Tag Archives: Facebook SEO

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 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).

Social Profile SEO: Optimizing For Rankings & Search Visibility

Bloomua / Shutterstock.com

Social profiles are great assets for building your online presence. They are great for expanding your reach, for customer retention and engagement and for amplifying content. But they can also be great for capturing more search visibility for your brand.

In today’s world of negative third-party reviews online, which can rank very high (cough, Yelp) for brand searches, you need as many online assets as possible to push negative content down in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Don’t get me wrong, though — you should do right by customers and provide good service to avoid negative reviews. However, we don’t live in a perfect world, and sometimes negative things can appear in the SERPs about your brand.

The ideal scenario is to have your website and social profiles dominate the first page of your branded SERPs. This is great because it’s all assets that you own, which will help you control what searchers see and your brand perception.

Google announced recently that they will be inserting Tweets into Web search, so this is another opportunity to layer social into your branded Web searches.

Here are some examples of both good and bad brand SERPs.

The Good

This search results page for “Brooks Brothers” is full of links to properties that the brand controls, including numerous social media profiles.

The Bad

This search results page for Target is full of negative publicity (including news coverage and a low review for their iTunes app) and links to just two social profiles, their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The Ugly

Similar to Target, this search results page for Subway is also teeming with negative publicity, most of which surrounds their former spokesperson, Jared Fogle. It’s possible that this content might be less visible in organic results if better care had been taken to optimize social profiles, although it’s a big enough story that it would probably still appear in the “In the News” area.

On-Site Social Integration

To help boost the rankings of your social profiles, you should link to them from your website. This seems like common sense, but you would be surprised by how many sites don’t link to their social profiles (or only link to certain ones).

Linking to all your social profiles will help pass authority to them (unless you are using a nofollow tag around the links, which I don’t recommend). This will also help increase exposure of the social profiles, which can lead to more followers and social engagement.

Other Linking Options

Some other great ways to increase relevancy, discovery and traffic to your social profiles is to do the following:

Specify your social profile links in an Organization Schema markup code on your website. Click here to learn more.Include links to your social profiles in your company’s emails.Link each social profile to the others where possible. Facebook, Google + and YouTube have enough profile real estate to highlight your other social profile links.Link to your social profiles, where possible, from third-party sites/profiles that you control, such as a slideshare.net profile.

Social Profile Optimization

Below are recommendations for optimizing some of the more popular and widely used social profiles. I’m covering Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Instagram, but many of the recommendations can be applied across other social media profiles, as well.

General Tips

The following tips are applicable to nearly any social media account:

Branding. Ensure your profile is set up with high-quality branded images where appropriate.Updates. Make updates on a regular basis so that visitors don’t think you’ve abandoned the account. How frequently you post updates will depend on the platform, but be sure to space out any promotional messages so it doesn’t feel like a barrage of advertisements. Try to keep things conversational.Profile Completeness. Nearly every social account contains places where you can add content, links or other types of helpful information. Make sure you fill out all applicable fields — the more information you provide, the stronger your profile will appear to search engines.

Facebook

Branding. When setting up your profile with images, don’t just upload a profile photo and cover photo. Add a variety of photos in an album that shows who you are and what you do. Be sure to claim your vanity URL, too (for example, Facebook.com/zappos).Updates. Keep the profile updated on a frequent basis, ideally at least once per day. Be sure to leverage hashtags where appropriate.Page Info. Populate the page info section of the profile with as much content as possible. Include history, mission, services, awards, etc. — the more content, the better. Macy’s has done a great job with this.Custom Tabs. Use custom tabs to highlight additional content. This will help increase exposure of certain content, increase profile engagement and make the profile more content-heavy (which is great for search indexation). Custom tabs can include feeds of other social profiles such as Twitter, Pinterest or YouTube. Time Warner is doing a good job leveraging custom tabs. They have tabs dedicated to highlighting free shows and a contest.

Twitter

Branding. Twitter allows you to set up a profile picture and a header image, as well as a background color for your profile page (you can choose from a selection of available colors or use a custom one using the color’s hexadecimal number). Ensure that all images and colors are on brand.Updates. Keep the profile updated on a frequent basis, three to four times per day, if possible. It is very important to leverage hashtags on Twitter. This will help aggregate your tweets and may also increase the chances of your tweets showing up in Google Web search.Content Types. Be sure to incorporate different media types, such as photos and videos, into tweets.

