Who Should Care About Facebook Graph Search? (Hint: Everyone)

graph search

What’s the big deal about Facebook Graph Search? It’s a common question this week, and while it doesn’t warrant a Notre Dame think tank disaster group, we should all care (at least a little) about Facebook’s new “smarter” search engine.

From businesses and Internet marketers to everyday Facebook users, this new way of search should give us all reason to reevaluate how we plan to use this search engine. Check out these three examples:

Why Internet marketers should care

Facebook’s ultimate goal with Graph Search isn’t difficult to figure out. They want to keep users engaged on Facebook with the hope that they will no longer rely on Google to discover new stuff.

One minor detail that was mostly overlooked during Facebook’s announcement is that Graph Search is a product of Facebook and Bing. The two engineering teams have been working together over the past two-and-a-half years on the current, yet clunky Facebook search experience.

With the new Graph Search, marketers can expect Facebook search to change to a two column result page that combines Facebook friend results with Bing results. We can already expect Facebook to feature their sponsored pages in Graph Search, but what’s to come of Bing ads in Facebook?

Bing Twitter Fail

Image from Bing

Our best guess

If we know anything about Bing PPC, we can guess that advertisers will have very little control over where their ads will be served on Facebook. The most likely scenario is that Bing will serve ads from a new content network shared between Facebook, Yahoo! and Bing. Ultimately, this will increase Bing’s opportunities for ad impressions, but don’t count on Bing to make advertising any cheaper.

Why businesses should care

Graph Search is Facebook’s version of a recommendation search engine. It relies on a plethora of signals that include self pics, winky face status updates, check-ins and “Likes” to determine relevant search results, which will have an outrageously strong impact on local search.

Many industry leaders, like Matt McGee, editor at Search Engine Land, believe Graph Search might succeed thanks to Facebook’s billion-plus user base, provided that users find the experience appealing enough to break their Yelp and Google habits.

Welcome to the popularity contest

McCoys Firehouse & Grill

How many people actually talk about McCoy’s Firehouse Bar & Grill on Facebook? They totally should because it’s one of the best places to get a beer in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, but if users don’t Like or talk about a business on the social network, it won’t show up in search results.

Facebook is already an important signal in local SEO and the only way for local businesses to win in Graph Search is to increase engagement. The more likes, comments, pictures and mentions they receive, the more often their business and products appear in search results.

Local businesses can get a jump on optimizing their Facebook pages before Graph Search takes affect by following some of our local SEO tips for social networks. At a minimum, Facebook pages should clearly display the name, address, phone number of the business, and any other signals of trust like links to the website.

After optimizing the page for local search, business owners should curate a content schedule to regularly update the Facebook page with news and pictures about the business, as well as encouraging fans to upload their own photos and reviews. For more engagement ideas, we highly recommend using Rafflecopter for contests. Their widget is dead simple to build and the Rafflecopter blog is full of awesome ideas for social media promotions.

Facebook’s user agreement

Facebook’s page guidelines are long and boring, but page administrators should know Facebook bans any promotions that require users to upload a picture or status update on a Facebook page. In other words, page admins can’t incentivize Facebook fans to make updates.

As a wild prediction, I think Facebook might bend these rules in the future. It would be in their best interest to create new features like an Instagram/Facebook app that rewards fans for taking pictures of food. If Facebook really had its act together, it would partner with restaurants to show menu options and calorie counts, and maybe it would even share geo-target information on Instagram. They could call it something goofy like YummyPics… it’s a half-baked idea, but something like this could work.

Why Facebook users should care

To the generic Facebook user, Graph Search is a game-changer when it comes to privacy. Facebook hides behind the claim that, “No one can see anything that they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to see.

While that might be true, millions of Facebook will soon realize all the embarrassing pages they liked in college are now public information on Graph Search.

Facebook Graph Search Results

What’s a Facebook user to do?

Fire up the flux capacitor and take a trip back in time to remove yourself from any pages or groups that might prevent you from volunteering with children.

Keep in mind, there’s also the situation where you liked a page for some reason, and it’s not offensive, but you just don’t want to be a free marketer/advertiser for that company. For the sake of you and your friend’s sanity, remove those likes.

(In a follow up post, I outline the steps to find and unlike unwanted pages on your Facebook profile. Check it out. You’ll like it.)

Facebook thinks you can’t opt out of Graph Search

Zuckerberg calls Graph Search the “third pillar of what Facebook is all about.” Facebook is betting big that users will continue to take pictures of their fusion pad thai and make updates about their favorite organic baby food, but will they? Or will the changes inherent in Graph Search have an impact on Facebook user’s Liking habits?

Is it worth Liking something on Facebook if it could haunt you in the future?

TL;DR Recap

When it comes to Graph Search, marketers should worry about Bing, businesses should worry about local search, users should worry about appearing in ridiculous search results, and Facebook should worry about people abandoning their social network.

Facebook Graph Search is still in beta, but here’s a link if you want to jump on Facebook’s waiting list.

How do you think this Facebook experiment is going to play out?

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  1. As an SEO, FB’s graph search announcement caught my attention, of course.
    As a person (hmm, those 2 things are not mutually exclusive – right?) I had to flash back many years ago before FB when I put together a half-hearted attempt to create an online social network of just my circle of friends and their circle of friends so we could all share local professional services of businesses we use and trust – you know; plumbers, tax pros and the like.
    Seems to me that FB is really trying to entrench itself as a utility and something people use to do something similar – but the catch is that without an extremely solid network of user likes and near-total adoption & usage of FB by businesses it will be difficult to pull off.
    And, this may be just the thing to get businesses to get a FB presence going if they don’t have one, and get them to stay active. Could this turn FB into the yellow pages of the future, make them a utility that we use more and more, and a solid strategy to prevent them from going the way of MySpace?
    If you have any thoughts on that Doug I’d love to hear, thanks!

  2. Excellent post Doug. You raise a lot of interesting points. I agree with Matt – “… Graph Search might succeed thanks to Facebook’s billion-plus user base.”
    Everyone was worried that Timeline would expose content through enhanced navigation but not sure how much timeline changed posting behavior or cleanup activities before or after roll out.
    The point about the Facebook/Bing relationship is a good one. Graph Search, if widely adopted by users, would enable Facebook to keep users on site while gaining share from Google search revenue.
    The race is on between Google+ and Graph Search race for market share through social enabled search. Methinks the stakes for Google+ success has just been raised 😉 Thanks for sharing.

  3. I was unaware of this new tool for Facebook, it will be interesting to see if this will negatively impact how people use facebook, or even want to use it anymore if this rolls out. Thanks for the information Doug!

  4. Interesting post. I think that it will be interesting to see how the graph search pans out, and whether or not it is successful. I think a lot of people will be concerned with their privacy. In addition, not everyone checks in everywhere they go, or posts everything they like, so it still might not be a comprehensive search method.

  5. This was by far the best post I’ve read on the new Facebook feature. I was having some trouble comprehending the whole graph search thing! I must admit I am a little excited. Google and all of their updates really makes it hard sometimes for search rankings even if you aren’t using blackhat SEO. So this means we must pay a little more attention to Bing SEO, which I have not been doing because all the attention is always on Google and new tactics after updates!

    1. Thanks! I know there’s a ton of news stories about Facebook Graph Search, but it doesn’t seem like anyone is talking about why it will change our Facebook user experience.

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