A few days ago Facebook announced that they would be stepping into the search engine arena by releasing an experience that delivers personalized answers to your questions. It’s called Facebook Graph Search, and I want to point out immediately that Facebook Graph Search is not entirely a search engine the way Google is. However, Graph Search will incorporate Bing search results when relevant – more on that later.
Graph Search relies on the enormous amount of data on each Facebook profile to create a network, or graph, which it then turns into a search results page. The search result page is unique to every Facebook user and provides a much friendlier way to locate and discover information from your personal Facebook network.
In this first version of Graph Search, Facebook is only allowing users to search four main categories. The list of categories and examples of a search within that category are as follows:
- People: Friends who live in my city, people from my hometown who like hiking, friends of friends who have been to Yosemite National Park, software engineers who live in San Francisco and like skiing, people who like things I like, people who like tennis and live nearby.
- Photos: Photos I like, photos of my family, photos of my friends before 1999, photos of my friends taken in New York, photos of the Eiffel Tower.
- Places: Restaurants in San Francisco, cities visited by my family, Indian restaurants liked by my friends from India, tourist attractions in Italy visited by my friends, restaurants in New York liked by chefs, countries my friends have visited.
- Interests: Music my friends like, movies liked by people who like movies I like, languages my friends speak, strategy games played by friends of my friends, movies liked by people who are film directors, books read by CEOs.
From the example searches, these four categories can generate countless results uncovering connections and recommendations that were once buried behind walls of noise. Keep in mind that these search results will not reveal anything that is or has always been private - the only content that is searchable is content that you already have access to, hence the extremely personalized search results.
Can a business SEO Facebook Search Graph?
The short answer is: No, not in this first version. The slightly longer answer is: It is too early to tell. By its very nature, Graph Search is a search engine but not a conventional search engine like Google or Bing. Here’s what Facebook had to say about it:
“Graph Search and web search are very different. Web search is designed to take a set of keywords (for example: “hip hop”) and provide the best possible results that match those keywords. With Graph Search you combine phrases (for example: “my friends in New York who like Jay-Z”) to get that set of people, places, photos or other content that’s been shared on Facebook. We believe they have very different uses.”
Graph Search is rooted in the principle that people genuinely know and like the people, places, photos and content they have Liked over the years within their network. Because this initial search experience is based on the individual user and not on the masses, this type of search is not subject to the basic rules of SEO. On the other hand, if Facebook cannot find a suitable answer within your network, it will lean on Bing search results to fill in the blanks.
Facebook provides three specific tips for business owners to focus on:
- The name, category, vanity URL, and information you share in the About section all help people find your business and should be shared on Facebook.
- If you have a location or a local place Page, update your address to make sure you can appear as a result when someone is searching for a specific location.
- Focus on attracting the right fans to your Page and on giving your fans a reason to interact with your content on an ongoing basis.
The silver lining here is that Facebook has released some best practices to help businesses get found on Graph Search.
If you recall the example searches listed next to the categories, a search like: Tourist attractions in Italy visited by my friends is an example that Facebook check-ins could be a signal or the search, restaurants in San Francisco could mean that a business Page that people Like is a signal as well.
What does it all mean?
In my opinion, Graph Search requires a business to optimize for conversion more than search. This means that the priority on Facebook should be about finding and retaining the right audience by keeping them engaged with content that is unique to your business.
It should be noted that Graph Search is still in Beta and is only available to a select group of users. You can sign up for the Beta by joining the waiting list, but there is no guarantee. Because it is not widely available, this is the best time to start building a Page and prepare for the flood gates to open.
Let me know what you think about Graph Search or how you plan to use it as a business tool to stay ahead of the curve. You can leave a comment below or continue the conversation on Twitter @AmadoCan. Happy searching!