YouTube

Branding. Use high-quality branded images, and be sure to claim your profile’s vanity URL (for example, https://www.youtube.com/EliteSEMInc).About Section. Populate the “About” section of the profile with as much content as possible. Include links to your other social profiles, as well. Adorama has done a great job with their YouTube channel optimization.Updates. Have a solid content calendar where you are uploading video content on a frequent basis (weekly or monthly). Be sure to leverage video playlists to add more content value to your channel. For more information on YouTube channel optimization, click here.

Pinterest

Branding. Pinterest allows for a very small branded profile image, so make sure the image you choose can be easily seen at a small size (like a logo). Additionally, if you confirm your company website with Pinterest, you’ll be able to add your logo to any Pin that came from your site.Boards. Create as many relevant boards as possible, which will make the profile more content-heavy. Macy’s is doing a great job with their boards.Pin Descriptions. Add descriptions to your pins to not only add value to users but also to make your profile more content-heavy.

LinkedIn

Branding. LinkedIn profiles allow you to upload a company logo and a banner image.Content. Populate the Info section on the Home tab of the profile with as much content as possible. Leverage the “Showcase Pages” option, as well, if you can. Here’s an example of Microsoft’s LinkedIn company page.

Instagram

Content. Leverage both images and videos.Descriptions. Add descriptions to your images and videos. Be sure to use hashtags.

 

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

Facebook & YouTube Are Top Sites With Content Removed From Google Under "Right To Be Forgotten"

Google is now sharing details about Right To Be Forgotten removals in a new section of its pre-existing Google Transparency Report area. The latest numbers show that Facebook, ProfileEngine.com and Google’s own YouTube are the top three sites to have content taken down through the new European system.

In the new section, Google breaks out the requests and removals by country. Overall Google said it had evaluated  497,695 URLs for removal as part of 144,954 RTBF requests. The company also said it had removed nearly 42 percent of requested URLs:

That is pretty close to the data provided by Reputation VIP, which we covered earlier.

The countries with the lowest percentage of RTBF requests granted were Italy and Portugal, with just over 24 percent. The countries with the highest percentage of requests allowed and links removed were Germany, France and Austria with between 50 and 54 percent.

Google also provides multiple examples by country of the types of requests being submitted. Here are three:

Google has removed over 4,100 links to YouTube and Google groups URLs in response to takedown requests. As such it’s the entity with the most removals granted against it.

Facebook is the individual site that has seen the most RTBF requests granted, with more than 3300 URLs de-indexed since the formal process was implemented several months ago. It’s followed by ProfileEngine.com with 3,289 removals and YouTube with 2,392:

How To Optimize For Facebook's News Feed Algorithm

As you may have heard, Facebook EdgeRank is no more. A Facebook insider recently confirmed that the term [EdgeRank] is no longer being used internally (and hasn’t been for over two years) and noted that there are currently over 100,000 factors that go into what a user sees on their News Feed when users log into Facebook.

photo credit: Marc Wathieu via photopin cc

Like Google with Hummingbird, Facebook is improving on its ability to detect high-quality content. In order to best optimize for Facebook’s News Feed algorithm, marketers need to think of social comments the same way we think of content meant for Google and other search engines — in other words, if you want your content to be visible to your target audience, it must be timely, relevant, trustworthy and valuable.

Read more about how to maximize your visibility on Facebook’s News Feed in my latest article on Marketing Land.

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

Tips For Social Media Search Optimization: Now's The Time To Start

Social search optimization should be part of your social media strategy. Image: CC BY-SA 2.0 by olarte.ollie

Successful communication is all about getting the right message in front of the right people at the right time.

In the first part of this two-part series on search and social media sites, I noted the undeniable importance of social media as evidenced by the sheer volume of social media updates posted daily on Twitter and Facebook (not to mention lesser-known sites like VK in Russia and Sina Weibo in China).

I also looked at why, once posted, most of these updates ended up in a social media limbo, rarely to be seen again.

