Facebook has dominated the conversation in the tech world this week (for several reasons), but especially because of its unveiling of Graph Search. We’ve been waiting for years for Facebook to “get into search” and “take on Google,” and we appear to have the company’s first real attempt at doing so.
Do you think Facebook has a legitimate shot at cutting into Google’s share of the search market? Let us know in the comments.
It is very clear that Graph Search is not going to instantly come out and reduce Google’s piece of the search pie very significantly. It’s in very early beta and limited preview. Facebook says it is rolling out slowly, and many who have already signed up to be part of the preview are still waiting for a chance to actually use it. The company knows it has a whole lot of work to do on this product. It’s starting off by focusing on four main areas of search: people, photos, places and interests. These are four major things, but there is so much more that Facebook could (and will) do. Facebook posts and open graph actions will be added in the coming months, according to Mark Zuckerberg. Mobile will eventually be added as well. So will Instagram, and probably plenty of other things in time.
In other words, it’s not so much about what Facebook has unveiled, as what Graph Search could evolve into. Could it evolve into a Google killer? Probably not, but who can say for sure? The reality is that it doesn’t have to be a Google killer to be successful, and a useful tool for Facebook users. More time spent on Facebook (especially time spent using search on Facebook) has the potential to draw away some amount of ad spend from Google to Facebook, which really could hurt Google to some extent.
Facebook has a legitimate shot at being a real player in search because, for one, it has over a billion users already, and for two, because it can provide answers that Google can’t. There is plenty of room for Facebook Graph Search to flourish with or without Google dominating traditional web search, because Graph Search is not traditional web search. In fact, one of the first things Zuckerberg said when he introduced the product on Tuesday, was that it is “not web search”.
Facebook does utilize its partnership with Bing to add the web search element, and as Liz Gannes at All Things De writes, Graph Search should only help Google’s case for increased competition in search when it comes to antitrust scrutiny.
Some have dismissed the offering as “not a big deal”. I’m not so sure I agree with that. Either way, we at least owe it to Facebook to let the product show us what it can do before rushing to snap judgments. Give users a chance to figure out what they can do with it. Give Facebook a chance to move it forward out of beta, and add the stuff it really wants to add.
Privacy concerns generally come attached to any major Facebook product launch. The controversy the company has drawn in the past with regards to privacy doesn’t help perception. Still, privacy was a major point of discussion by Facebook as it unveiled Graph Search. In fact, they released a video with some privacy tips just as they announced the product.
The fact of the matter is (at least this is what Facebook is telling us), is that users will only be able to see things on Facebook that they already could. The only thing that changes is that users have a new way to discover these things. Still, that could be enough to make some users feel uneasy, which is why Facebook recommends checking out how you’re already sharing your data. Indeed, if you haven’t perused your privacy settings lately, you might want to take a look and make sure you’re comfortable with them.
Okay, now let’s get to the business side of things. Graph Search may just present businesses with some great new opportunities to get in front of users on Facebook, a feat that has become increasingly challenging as Facebook has tinkered with the way it displays updates from Pages in the News Feed. With Graph Search comes a whole new area of search engine optimization. Whereas optimizing for Bing might be pretty similar to optimizing for Google, optimizing for Facebook’s Graph Search is bound to be an entirely different beast.
For one, optimizing for Graph Search is not about optimizing a web page (although it might make your Bing rankings of greater concern).
Facebook has already shared some optimization tips for businesses. “The search bar first returns the top search suggestions, including people, Pages, apps, places, groups, and suggested searches,” the company explains. “People can search for things like restaurants near them, hotels in places they want to travel to, photos posted by Pages they like, or games that their friends like to play.”
“These search suggestions take people to a unique results page,” it adds. “The results returned are based on factors that include information that has been shared by your business and the connections of the person searching.”
Facebook will also make suggestions in the search bar, and will display Bing results (and ads) for web searches. Pages and apps will continue to be able to use sponsored results. These will continue to appear whether or not the user has Graph Search yet.
Here are the specific tips Facebook offered for “making sure your Page is complete and up-to-date”.
You may also want to consider going through Facebook’s “Managing A Page” help section, which covers: getting started, accessing your page, settings/general administration (editing, notifications, managing admins, usernames/page addresses, claiming/merging duplicate pages), customizing how it looks, growing your audience (best practices/reaching more people), private messages, apps, using your page on mobile, policy questions, page insights (analytics), page admin privacy, bugs/known issues, and posting/moderating posts by others (page posts, offers for page admins, translating page posts, moderating what people post on your page, and photos/events/links).
It’s hard to know this early in the game how businesses will best be able to use Graph Search for increased visibility, but you can rest assured, people will be trying to take advantage. It will be interesting to see just how gameable the system is. Facebook is likely going to have to take on this issue with its own set of “quality guidelines” the way Google does, which will enable it to manually (and algorithmically) penalize Pages that are in violation.
Facebook does already have a business resource site here.
Facebook also notes that app developers have a lot to gain from Graph Search. The company says, “Apps are now more discoverable on Facebook with Graph Search. In addition to showing up in search results based on your app’s name, they can show up in search results based on criteria like ‘strategy games my friends play’ or ‘apps my friends who live in San Francisco use.’ To optimize your app for Graph Search, please make sure your app details are up-to-date and that your app is properly categorized.”
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