Tag Archives: Facebook Facebook Search

Facebook Local is the social network’s stab at Yelp, Foursquare

Facebook’s year-old Events app hasn’t turned into the Google Calendar competitor it was primed to become. So the social network is relaunching it and redirecting its aim at local search platforms like Yelp and Foursquare.

Last week, Facebook debuted Facebook Local, a refurbished version of its Events app that aims to help people find nearby things to do and places to go and make Facebook more of a player in local search.

[Read the full article on Marketing Land.]

Facebook officially rolls out food ordering as part of longer-term commerce evolution

Last October, Facebook announced a number of tools and partnerships supporting local discovery and commerce on the app. Among them were the following:

Booking and food ordering for PagesSocial recommendationsLocal event discovery

Last week, Facebook “officially launched” food ordering on Facebook. The platform is working with delivery aggregators and restaurant chains directly in order to be comprehensive:

Facebook combines options from a number of food ordering services like EatStreet, Delivery.com, DoorDash, ChowNow and Olo, as well as restaurants like Jack in the Box, Five Guys, Papa John’s, and Panera, so you don’t have to search through multiple places to find what you’re looking for. From local spots to national chains, Facebook connects you with old favorites and new discoveries in just a few taps. You can even check out what your friends have to say about a restaurant before you order your food.

Everything is managed within the Facebook app. Indeed, the company anticipates you’ll search for food, read reviews and then complete the transaction all through the app.

This kind of end-to-end experience adds greater utility for consumers and ultimately generates more revenue for Facebook via paid media — apparently there are no transaction fees for Facebook in this product.

Food ordering should be seen in the context of a larger and longer-term evolution at Facebook. Beyond its transition over time into a media company, Facebook has been building commerce tools and capabilities, many of which are directed toward local and offline transactions.

7 changes by Facebook that make it a real local search player

The race to steal market share from Google in local search has been futile. Google dominates search with over 63 percent market share, and in mobile, where the growth is, Google almost holds a monopoly at 95 percent. The dark horse in the race is Facebook — the one who can match Google’s Goliath size, audience and resources.

Yet it has never seriously challenged Google in search, and both companies have seemed somewhat satisfied to retreat to their respective corners of strength — Facebook deferring in the area of search, and Google shelving its Google+ social network.

With its huge base of users and volume of personal data on them, Facebook has great potential for helping users in their search for local products/services and helping businesses get found. All the components are there: millions of business pages, location data, behavior data, demographic information, social networks and engagement.

Yet despite the potential, Facebook hadn’t in recent years been able to effectively compete with the likes of Google in local search. Facebook is a great place to engage with existing customers and reach targeted audiences with sponsored posts in news feeds. However, customers still largely left the platform to find local businesses and information.

The Local Search Association (disclosure: my employer) recently released a report about how consumers in 12 cities of varying populations look for local business information. Search engines still dominate local search at 80 percent usage, compared to 48 percent for social networks.

But Facebook seems to be steadily improving its search function, preferring to move at a deliberate pace in developing its own proprietary technology instead of contracting with others (as it did previously with Bing).

About 18 months ago, I looked at Facebook’s search capability and concluded that it lacked complete and accurate data, returned poor search results and generally offered a bad user experience. It just didn’t work.

Since then, Facebook has made huge strides in improving that experience and is further beta testing some functions that incorporate social media data into local search to return results in a way even Google can’t match. And that might make Facebook search a threat to Google.

Below are seven ways Facebook is changing the way search works on its platform that may alter the local search landscape.

1. Facebook is using location much more effectively

Location is at the heart of local search, as reflected by Google’s emphasis on proximity and physical address in ranking local search results. Facebook now prominently highlights maps and directions at the top of local business pages on both the Home page and the About page.

Many searches from the top search box also automatically return results based on the user’s location – truly local search results. In earlier test searches, when location was not specified in a general search for “Italian restaurants,” I received results from India and New York. Today, only restaurant listings within two miles of me are listed, and the results include an address and map location. Clicking through to see all results opens the Places tab and provides more results all within three miles.