Most social media sites are finally turning their attention to site search functionality to make all sorts of information discoverable. Not only will users of social media sites continue to see updates flying across their displays, they will also be able to surface previously inaccessible updates from the past.

Better social search presents opportunities for communicators who include search in their social media strategy, as well as a few risks worth managing. In the second part of this series, I’ll take a look at a few of the techniques communicators should consider to ensure that they shine in social media search results. Search engine optimization (SEO) is for social media search, too!

Start Here: The Social Media Profile

Social media search visibility begins with a profile, often called a page when referring to entities other than people. When creating a profile, take the time to complete the profile as fully as possible. The richer the profile, the greater the amount of information available to potentially match a user’s search.

Brands will generally want to include synonyms used to describe the product or service, e.g., Kleenex might want to include facial tissue in its profile description. Profiles of key individuals, such as company executives, should weigh findability with privacy and identify theft considerations.

While reviewing a new or existing profile, do ensure the profile contains a link to the official website for the represented entity, whether it be a product, place, service or person. In almost all cases, our goal isn’t to promote a social media property, but to help people find our official home on the Web.

Remember: When you’re on Facebook (or any other social media site), you’re a guest in somebody else’s home. They dictate the house rules and can change them at any time, as they will. Don’t make yourself too much at home!

Social Media Updates No Longer Lost In The Sands Of Time

As discussed earlier, for too long it has been nearly impossible to find old posts on social media sites. This state of affairs is changing rapidly, albeit with some limitations. Twitter is slowly making much of its historical archive searchable. Facebook supports searching updates from the last 30 days and plans to include better update searching as part of its new Graph Search.

When publishing updates on social networks, communicators should consider including keywords their target audience would most likely use when searching on the topic of the update. Many of the same rules for search engine keyword research apply here.

For instance, the words I might use to search for something I know a lot about are probably not the same words the man on the street would use — I know too much about searching, as it were, and may use a different vocabulary. Language is often tied to geography, too, so consider regional and national differences.

When performing keyword research, avoid using popular tools that rely on data from meta search engines such as metacrawler.com and dogpile.com. Do you actually know anyone who uses these search engines? Thought not. Then why would you base your marketing activity on a dubious data sample? Marketing tools are only as good as the data underlying them. If you don’t know the source of the data for a tool, you shouldn’t be making business decisions using that tool.

Many social media sites support keyword tagging in the form of #hashtags. Do make use of #hashtags, but keep in mind that what is worth doing is not necessarily worth overdoing, unless you want to run the risk of being profiled as a spammer.

Likes, Shares & Comments Are Your Social Media Update Friends

It’s a safe bet that the algorithms social media sites are using today to return site search results are in a fairly rudimentary state and will become more complex over time. What we do know is that every social media update has certain attributes which help define its particular importance.

There are, of course, the semantics of the words used in the update itself. Users of a social network help determine the importance of each update by endorsing it (Like, +1, Favorite), commenting on it and/or sharing it with their own followers. Therefore, the importance of crafting compelling updates will also be an imperative for becoming “discoverable” in social site search.

Finally, the author(s) of an update add their own value. How old is their profile? How many followers does the author have, and who are they? Not all followers were created equal.

Trending Topics, Beware Of Party Crashers!

Some social media networks, like Twitter, allow users to view the hot and trending topics of the moment (Google also offers a similar service for general search).

Among some marketers, there is an irresistible temptation to insert themselves into discussions involving trending topics in order to garner greater visibility for a promotion or general branding. The impact is a lot like that of interrupting a conversation at a cocktail party: if you’re lucky, people will treat you politely while thinking you’re a jerk; if you’re unlucky, you’ll get a drink thrown in your face.

Reputation Management, Oh Yeah!

Improved site search in social media sites will potentially create some problems for companies which may have experienced a social media crisis, as old posts reemerge from archives that were previously off limits. At a minimum, communicators need to ensure they’re providing new content which resonates with their fan base, as measured in endorsements, shares and (positive) comments.

Such content will likely be given priority by social search algorithms over older content, although the exact rules applied by each social site search engine will vary and evolve over time. Monitoring site search results for the brand, key executive names and other important keyword phrases should become part of a company’s overall social media strategy.

