SUNNYVALE -- In her first six months as Yahoo's (YHOO) CEO, Marissa Mayer has led her troubled Internet company to its first year of growth in four years, with an earnings report Monday that surpassed analysts' expectations.

Yahoo reported $5 billion in total revenue in 2012, or slightly less than $4.5 billion after subtracting commissions paid to advertising partners. That second figure is an increase of 2 percent from 2011, when the company had just under $4.4 billion in revenue after subtracting similar commissions.

Marissa Mayer, Chief Executive Officer of Yahoo!,  smiles  during the 43rd Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland, Friday,
Marissa Mayer, Chief Executive Officer of Yahoo!, smiles during the 43rd Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland, Friday, Jan. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Keystone/Laurent Gillieron) (Laurent Gillieron)

Yahoo also saw a 2 percent, year-over-year increase on revenue of $1.3 billion for the fourth quarter of 2012. Wall Street analysts had expected Yahoo to report earnings of 28 cents a share, excluding one time charges, on $1.2 billion in revenue, according to Thomson Reuters. Instead, Yahoo reported earnings of 32 cents a share excluding one-time charges.

"It's been an incredible six months," Mayer said.

In a conference call with analysts, Mayer ticked off a long list of accomplishments at Yahoo since she was hired away from Google (GOOG) in July, such as a 32 percent improvement in employee confidence in the company; a realignment of the companies' advertising sales force to focus on top advertisers and to find profit in the increasing use of mobile technology; reduced attrition among Yahoo's top employees; and investment "in fast, nimble, small teams" to bring innovation and new products to Yahoo's users and advertisers.

Before offering analysts an optimistic view of Yahoo's fortunes and future, Mayer had an awkward "hot mic" moment when she complained about the music callers had to endure while waiting for Monday's earnings call to begin.

"We need to get good music," she said. "They all apparently trash our music."

Yahoo's shares jumped to $20.95 in after-hours trading, an increase of 3.2 percent from the market close of $20.31.

The company is struggling in its competition with Google and Facebook, which have been more successful in capitalizing on the mobile trend. During Monday's call, analysts were frustrated by a lack of details about Yahoo's plans for this year.

This Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, photo, shows a sign in front of Yahoo! headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif..  (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
This Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, photo, shows a sign in front of Yahoo! headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif.. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) (Marcio Jose Sanchez)

But Martin Pyykkonen, senior Internet analyst at Wedge Partners, was generally pleased by what he heard.

"It was a good progress report," Pyykkonen said. "It feels like that if they do everything right -- a walk before you run style."

Still, Pyykkonen cautioned investors that Yahoo still has much work to do before becoming a darling of Wall Street.

"It's still a big aircraft carrier trying to turn around in the harbor," he said. "We'd all like to hear her say that, 'Mobile advertisers are falling all over us because they can't get enough.' My take-away is that they sound like they're confident about what they can do, but it's still early."

In the quarter that ended in September, Yahoo reported $1.2 billion in revenue, or $1.09 billion after subtracting commissions paid to advertising partners. That was up 2 percent from the same period a year before.

After hiring several senior executives from outside Yahoo, Mayer has focused on personalizing the Web experience for its users and finding new sources of ad revenue in an Internet environment increasingly reliant on smartphones and tablets over desktop computers.

Recent mobile product launches are designed to make Yahoo the "ultimate daily habit" across desktop, iPhone, Android and Windows 8 users, Mayer said. Forbes Magazine named Yahoo's Flickr iOS app "best mobile app out there," she said.

Mayer repeatedly mentioned Yahoo's 200 million unique monthly mobile users and the potential to turn their eyeballs into revenue.

Initially, Mayer said, critics wondered how Internet search engines could generate ad revenue.

"Revenue always follows users," she said, "and mobile will be no different."

But it won't be easy.

"Expect 2013 to be a year of hard work," Mayer said.

Contact Dan Nakaso at 408-271-3648. Follow him at Twitter.com/dannakaso.