Below is a comparison of screen shots from November 2015 and June 2017 of results for Italian restaurants in Frisco. This illustrates the difference location information makes to a listing.

2. Places is given priority

Not only is location being used more effectively, but places are given much higher priority. Previously, the functionality of the Places tab was sorely lacking, indicating the low priority Facebook had assigned it. In my earlier test, a search for “Lawyers in Frisco” returned only one result: Tupy’s. If Tupy was once a lawyer, he answered a greater calling: He’s been serving tasty Mexican food in the Dallas area for over 60 years.

Facebook Places today is not only highly functional, it is the first information provided when relevant (i.e., when a search is made that implies a place or local business). For example, a search for “Texas Beaches” or “Plumbing services” returned Places results at the top, followed by pages of local businesses. And Facebook recognizes when location is not relevant — a search for “Wonder Woman movie” returned videos, news and a Wikipedia page.

3. Search results are much more robust and complete

The single non-relevant result in the search for lawyers described above was a common problem with many searches 18 months ago. That search for lawyers in Frisco today? It now returns 48 results of attorneys and law firms within 4.5 miles.

The results are not only much deeper, but they provide more valuable information. The lawyer listings show profile pictures, address, distance from me, whether it is still open, and star rating. The listings even describe what type of law the firm or attorney practices, such as family law, criminal law or estate planning.

4. Facebook improved indexing of its information

Another problem that Facebook had with search was poor indexing of information. I’d visited a pizza vendor in Washington, D.C. called Jumbo Slice Pizza. It’s not a small unknown joint — it’s been profiled by the Travel Channel and is the source of frequent posts by Facebook users showing off slices of pizza that are three times the size of the talking head about to consume it. Yet a search for “Jumbo Slice Pizza DC” didn’t pull up the place, or even my post from when I’d checked in at the restaurant.

Today, Facebook has fixed that indexing problem. It also helped improve its search function by adding suggested search terms that show up when a user is typing in the search box. These suggested search terms frequently pull up business categories that Facebook offers its business users to identify what kind of business they are. Thus, Facebook helps the searcher use search terms that will provide better results as indexed on the platform.

5. Facebook is beta testing new features, including integrating friend posts and local search

Facebook needs to make its search unique, not a lesser version of Google search. It’s doing that by incorporating its social media data with search results. First identified by TechCrunch, Facebook is testing with some users including mini profile pics below place listings of friends who have checked in or posted about the place or business.

This extra bit of information could make a world of difference for Facebook search. Word of mouth has long been considered the best lead generator for quality leads and conversion. It’s like reviews on steroids.

Consumers trust their friends, and that relationship provides important context for the review. They know whether this friend is a bargain hunter or enjoys the finer things; whether the friend has similar or different taste; whether he or she is analytical or jumps head-first into decisions. Knowing a friend you trust chose the business means that oftentimes, words aren’t even necessary. With the number of users and volume of information that Facebook has, this could be a game-changer in local search.

Facebook also is integrating interactive maps with pins for business locations.  Previous map results provided only a static map. While this isn’t an innovative development, given the importance of location to local search, this is a necessary addition to Facebook’s search function. The map functions much like Google or Apple Map local searches, providing business listings with pin locations on the map that can be pinched in or zoomed out.

6. Facebook is using crowdsourcing to build out its database

Facebook has one of the largest crowds on the planet, so leveraging that manpower for free seems like a pretty good idea. Google does it via its “local guides,” so it’s a somewhat proven idea.

Some users are being asked to provide input into details about places that they’ve checked into via Facebook Editor. When the user checks in or tags a place, a series of yes-or-no questions are asked, such as “Does this place have parking?” or “Is this the right location on the map?” or “Is this the same place as [another name]?”

