A curious thing happened in internet-land in July. According to comScore, Yahoo! (Nasdaq:YHOO) surpassed Google (Nasdaq:GOOG) to take the top spot in web traffic for July 2013, the first time in more than two years. Yahoo! edged out Google with 197 million unique visitors against Google's 192 million. As always, though, the devil is in the details. It remains to be seen whether Yahoo! can leverage its position into revenue and profits.
Lies, Damn Lies, And Statistics
The key question is how much this traffic is worth. Consider, for instance, who else showed up in the top six. Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT), long criticized for its inability to really do much online in terms of revenue and profits, came in third at almost 180 million visitors, while presumed dead-company-walking AOL (NYSE:AOL) was fifth at 117 million. Facebook (NYSE:FB) and Amazon (Nasdaq:AMZN) came in at numbers four (142 million) and six (110 million), respectively.
Certainly Yahoo!'s improvement suggests that the new corporate strategy laid out by CEO Marissa Mayer of a greater focus on mobile, personalization, and improved search/display is having an impact. To that end, it's also worth noting that these results did not include Tumblr's numbers as part of the total for Yahoo!
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Now, Monetize It.
As anyone who has worked online can tell you, there's a lot that goes into a successful online business. Getting visitors and pageviews is one thing, getting actual revenue (let alone profitable revenue) from them is another thing entirely. Look no further than the difference between Facebook and AOL – while the two companies may be roughly in the same neighborhood in terms of monthly unique visitors (142 million versus 117 million), but Facebook generates more than three times as much quarterly revenue.
So now the real question is whether Yahoo! can take that next step and leverage this traffic growth into revenue growth. It certainly doesn't hurt that Yahoo! Finance is a leading destination for investors, and likewise the company could benefit from the beginning of the fantasy football season, as Yahoo! Sports is one of the top destinations/services for fantasy football players. Interestingly, these are two areas (finance and sports) that are very popular on the 'net, and with advertisers, but where Google doesn't have much traction.
The Bottom Line
We'll all know soon enough whether Yahoo!'s efforts to improve traffic leads to a sustained change in internet behaviors, revenue, and profits. It may well be just a case of month-to-month turbulence. Then again, it may be that Mayer's turnaround plan for Yahoo! is having a real impact and that this company has a cogent plan for a second act in the online world.
Disclosure – At the time of writing, the author did not own shares of any company mentioned in this article.