites. The Yahoo Finance team developed a great relationship with the Yahoo’s front page team and they have worked together to identify what topics the Finance team could cover that would allow the front page team to send traffic to them.

Yahoo has achieved this product success with very little original content. In fact, only about 5% of the Yahoo Finance site’s information is original. Yahoo realizes that this is a weakness and they plan on boosting this to 10% in the future.

Does Google Have The Better Product?

Does anyone remember the VHS vs. Beta video tape format wars that happened so many years ago? It sure looks like we are looking at a repeat of this once again. Google arguably has a technically superior financial site.

Goggle’s strategy so far has been to offer visitors the best financial data and charts. In the case that this is not enough, Google comes back and offers them even more data and charts.

One of the biggest drawbacks that the Google Finance team has is that Google’s home page does not have a clear link to the Google Finance page. It’s entirely possible that a visitor to the Google home page may never learn that the Google Finance page even exists because the only reference to it is buried in a list of menu items.

One clear advantage that Google has over the Yahoo Finance page is that they offer free real-time price quotations obtained directly from the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq. Yahoo Finance on the other hand gets its stock prices from the BATS Exchange and they have a delay of roughly 1 minute.

Google visitors get real-time stock prices for free, Yahoo visitors have to pay for access to real-time quotes – $10.95 or $13.95 / month (NYSE or Nasdaq).

Final Thoughts

Who’s going to win this battle? You would think that that with Google’s deep pockets they would eventually come out the victor. However, it appears as though Google’s product managers still don’t get it.

A case in point is Google’s new set of stock price charting tools that they call “Technicals“. These tools allow users to analyze stock prices over time using 12 different technical formulas. Based on what Yahoo has discovered about visitors to financial information pages, this new set of features will not boost Google’s draw.

In the end, the product managers at Yahoo Finance understand that the best way for a free financial site to prosper is by including less mathematics and more entertainment. The winner of this battle will inform their users just enough to answer their questions without causing them any unnecessary anxiety.

Product managers at Yahoo who are able to stay tuned into what their finance customers are really looking for will have have found yet another way that great product managers make their product(s) fantastically successful.

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

How are you at walking and chewing gum at the same time? It’s sorta a classic challenge – do two different things simultaneously and do them well. Product managers are facing the challenge today – cut the cost of their product and simultaneously use innovation in order to make their product more competitive. How hard can that be?

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