Based on the information that I’ve been asked to verify, it appears that Facebook does have a fair amount of inaccurate information — leftovers from allowing users to create new place listings themselves. What appears to be a selective “trusted” editor function is an attempt to rectify that, but it also is making some users unhappy. Facebook didn’t ask users to be editors and just automatically asks those questions once a new post is created. A Google search for Facebook editor suggests searches for “delete Facebook editor,” “remove Facebook editor” and many other similar search terms — so it’s unclear how long Facebook will essentially force its users to help clean up its database.

Nevertheless, more accurate and comprehensive information would help further improve Facebook’s search function.

7. Facebook introduced City Guides

One subject users love to post about is travel. In fact, it’s been suggested that social media is helping boost travel, food and entertainment spending as users seek out experiences that they can share with friends and that reflect positively on themselves.

Facebook created City Guides that provides information on popular places such as restaurants and sights for frequently visited cities. Its distinguishing feature is a list of friends that have been to the city, and tapping on each friend brings up a list of places they’ve visited. Next, the City Guide lists “local favorites.” USA Today reports 56 percent of vacationing Americans prefer local dining experiences, so users are likely to find this information very helpful. The guides have a TripAdvisor feel that is more personalized or targeted and adds a rich surf-and-discover function to Facebook’s local search experience.

How to make sure you’re found on Facebook search

All of the above improvements to Facebook’s search function give users more reason to stay on Facebook, spend more time on the platform and consume more content. Facebook is finally making a realistic foray into local search and has the potential to significantly grow usage, which in turn can help small businesses that already love the engagement it provides to existing customers.

Thus, it makes sense for a local business to review its business page “About” section and the way its information shows up in search results to make sure it captures the increasing search traffic Facebook hopes to deliver. Here are a few tips to get started:

Review your Facebook business profile and make sure it is complete. This is similar to the Google My Business (GMB) profile that includes contact information, details about your business and interactive functions you can adopt.Verify that location information is accurate and returns a physical map location that shows up at the top of your business profile when your page is displayed. While the map pin should be automatically generated when you provide an address, I have seen some businesses that do not display the location or map even when an address was provided.Add business categories that further describe your business. Although you are only asked for one business category when you create your Facebook page, you can return and edit the “About” section to add two more business categories that may help improve visibility, depending on the search terms used.Activate buttons that Facebook offers, such as call-to-click and appointment schedulers that help convert traffic to your page.Don’t leave blanks in any section that might trigger Facebook to crowdsource answers. Your answers will be the most reliable answers, even if you answer, “No,” or you indicate the question doesn’t apply to your business.

In closing, Facebook is making significant strides in local search, particularly in melding social media data with local search results. This may be enough to start turning the tide toward making it a major local search player as users discover and enjoy the search experience. Keep an eye out for even more developments, as Facebook’s unique data set will continue to allow it to provide more targeted and customized results. Will we see Facebook AdWords or Facebook SEO any time soon? I wouldn’t bet against it.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Facebook Launches Events Discovery To Help iOS Users Find Nearby Events

Facebook is working to make Facebook Events a more useful what-to-do app.

Today, the company announced an update to its iOS app that gives people in 10 major US cities the ability to browse through Facebook Events in their location. Within the new discovery feature, in the Events dashboard, people will see events sorted by categories such as music, food & drink, nightlife and sports or fitness. They will also be able to switch locations to check out events in other cities.

The catch is that the feature currently can only be seen by people using their iPhones in major cities — New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Dallas, Seattle, Miami, Houston and Washington, DC. But a wider rollout and extension to Android devices is likely, considering the increased emphasis Facebook has put on Events in the past few months.

Events are something of a sleeping giant for the company; in July it announced that the service is used by 450 million people monthly, but Facebook staffers have acknowledged it needs a lot of work.

Some of those efforts have started to come into focus, including more public events being shown in people’s News Feeds, smarter notifications and surfacing of related events. With so much data about what people do and like, building a stronger Events product is a natural step.

