graph-search (1)

Facebook Graph Search Overview for Local Businesses

Facebook has just announced their new “Graph Search,” which is their new version of search that does much more than serve relevant results based on a simple term. It connects your desired search with social signals based on user data that they already own.  It’s no surprise that this is being announced, as Facebook has been slowly getting deeper in the local search field, most recently before this with the arrival of “Nearby.”

This new “Graph Search” taps into user data and gives you customized results for things like “restaurants in Huntington Beach that my friends like,” or “people in Chicago who have the same interests as me.”  This differs from other search engines in that you can usually search for “restaurants in Huntington Beach” on Google and Bing, and obviously get relevant results for that search, but you don’t have the ability to find ones that your friends already approve of to this degree.

facebook graph search

Click to Enlarge

Google, using Google+ and “Search plus Your World,” and Bing with their social sidebar, have made attempts to tie social signals into their search results with minimal success– but Facebook is the most likely candidate to make a real impact on social search with this new platform. Almost everybody you know is already on Facebook, already sharing their personalized data, and they already expect the Facebook experience to be socially driven.

In the past, users of traditional search engines have voiced concerns over social search with 62% of respondents saying they do NOT want social results mixed with traditional search results. Maybe Google and Bing weren’t the right arenas for searches driven by the social-graph; maybe Facebook will be the revolution that causes search to truly be more personalized than ever before because people already expect it to know about their “likes,” interests, and friends.

facebook vs google

This could be a major development for the social side of local business marketing.  Businesses that have an active, positive presence on Facebook will have more opportunities than businesses without an optimized Facebook presence. This adds another layer to SEO, because depending on how successful and popular Facebook’s Graph Search becomes once it’s released to the public, and how effective the results are, it could be a major competitor against traditional search engines when it comes to search conversions via recommendations from friends.

Social approval is like gold in the marketing world, and is part of why Facebook marketing has proven to be so successful.  By combining that with traditional search capabilities and Facebook’s enormous mine of already-existing user data, you basically have the potential for a new search engine on crack, and the potential to majorly lose out if you’re not prepared for this new stream of marketing.

If you’re not already in the game, don’t panic. You can easily get your business front and center in the Facebook search world with a few tips. Facebook actually provided a few, themselves. (Gasp – is this the new era of a search engine providing transparency to web property owners? Not likely, but an interesting thought.)

First and foremost, make sure you have a “Page” for your business.  Fill it out completely. Get relevant followers and likes. Interact with your fans. Basically, manage your page to the best of your abilities like you should be whether or not Facebook Graph Search existed. You should be doing these things already!

tophatrank facebook page

Our Facebook Page: Click to Enlarge

Now, onto the nitty-gritty. Facebook says that these things will “help people find your business” (read between the lines – impact their search results):

  • Name
  • Category
  • Vanity URL – For example, ours is facebook.com/tophatrank
  • Information in the “About” section
  • Updated/Correct Address
  • “The right fans” – This is up for interpretation, but I believe it means your fans should be relevant and also be fans of other things similar to you. No fakies!
  • “Giving your fans a reason to interact with your content on an ongoing basis” – Also up for debate, but I think it means your page with 10,000 likes but NO interaction probably won’t perform as well as the page with 5,000 likes and amazing, consistent interaction.  In other words, once again, your fans should be relevant and your page should be engaging.

I’m going to say that all of your Facebook page optimization will come down to two overreaching things: relevance and votes.

By relevance, I mean the relevance of the bullets listed above. Your name, your category, the things you share, the keywords in your “about,” your location, the interests of those who like you, the keywords in the things you share, the list goes on and on. Are they relevant to the search you’re targeting? Need I say more?

By votes, I mean the approval of the community. The number of likes that you have on your page, the types of people that like your page, and the number and type of likes and shares that your posts receive are all different levels of “votes.”  EdgeRank probably ties in here somehow, too.  Maybe they will even factor in a like from someone with 5,000 friends to count more than a like from someone with 100 friends.  Nobody truly knows. Equate this to relevant backlinks, ie. Maybe there’s a low quality like vs a high quality like that carries more weight.  Maybe some “votes” will count more than others depending on the other pages that they like, and their level of consistency and activity, or if they seem to be a like-bot.

Whatever you take from this, make sure that

  1. You have a page,
  2. Everything on your page is relevant,
  3. You have a lot of “votes,”
  4. Your “votes” are relevant.

Everybody in SEO has heard it before: “content is king,” which still rings true here. Have great, relevant content in every way that you can, and gain your “votes” organically rather than spam-ically (yes I just made that up), and you’ll be ok!

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