Facebook Dismisses 'Taking On Google' Talk

  |  June 28, 2010   |  Comments

As external search results start to appear from sites using the open graph, the social media giant seems poised to become a bigger search player.

External sites have begun to appear in Facebook's search results, creating buzz last week that the social site has designs on invading Google's territory. But Facebook has attempted to throw cold water on the chatter of an emerging search-marketing-based rivalry between the two Internet titans.

"There's actually a lot of confusion out there," Facebook spokesperson Malorie Lucich told ClickZ. "This isn't anything new. It was actually part of our F8 [conference] announcement." At the F8 conference on April 21, the Palo Alto, CA-based company announced its open graph, a platform that allows sites to share non-personally-identifiable information about users with Facebook.

Since that time, privacy advocates have harshly criticized Facebook for not clearly disclosing what these changes in information-sharing mean to consumers. However, developments late last week centered on the search marketing landscape more than privacy.

Here's what caught attention: AllFacebook.com posted an article Thursday showing an external search result on Facebook - a TripAdvisor.com listing for a Marriott hotel in Maryland. (See images below.) And SearchEngineWatch.com writer Liva Judic unearthed the following external results on Friday: YellowPages.ca, RottenTomatoes.com, London-Eating.co.uk, and Nextoid.com.



Why are those sites showing up in the results for Facebook.com searches like "Japanese restaurant in London" when others are not? Those sites have implemented the Like button in a fashion Facebook calls "heavy integration." Sites can also implement a lighter-integration version of the Like button, which, along with the light-integration-only Recommend button, are what Facebook calls social plug-ins. Only sites heavily integrating the Like button will appear in Facebook.com search results via the open graph, Lucich said. Clicking on one of those results takes the user off Facebook and directly to the third-party site.

The surfacing of the open-graph search results comes on the heels of Facebook debuting Web results from Bing, which appear below the fold after a Facebook.com search. Some industry watchers wonder how much Facebook can expand its 2.7 percent share (comScore, March 2010) of the search market - achieved only with internal Facebook.com searches so far - by pulling in results from the entire Web.

After all, sites that have heavily integrated the open graph protocol are feeding Facebook with user information about things that an individual has interest in when he or she taps a Like button. Hence, some pundits last week were raising the question, "Will there be enough relevancy in Facebook's search to seriously battle Google for a bigger slice of the search pie?"

That question cannot be answered for at least several months. A simpler but also intriguing question is, "Why are the external search results appearing now, two months after the open graph went live?"

It appears that the search results are just now getting noticed due to the open graph protocol starting to hit critical mass. "Part of the open graph protocol is that you can make any page on the Web function as a Facebook page," Lucich said. "So this is an extension of that."

The spokesperson later added, "The Web pages that you or your friends have 'Liked' will appear in search results. I know some people are reporting - they're confused - that if you just slapped a Like button on your site then it's going to go into all of Facebook search. And that's just not the case. It's only pages that you and your friends have 'Liked.'"

Facebook's Open Graph Search Already Has a Glitch

However, an internal test among editorial contributors for Incisive Media (ClickZ's parent company) in New York and Paris showed that identical search results were coming up for everyone - even though none of the Facebook accounts involved were tied together by even a single Facebook friend. When asked how those results could occur, Lucich said, "We are testing a bunch of stuff right now, so I am guessing it's a bug...That's not how it's supposed to function."

So it appears that Facebook's open graph has produced another potential kink - if not another privacy concern - to be ironed out. Though once the company does have its open graph search system down pat, it might make prophets out of pundits who have said that the social site could become a white-hot terrain for search marketing.

Kevin Lee, Didit co-founder and a ClickZ search marketing columnist, offered a more sober analysis. While contending that Facebook may have a big enough audience to challenge Google, he said there are two key unresolved issues: the relevancy of the results and whether Facebook can make money from search advertising.

Citing the theoretical example of targeting only writers who attended a specific university, he said: "Their ad platform doesn't even allow for the specification of the intersection of two keywords...they both need to be there."

He continued, "Facebook has a huge opportunity to monetize their users, but I'm not sure they can build a better search engine purely based on the social graph, especially if SEOs can aggressively manipulate the results."

Follow Christopher Heine on Twitter at @ChrisClickZ.

ClickZ Live Toronto On the heels of a fantastic event in New York City, ClickZ Live is taking the fun and learning to Toronto, June 23-25. With over 15 years' experience delivering industry-leading events, ClickZ Live offers an action-packed, educationally-focused agenda covering all aspects of digital marketing. Early Bird Rates expire May 29. Register today and save!


Christopher Heine

Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

ClickZ Today is our #1 newsletter.
Get a daily dose of digital marketing.



Featured White Papers

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce
This Magic Quadrant examines leading digital commerce platforms that enable organizations to build digital commerce sites. These commerce platforms facilitate purchasing transactions over the Web, and support the creation and continuing development of an online relationship with a consumer.

Paid Search in the Mobile Era

Paid Search in the Mobile Era
Google reports that paid search ads are currently driving 40+ million calls per month. Cost per click is increasing, paid search budgets are growing, and mobile continues to dominate. It's time to revamp old search strategies, reimagine stale best practices, and add new layers data to your analytics.




    • SEO Specialist
      SEO Specialist (HeBS Digital) - NEW YORK                             ...
    • GREAT Campaign Project Coordinator
      GREAT Campaign Project Coordinator (British Consulate-General, New York) - New YorkThe GREAT Britain Campaign is seeking an energetic and creative...
    • Paid Search Senior Account Manager
      Paid Search Senior Account Manager (Hanapin Marketing) - BloomingtonHanapin Marketing is hiring a strategic Paid Search Senior Account Manager...