“We have a good sense of how people look for things to do,” Facebook product manager Aditya Koolwal told Wired last month. “The social signals we have, the friends who are interested in going, the friends you can potentially go with — that’s our bread and butter, so we’re going to try and take advantage of that as much as we possibly can as we roll out more discovery features.”

6 Things To Know Before Using Facebook For Local Search, And 6 Reasons FB Search Can Dominate

Not too long ago, Mark Zuckerberg hinted that Facebook could eventually replace Web search, at least to some degree. A step in that direction came when Facebook announced a couple of weeks ago that it is vastly expanding its search capabilities by providing search results from all two trillion public posts within its social media platform.

Although Facebook previously had a large search volume of 1.5 billion searches a day, those searches did not include results from posts outside of friends’ posts or Pages liked, even if a post was otherwise publicly visible.

The biggest impact seems to be in real-time news, where hot topics and trending stories that normally come up in a News Feed can be searched. Results will display stories from publishers and media outlets, public posts and any links to stories in those posts, as well as conversations from your friends about the story.

So, what about local search? Right now, the search component does not search the web. While Facebook did previously partner with Bing to bring web results to searches, that is no longer part of the current search function on the Facebook app.

Yet Facebook has continued to emphasize its focus on mobile and Facebook Pages as a key marketing strategy for the millions of small businesses and advertisers with Facebook pages. In other words, Facebook’s ability to help small businesses market successfully must be accomplished through being found within the Facebook platform.

So, is Facebook effective for local search? Below, I analyze six strengths of Facebook that make local search a great opportunity for it and six challenges that Facebook faces for it to truly be a difference maker in local search.

Facebook Search Strengths

1. Size Matters

Facebook’s purest strength is in sheer numbers. Its user base of one billion+ is a massive enough audience to attract advertisers with or without specific metrics on ROI. The perception is simply if enough eyes see it, the advertising will work — in other words, throw it at the wall, and surely something will stick, given the size of the wall.

Facebook’s dominance in mobile gives it unprecedented leverage. This year, for the first time, more people search for local businesses and services on mobile than on a PC. And according to comScore, Facebook is the #1 smartphone app by total time spent for almost half (48 percent) of its massive user base, and it is in the top three for almost 80 percent of its users. It is also the top mobile app in terms of unique visitors.

2. Facebook Knows What You Like

Search results may be targeted using the unique profile that Facebook has on each user. Facebook profiles may include location, check-ins, content viewed, content posted, time of social activity, likes and interests, groups and of course, the user’s overall friend network. The targeting capabilities that Facebook possesses on its user base are likely second to none in forming a complete and accurate profile of a user.

3. You Trust Your Friends

Facebook search results focus on what your friends are saying — an assumedly trusted and vetted source of information.

This concept is what spurred the partnership between TripAdvisor and American Express where reviews on the travel site were tagged with labels identifying when reviewers were Amex cardholders. Those reviews would be viewed by cardholders as more valuable in the belief that they are more likely to share common values and standards.

Likewise, opinions by Facebook friends are likely given greater weight than the opinions of strangers.

4. Posts Are Like Unsolicited Reviews

Public posts may also be viewed favorably as organic leads when compared to sponsored posts, similar to the way NextDoor benefits from the perception that its users are real neighbors without a commercial interest when it comes to recommending a local service or business.

Even though a Facebook user may not know the person writing the public post, presumably that person would have some accountability to his or her friends to which the post also appears.

5. It’s A Dream Life On Facebook

While not immune from negative posts, Facebook posts about local businesses seem to lean positive. Most people enjoy sharing good experiences online and like to portray that life is good. This will lead to generally positive posts that show up in search results on Facebook search for local businesses.

6. It’s A Big First Page

Facebook search results are scrolled continuously like its News Feed and essentially create one giant front page. At some point, users may stop scrolling, but this certainly offers a greater opportunity to be seen than on page two of Google.

