A remarkable new chapter in search techniques and SEO, the Facebook Graph Search feature works as a sort of built-in referral engine within Facebook where you'll be able to look for things, people, and places based on the information that your friends and other Facebook users have shared. Although the feature is currently open only to a very small testing group, you can sign up for your turn on the wait list. Fortunately, local search has already been enabled so you can start performing local searches right away.
What is it all about?
So what is so incredible about this feature that has everyone drooling? An easy way to answer this question would be to treat the search box above your news feed as a "third view" of Facebook (the first two being your Timeline and your News Feed). Facebook Graph Search users set their own search parameters and search for things the way they want to. Not only that, it uses the power of referrals and suggestions to form the SERPs. So what we're looking at is a very different type of SEO - while Google ranks pages based on their credibility, content, traffic, and Google+ usage, Facebook Graph Search gives you search results on the basis of information shared by your friends and other Facebook users.
Facebook has really pulled out the big guns to make Google shudder. In fact, Facebook Graph Search is the brainchild of former Googler Lars Rasmussen who is now Facebook's director of engineering.
Yelp and LinkedIn shuddering too!
It's not just Google that is feeling a bit nervous. Same goes for Yelp and LinkedIn. Say you're in London on a business trip and want to try out a good Chinese restaurant. Don't bother your colleagues at work - a Facebook Graph Search will show you which Chinese restaurants in London your friends and colleagues have "liked." So much for Yelp.
Why should LinkedIn be nervous? Suppose you work at Apple and would like to know if there is anybody who currently works at Apple but formerly worked for Microsoft. Facebook Graph Search lets you do that in a jiffy.
Potentially embarrassing? Oh no!
Facebook Graph Search is nothing but an easy way to obtain a lot of information already on your Facebook profile. Over the years, you may have liked a lot of pages, some random, some informative, and some downright embarrassing. Well, if someone were to put together an unusual set of search parameters, your profile may turn up in all the wrong places. For example, if someone searched for all people who are below 21 years of age in a particular state (where the drinking age is 21, say) and who have "liked" alcohol, guess what they'd find? Similarly, if someone searched for people who have "liked" animal torture and have also "liked" PETA... well, need we say more?
Just take a look at these:
So it's a good idea to take a look-see through your Facebook profile just in time before Facebook Graph Search becomes publicly available. Tweak around your privacy settings, unlike a few pages, and go through your profile information to avoid any potential embarrassments in the future.
Whatever happened to privacy?
Facebook Graph Search will show things that the user wants her friends (or a select few people) to see. Nevertheless, Facebook Graph Search may come as a surprise to a lot of privacy-worshipping folks since it shows everything about you in a different, more specific manner, much like what happened with Timeline at the time of its launch.
Impact on marketers and SEO professionals
Facebook Graph Search will provide great benefits to marketers and SEO professionals since it offers a new way to tap into the vast quantities of user information available on Facebook and subsequently uses this information to enhance brand visibility and thus site traffic. For example, if a user searches for "hotels in London" on Google, she'll see a page full of results ordered on the basis of SEO, paid search, and various other factors.
However, when the same search is conducted on Graph Search, the results will be listed on the basis of closeness of the connections, i.e., if the user's closest friends frequented a particular hotel, that hotel would come above a hotel that was frequented by the user's acquaintances. Moreover, local search gets a lot more importance now as local search results can be made to include referrals by friends, which is a powerful tool to increase conversion rates.
Riding the mobile wave
We know that these days, more and more people are using their mobiles and smartphones to access the net. Thus, mobile search has become a very important factor in SEO. While Graph Search is not available on mobile as of now, when it does get introduced on mobile, marketers and SEO professionals shall be able to tap into a much larger market.
Optimizing your page for Graph Search
Facebook Graph Search also includes the businesses that have been added as a "place" by someone. Still, it is hoped that small and medium-scale businesses quickly establish their online presence on Facebook so that people start liking their pages and checking in at their locations as a projection of their opinion and as referrals.
In order to benefit from Facebook Graph Search, businesses and marketers need to optimize their Facebook pages to the fullest. Here are a few tips that can be useful in optimizing your page for Facebook Graph Search results:
The Facebook Graph Search is Facebook's first beta product and will take some time to enter mainstream adoption. However, Facebook has not given a specific ETA regarding when everyone will be able to use it.
In spite of a few bugs here and there, Facebook Graph Search is already pretty awesome and we just hope that it gets even better!
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Navneet Kaushal is the founder and CEO of PageTraffic. A leading search engine strategist, Navneet helps clients maintain an edge in search engines and the online media. He has helped value-conscious businesses build site traffic, increase the user base, boost web sales and bolster customer satisfaction. Navneet's expertise has established PageTraffic as one of the most awarded and successful search marketing agencies in Asia. PageTraffic's solid results and acclaimed process has earned it a place in Red Herring Asia Top 100 and Topseos's global top 30. He is also an expert panelist on various forums including TFM&A India, 42inception and more.
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