No discussion of social media’s effect on organic search results is complete without considering Facebook’s well-laid play for “search” domination, in a closed-loop-members-only end run around Google’s public algorithmic crawl.
With 250 million users, the recent purchase of friendFeed and newly offered ability to search at macro and/or granular users’ network levels, Facebook’s internal community-search platform may well threaten other search models by sheer magnitude of participation and users’ trust of their friends, extended networks and themed groups.
Why SEO for Facebook is now crucial
Whereas most SEOs think “Google” and other mainstream engines when gauging the effect social media profiles on organic SERPs, Facebook is quickly becoming a massive walled-garden parallel organic internet. Think Facebook internal search results won’t matter? Think again and start “optimizing.”
According to its publicly released statistics, Facebook claims 120 million of its registered members log in at least once each day. Every month friends share 1 billion photographs and 10 million videos. In any given week users post over a billion content blocks, news stories, links and blog posts. There are over 45 million active user groups. Little-to-none of Facebook’s is activity is indexed by Google and other mainstream engines. It’s easy to see why Facebook’s members-only organic search results deserve attention!
At the root of this new consideration is the reality that Facebook is now allowing users to search the last 30 days of their news feed for status updates, photos, links, videos and notes being shared by friends and the Facebook pages of which they’re fans.
Check out my personal Facebook search results (from among friends) for “Indian food.” I see my friend Reem ate Indian food for lunch.
If other users have chosen to make their content available to everyone, you also will be able to search for their status updates, links and notes, regardless of whether or not you are friends. Search results will continue to include people’s profiles as well as pertinent Facebook Pages, groups and applications. Also note the cool ability to filter your personal “search visibility” by various Facebook internal channels: links, status updates, wall posts and notes.
There are commercial results in my Facebook wide “everyone” SERPs from a restaurant promoting their participation in the San Francisco Food Festival.
Here’s another commercially-tinted result, R2 Indian Buffet. The listing was was sourced from R2′s Facebook Indian Buffet page.
Look at these 2 results for the search “seafood in New York.” Chef Andrew Hunter’s listing comes as a result of his using the words “seafood & New York” in the most current wall post.
Next, Andrea Cohn’s profile comes up #2 for “seafood in New York. She’s promoting the Bongo seafood lounges, in West Village and Chelsea, with a wall post of a martiniboys.com listing. Facebook is showing the title tag of the Bongo post Andrea bookmarked.
One other important observation: Bing is the official Facebook “web results” search engine. With the recent Microsoft/Yahoo deal Bing will be also be powering Yahoo. Consider the branding and traffic implications of Bing powering Facebook behind the garden wall, especially when one click actually takes users to Bing.com.
Ten Facebook SEO tips
1. Search results continue to include people’s profiles as well as pertinent Facebook pages, groups and applications. Therefore what you’ve done to date still works. The gravity of Facebook groups, which some thought lame, will increase as Facebook internal search is adopted.
2. Facebook gives us some clues regarding its algorithmic ranking factors. Read it and understand. Stay up to speed on changes in the Facebook blog, as they will certainly occur. Hopefully as Facebook grows they’ll make a search quality team ambassador available like Google’s Matt Cutts and Bing’s Sasi Parthasarathy. As people learn to spam these results, Facebook will react and SEOs will want more information.
3. In addition to wall posts, think SEO in tendering status updates, links and notes. You never know who will find it, searching for whatever.
4. Wall-post external content like blog posts and news should be optimized for important keywords, especially the content’s title tag. If possible post content where the call to action and/or contact information is actually in the title tag. This gets your pitch to the search results as opposed to requiring a second click through to a profile page.
5. If you want your promotional data indexed in the wider Facebook, outside of your friends, make sure you select “everyone” in privacy settings > search. Though it’s possible users might not be happy if they were aware, existing accounts default to “everyone,” understanding this is a cool inside tip for early success.
When “everyone” is selected, others may see your data regardless of whether or not you are friends. Reciprocally, users should uncheck if they want to exclude their profile from wider Facebook SERPs. It would not be surprising if users protest when folks start to discover that all of a sudden some of their personal sharing is visible to everyone.
7. Remember that it’s not only wider (non-friends) Facebook search that matters. Your friends, friends of friends, networks and networks of friends are likely to trust you a bit more since you’re “local.” It’s fascinating to extrapolate the implications of a “trusted local personal search network.” As a user or searcher, be aware of how Facebook search privacy settings function.
8. Seek advice from other tools Facebook gives us regarding users common social graphs. Lexicon, which is about to get deeper, and the Facebook paid search platformoffer cool insight regarding what’s hot.
9. Contribute continually. A good portion of the physical search results are comprised of social graph points generated within the last 30 days.
10. Be there or be square! Stay tuned for attributes, in and out of Facebook, may factor in the search results as Facebook evolves.
A crucial new channel for search marketers to master
All of this has potentially massive repercussions for how marketers view Facebook chatter. By really digging deep into how Facebook is searching internal content, you’ll be tapping into the next level of the web’s development, uncovering a gold mine of data about what people are talking about, what they like and dislike, and how they are influencing the opinions of others. This is clearly an important search frontier.
Dig around. Learn the specifics in form and functionality of Facebook’s newly enhanced organic search results. In order to “optimize” for Facebook internal search, it’s important to learn precisely what areas of participation to focus on for the most influence. Facebook gives us a bit of ranking criteria information regarding how the engine is wired. Facebook groups will matter more than before, as a result of the new search algorithm, if & when Facebook internal search achieves wider adoption.
As always in social media marketing, leveraging friends’ (and your own) recommendations, without being a spammer, is sticky business. Follow the timeless axioms of social media participation. give more than you take by contributing unselfish & recurrent content recommendations for others to consume. Be holistic in how you promote your own content and (as always) think in terms of supporting the community first.