Search results are also categorized into Posts, Pages, People, Photos/Video, Places, Groups, Apps and Events. That means there is more real estate for results and less of a Google SERP-type battle for page one, since there may effectively be nine page ones. Categorizing results might also be appealing to users, driving more search actions on the platform.

Facebook Search Challenges

While Facebook’s strengths give it massive leverage to affect local search, there are still many challenges to making the search experience match what users have become accustomed to on Google.

1. Find People, Posts And Places That Matter Most

Places is towards the end on the list of categories you can search for, and it seems that’s the priority it’s been given by Facebook Search. Facebook Search’s web page tagline is “Find the people and posts that matter to you most.”

Tellingly, it omits the word “places,” despite the importance Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg previously assigned to it.

It is a rather surprising choice by Facebook, given its desire to penetrate the SMB market, when location is such a critical part of local search. As one example of the lack of functionality of Places, when searching for “Lawyers in Frisco,” Facebook Search returned only one result: “Tupy’s in Frisco,” a Mexican restaurant. (By the way, I’m referring to Frisco, Texas, here, a suburb of Dallas. Not San Francisco.)

2. Sometimes, No One Is On Page One

Having a Facebook page doesn’t guarantee you show up in results. While Facebook lauds its 40 million active SMB Facebook Pages, sometimes it doesn’t seem to be helping users find many of them. A search for “dance stores in Plano Texas” received one drop-down result for Karizmah Dance Shoes in Dallas from the search bar and no results in Places.

Yet a search specifically for “Sandy’s Dancewear” pulls up five Facebook pages of different locations of the store around the DFW Metroplex, including Plano and Frisco (both suburbs of Dallas). A search for “dance stores in Frisco” pulls up one result: a dance store in Oklahoma.

It appears Facebook has some work to do surrounding keywords that pull up relevant results despite not having an exact match. Exact match works for check-ins but doesn’t work well for getting found by consumers looking for a place to eat or shop.

3. Location Information Is Not Being Leveraged By Facebook

Mediative research shows more than half of mobile searches have local intent. Facebook uses location information frequently for posts and check-ins, yet Facebook Search isn’t displaying local information that would be useful in search results based on distance from you. Top search results for “Italian restaurants” were Pages from restaurants located in India and New York City, even though Facebook knows that I’m located in Texas.

Location is used in results listed under Places, and the same search for “Italian Restaurants” returned local stores. However, the majority of searches for local information on mobile phones occur while consumers are on the go, and one piece of information critical to users that are out and about is location of the store relative to the user.

The results (on mobile) in Places showed me a listing of restaurants with star ratings, but in order for me to find specific location information, I must click on the listing, then click on the map, then pinch out on the map to see where the restaurant is in relation to me. It would be very cumbersome to go through each restaurant to find out how far away they are when Facebook could just tell me.

4. Facebook’s Nearby Places Function Is Underutilized

Nearby Places is available as a separate search function that mobile users on iOS or Android can access via the app’s side toolbar. While search results here do show distance away from the user, it is limited in both function and scope. Users must search with predetermined categories such as “Mexican Restaurant” instead of “Tacos.”

While one result within 30 miles shows up as a suggestion when “Tacos” is typed into the search bar, there are seven enhanced listings within two miles under “Mexican Restaurants,” including Taco Ocho, half a mile away.

Thus, it is important for local businesses to make sure they are describing their stores using Facebook categories. But results using Facebook’s categories still seem quite limited, given that Yelp lists more than 25 Mexican restaurants within three miles.

5. Facebook’s Indexing Seems Spotty

Two searches I did for posts on places where I had checked in did not pull up, no matter what variety of words I used for the place (Jumbo Slice Pizza in Adams Morgan, DC, and Oasis Mexican Restaurant in San Antonio). Text in the post itself was searchable, even though the tagged place and friend in that same post were not. Searches for other places did find the searched terms in tagged places or friends.

