What the Hell is Facebook Graph Search?

Facebook revealed the “third pillar” of their empire and it has been released over the course of the week, their new tool, the Facebook Graph Search. This is a social search engine, different from the standard fare and not a direct competitor to the likes of Google. It’s based on connections such as likes, check-ins, etc., where you can search for a subject such as “my friends who like Wow Internet” or “restaurants that my friends in Birmingham go to”, and there they’ll be. You’re able to peruse the reams of Facebook’s accumulated data in four areas: people, places, photos and interests.

Facebook Graph Search Query

One fairly large factor in this tool is that Zuckerberg and co has the services of Bing, which can answer queries and commands which the Graph Search can’t grasp. It’s currently in a preview/beta stage at the moment, and is slowly being rolled out to a small amount of users. You can apply to be one of those beta users here (US users only, unfortunately).

Preparing Your Business for Facebook Graph Search

Facebook’s Graph Search brings a lot to the table regarding SEO. Bing will bring the web page portion of things, but optimising your Facebook pages for this new feature, by improving accessibility and growing the amount of connections made with that page could prove to be very interesting.

Facebook have offered a soupçon of advice for optimising your page for the Graph Search:

  • 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 on-going basis

There is also additional information provided by Facebook regarding managing and maintaining your page here.

Is Facebook Trying to Compete with Google in Search?

This is not a purely direct competitor to Google and the web search field in general, and whilst Facebook have got a lot of work to do, they could prove to be quite the player in search. Due to the aforementioned mass of data accumulated by Facebook, it has a huge social graph to work with, thus giving users results based on connections and relationships, something which no other service can currently compete with, adding a whole layer to the search industry.

Google vs Facebook

Whenever Facebook’s name pops up, there’s one word that’s usually at the forefront of many people’s minds: privacy. With this in mind, it’s been made clear that any information that is provided in these results has to have been posted publicly by the user.

Relevance, Relevance, Relevance…

One thing to note is the relevance of the results this tool will provide. People change their minds, their tastes, their preferences; people fall out with one another, people like pages if they get something out of it, et al. As near-sentient as Facebook is, if you don’t keep maintenance of your page by un-liking these things, it can’t know that you’re not affiliated with these pages/brands/people anymore, and the graph search will still “connect” you to these.

For example, my old, seldom used Facebook page has Birdseye and OMGPop as liked pages, as well as one photo, which is a screenshot of Minecraft. If I can recall correctly, I’m associated with all of these pages because they offered some sort of deal or free stuff around 2-3 years ago. The Graph Search will connect me to these pages though, and as you can see, this could definitely pose a problem. Also, people don’t necessarily go to Facebook to like things that they, well, like. You may have had a fantastic experience with a company/firm/business, but they might not have a social presence or it just didn’t spring to mind at the time.

All in all, this new feature will be eagerly anticipated and there could be a lot of opportunities that arise for online marketeers to take advantage of. All we can say for now is that you should dust of your Facebook page and ensure that you are connecting with the right users in order to be found within the graph search.

Liam McCarthy

SEO Engineer at Wow Internet
Liam is an SEO Engineer at Wow Internet. He joined the team in the summer of 2012 and works on a range of clients' search engine optimisation within the search marketing team.

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  • Summer Mote

    Oh my….where do I begin??? It sound like to me like gone are the days of organic search. With Bing becoming more and more FB bias the way Google manipulates it search depending on your Google + circles it looks like the more social you are online the more you’ll appear in the search. To me that is not necessarily fair – although will inevitably help MY business – but what about all the other businesses that do not care or have the time to be as “social” as they would need to be. “Winning” in the internet marketing game has become a FULL TIME job. If my business is plumbing i don’t have the time to “play” online all day – and i may not be able to afford to pay for BOTH SEO and social media marketing.

    Furthermore just because i have someone in my Circle, doesn’t necessarily mean I think they are best for “the job” when i am searching the engines to have a problem solved. I don’t know, maybe i’m old-school (lol) but i wish Google and Bing would just keep social media out of our “organic” search results. With all that being said – i do like how Bing has created a third column for FB results rather than mixing them with the organic results…for now.

    • matthewbarby

      Hi Summer,

      I think that you’re not the only one that feels like this! I think that social media is becoming so commonly used within our day-to-day lives that it is almost as essential as having a website (if not more!). Having said that, this kind of social search feature could really make it hard for smaller businesses to make an impression on people. But with every threat comes an opportunity… local businesses could thrive if they are able to make their presence felt within their local social circles, and from a user point of view, it could return more local relevant results.

      Only time will tell on how this actually pans out though.

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