6. The Fishbowl Effect

While public posts have always existed, they have certainly not been this visible. Facebook Search makes it much easier to filter public posts and find what is relevant. One of the strengths mentioned above is that public posts should be viewed as more trustworthy, organically created reviews.

However, just as behavior changes when you know you’re being watched, Facebook Search has the potential to taint that trust over time. Other review sites have been challenged with at least the perception among some that some reviews are not authentic. We’ll see if Facebook Search suffers any of those same critiques.

Facebook’s Notify App

Facebook is also planning the introduction of an app called Notify. Notify will gather notifications from media and apps and set up stations or channels that break up that content into categories selected by the user.

Users can subscribe to receive content from specific publishers or to receive notifications from other apps, and the headlines are sorted into the various news feeds. Thus, a user can view news, weather, song releases, entertainment updates, calendar notifications, email updates or anything else that might arrive via a notification without leaving Facebook’s platform.

Conclusion

Together with Facebook’s Messenger app, these new developments might be a sign that Facebook is moving toward a lofty goal: keeping its massive user base completely captured within Facebook’s one-stop-shop platform.

If successful, Facebook could change the way that we access the internet; much of our consumption of online content would not occur on the World Wide Web — rather, it would be on a platform, Facebook’s platform.

As it stands today, Facebook does help drive more traffic to media publishers and their content — great for helping ad revenue on those sites. However, as publishers become more and more dependent on third parties such as Facebook to drive traffic to them, the concern over how ads are displayed on the platform, or even whether Facebook starts developing its own content, may impact publisher revenue in the future.

At this point, though, Facebook’s search capabilities do not appear to effectively replace those of the search engines and other local search players. The company still has significant work to do in order to make Facebook Search a consistent resource for consumers to find local businesses.

Understanding the limitations of Facebook in regard to local search is important for small businesses in how they use the social media platform to be found. It also can make a big difference to agencies helping their clients improve the effectiveness of the social media platform as part of a broader marketing strategy.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Facebook Adds Public Posts To Search, More Frequent Updates May Be Coming

Facebook has announced some incremental search improvements and a new “channel” for its newsroom (Search FYI) that will provide updates on the evolution of search at Facebook. This suggests to me that we’ll be seeing more “search activity” going forward.

In a blog post announcing the improvements, Tom Stocky, Facebook’s VP of Search, said that the company sees “over 1.5 billion searches per day and over 2 trillion posts in our index.”

Facebook said that as of today users will see or be able to:

More timely and more personalized search suggestions (There apparently will be a real-time dimension to the suggestions, as with big stories or news events)The ability to search public posts, as well as friends’ posts (In December, the company rolled out the ability to search friends’ posts)Search public conversations

About the latter item, Facebook said, “When a link gets shared widely on Facebook, it often anchors an interesting public conversation. Now there’s a new way to quickly dive into that discussion. With one tap, you can find public posts about a link, see popular quotes and phrases mentioned in these posts, and check out an aggregate overview of sentiment.”

These updates are going to be first available in (US) English for iOS, Android and the PC. It’s mostly about mobile, however, which drives 87 percent of daily active usage and 76 percent of ad revenue (Q2).

Facebook Post Search Is Finally Coming To Android Devices

Android users, left out when Facebook launched its revamped search product in December, are finally being included. Late last night, we received a notification on an Android phone that it is now possible to find posts that have been shared in the social network.

Today, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed that the rollout on Android has begun, and that it would continue in the coming weeks.

In December, Facebook rebranded Graph Search as Facebook Search on the web, mobile Facebook site and iOS devices. It’s only available for users using the U.S. English language setting.

Facebook Search gives users the ability to search within posts shared with them, by friends and pages that they follow. Facebook said in December that the search-within-posts functionality was users’ top feature request during nearly two years of testing of Graph Search. They were less interested in being able to search within all public posts, which had been the original plan.

For more information about Facebook Search, see the company’s search microsite.

Facebook Drops Bing From Facebook Search Results

Facebook has broken up with Bing, quietly dropping results from the Microsoft search engine as part of this week’s Facebook search update.

The change, reported late today by Reuters, was confirmed by a Facebook spokesperson in an email to Search Engine Land.

“We’re not currently showing web search results in Facebook Search because we’re focused on helping people find what’s been shared with them on Facebook,” the spokesperson wrote. “We continue to have a great partnership with Microsoft in lots of different areas.”

Facebook search has long been geared toward helping users find other people or information within the social network. But since 2008, Facebook has also served search results from the wider web, first in 2008 with Microsoft’s Live Search, then in 2010 with Bing.

Now Facebook is shifting gears. On Monday it announced an update — for U.S. English language users — that restored the ability for people to search within posts. That, Facebook said, was the No. 1 search-related request from users.

New Facebook Search: Local Ignored Again — Big Mistake

Facebook just launched its successor to Graph Search: Facebook Search. Facebook Search is the evolution of Graph Search and benefits from lots of user feedback since the launch of Graph Search in early 2013.

It’s available in US English for the PC and mobile app for the time being. Users can now search Facebook for posts by friends or people/entities that they follow. The results are personalized.

Users can only search for what they can already see on the site. The exception is hashtags. Facebook Search will allow anyone to search for particular hashtags and see results from outside their networks.

For more on the mechanics of Facebook Search see Martin Beck’s posts on Marketing Land or Search Engine Land.

Facebook told us that that people on the site currently search for “people, photos and places.” Therefore it’s confounding and completely mysterious why the company hasn’t put a bigger emphasis on local search — or any emphasis for that matter. Facebook Search, at launch, emphases “people and posts” but not places.

Places was allegedly a primary category for Graph Search. But places have not been prioritized in this release of the new Facebook Search. You can still search for places as in the past. There’s just no local search upgrade.

Above is a screenshot of a Nearby Restaurants search under the previous Graph Search functionality. The new results (if I’m seeing them now) look pretty similar. I haven’t yet tested mobile.

Facebook has an enormous opportunity in local search. It has more than 20 million business pages and tons of ratings and review-like content on the site. People currently use it to validate businesses and to help them make decisions about where to spend. One can argue that Facebook has more “reviews” (defined to include ratings) than anyone else online.

Therefore it’s kind of inconceivable that the company doesn’t seem to be pursuing local more aggressively.

I’ve been waiting for a “Places app” for a couple of years and have had numerous conversations with people at Facebook about this and the corresponding opportunity. In fact, I don’t believe that Facebook can truly realize its small business advertising ambitions without developing a local search consumer experience.

It’s clear to me and others that were Facebook to create a more functional and user-friendly local search experience that the site/app would see massive, immediate usage — and all that implies for local and paid-search advertising.

Yet Facebook doesn’t seem to be fully attuned — dare I say “clued in” — to this. They’re not making local search a priority. However the recent launch (in July, 2014) of an upgraded Places Directory indicates that they’re not totally clueless about the opportunity. But the company needs to prioritize and push it further.

It won’t be able to compete successfully with the current, tepid Places search capability.

Especially in mobile, local search is a primary use case. Google and Bing have previously indicated that up to half of all mobile queries carry a local intent. Facebook could thus put itself right in the epicenter of this critical market with an new and more visible local search feature of the existing app or a stand-alone Places app — or both.

After listening to me rant for 20 minutes Facebook didn’t rule this out. However they seem to be considering local to be part of the longer-term opportunity. Yet opportunities don’t last forever.

Facebook Search Finally Lets You Search For Posts Again

More than a year after promising to give users the ability to search for posts, Facebook is finally coming through.

The company today announced an update to Facebook Search that will make it possible to find that thread congratulating you on your new job, the hilarious comment you made about Walking Dead last month or the selfie you took with the bride at your best friend’s wedding last year.

It’s what Facebook said has been the number one feature request since it rolled out Facebook Graph Search in January 2013, which killed the previous post searching ability. It returns that ability, though more modest in ambition than Facebook once promised. You can only find posts from yourself, those you follow or which have been shared with you.

Find Posts, But Only Those Shared With You

In September 2013, Facebook said users would be able to find public posts even from people they didn’t follow. That promised update was never widely rolled out, but Facebook said it learned during testing that people were most interested in seeing posts from friends and pages they liked.

“Usually when you think about information retrieval, it’s all about matching content to queries or content to intent,” Facebook’s vice president of search Tom Stocky told Search Engine Land, “but what we found is that on Facebook people care as much if not more about who is posting the content as they do about what the actual content is.”

So that’s where Facebook is focusing now. The update, available only to those using the U.S. English language setting, will start rolling out today on the desktop and the iOS mobile app and should reach all eligible users in the next couple weeks, Stocky said.

Facebook hasn’t released a timeframe for the release of the search update on the Android app. “We want to make sure these updates work really well before rolling them out to other platforms,” a Facebook spokesperson wrote in an email.

Facebook Graph Search was never launched for languages other than U.S. English — and so people using Facebook in other languages never lost the ability to search for posts.

How Searching For Facebook Posts Works

The results will be “personalized and unique” to each user, Stocky said, pulling from posts by friends, pages and people that he or she follows. The closer the connection, the higher a given piece of content will display in the results.

If you’re not somehow connected to someone, you won’t be able to find their posts — even if those posts were tagged as public for anyone to see. The exception is when searching by hashtags. In those cases, any post might be found.

The news that Facebook Search won’t capture all public posts will disappoint journalists hoping to mine public conversation for sources and story leads, but Stocky said the results aren’t refined enough yet.

As said, before the launch of Facebook Graph Search, Facebook did allow for post searching. But Stocky said that only included about two days of posts, and even then the results were inconsistent. Now, post search will go through all Facebook posts in the index, a set of more than 1 trillion posts that grows by billions every day.

Stocky said his team is still working to bring public posts into the fold. “When we do eventually roll this out, we want to roll it out in the right way and we want to allow ranked content and show the most relevant information and get rid of a lot of that noise,” Stocky said. “It’s something that we are working on but we just don’t think it’s there yet.”

Why Facebook Graph Search Didn’t Work

As for Facebook Graph Search, that survives. The ability to search for something like “Friends of friends who work at Foursquare and live in San Jose,” for example — is still functional.

However, users who type in a just few words will be presented search suggestions, based on what Facebook believes they will be interested in.

So was Facebook Graph Search — Facebook’s ambitious plan that especially seemed aimed at helping people get recommendations about local businesses and services — a failure? Stocky wouldn’t characterize it as that but did say this type of search activity isn’t what Facebook users seem to want.

Most people, when they’re thinking
“I want to go to a restaurant in
New York,” aren’t thinking of
Facebook Search

“Most people, when they’re thinking ‘I want to go to a restaurant in New York,’ aren’t thinking of Facebook Search,” he said.

Instead, Facebook learned from the Facebook Graph Search beta that people wanted a simple interface and especially to have post searching ability returned.

As for local search and recommendations, Stocky said Facebook is now more focused on making that information available through discovery.

“A lot of Facebook isn’t about explicit intent,” he said. People tend to browse Facebook more than search. That’s why one reaction has been to do recommendations on check-ins. “If you check into a restaurant, you’ll now get a set of things, interesting places nearby.”

Is there more Facebook could do in local? Our local search writer Greg Sterling believes so and covers this in a companion story today, Facebook Search: Why Doesn’t The Company Get Local?

By the way, the most popular search activity on Facebook? That remains as it always has been, Stocky said — to find other people.

You can also read more about the new Facebook Search in this microsite at Facebook.