Using Social Media Search To Find & Eradicate Fake Profiles & Pages

There is an additional reason to use site search within social media sites to monitor for a company’s brand names and the like: discovery and eradication of fake profiles and pages. Companies and organizations should also keep an eye on the well-meaning fan profiles which will pop up from time to time.

Are there branding guidelines in place for brand use on social media? Do the profiles violate branding terms and conditions? If they do, consider how to reach out to well-meaning fans. Sending a cease and desist letter from the lawyers as the first step is probably not the best course of action.

Hold Events? Social Media Search Has Opportunities For You!

Companies and organizations that hold events, whether they be seminars or industry conferences, will want to consider posting the event on social networks that have specific support for events, such as Facebook and Google+. LinkedIn discontinued their events in November 2012, but events can still be promoted there via status updates.

Do ensure that event descriptions make it clear where official registration happens. It is too easy for users to assume that saying “I’m going” on Facebook is tantamount to an official registration. Seasoned event organizers will know differently.

User Behavior Will Change Gradually, Get Ahead Of The Curve Now

For most social media users, Google is synonymous with search, and I don’t expect that to change soon. Yet, people are already searching social networks for other people (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn) and topics (e.g., hashtags on Twitter).

As the search experience within social networks improves, it isn’t far-fetched to imagine that users will become accustomed to searching a social network for more general information, since they’re already on the site. Expect journalists to be among the earliest adopters of improved social search.

As you review or draft your social media strategy and processes, don’t forget to include search engine optimization for social search. Do reach out if you’d like assistance with your social media strategy or training for your team.

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

Communicators, take note: its time to optimize for social search

The rate at which people share information (profound and profane alike) on sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube is staggering. 137 million status updates per day appear on Facebook, 230 million tweets are shared per day on Twitter and 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute — all numbers which increase daily. No doubt, social media is alive and well.

Social media properties have clearly made the processes of creating and sharing content a compelling activity for everyone. Yet the story is altogether different when it comes to retrieving content. Ever tried to search for an old post in Facebook? Pretty difficult if the update was more than a month old. Ever tried to search for tweets older than a week using Twitter search? Mission impossible.

Figure 1. Even social search from third party services like Social Mention is less than ideal

Fortunately, this sorry state of affairs is changing, with significant implications for all those who want to communicate — whether it be about people (e.g. reputation management), places, products or services.

Search Wasn’t Part Of Social Media DNA

Historically, social media sites like Twitter and Facebook focused their resources on real-time information publishing and consumption. The expectation was that users would scan and potentially interact with updates while they were fresh, within minutes or hours of their publication. Enabling the discovery of what was posted in the past just wasn’t part of these companies’ DNA — perhaps not too surprising, as search is complicated and expensive.

The one search area social media companies have generally excelled in has been people search (and email address book matching). Again, not a surprise — the success of these companies depends on the number of active users and the size of an individual’s network within the social media property.

There have been moments of hope, such as when Twitter acquired Summize in 2008. Yet, a full blown Twitter search didn’t emerge; searches were limited to a selected subset of all tweets from the last few days.

In its early years, Facebook allowed users to search on most, if not all, people attributes, including potentially sensitive ones such as religion, political affiliation and sexual orientation. Over time, data privacy concerns kicked in, as did search complexity thanks to the stellar growth of Facebook’s user base. Facebook scaled back people search options. Since Facebook introduced Newsfeed search, it has been limited to updates from the last 30 days.

Even the major search engines have not been very helpful. Microsoft’s Bing began to experiment with social media search in 2009, eventually launching Bing Social in a small number of countries (including the U.S., U.K. and Germany), which limited searches to subset of recent Twitter and Facebook data. In 2012, Bing replaced Bing Social with a social side bar, but again limited availability to just a very few countries.

Also in 2009, Google took the unprecedented step of paying Twitter for the privilege of indexing twitter tweets, only to change its mind once the agreement expired, killing their real-time search in the process.

For those who wanted to search comprehensive archives of social media sites, third party solutions like Topsy have been the best bet. Topsy and its competitors buy social media data directly from social media sites or through distributors such as datasift and gnip.

Social Media Companies Are Reconsidering Search

As online social networks mature, they’re beginning to reevaluate the value of the immense quantities of historical data and other content they’ve accumulated. In January, Facebook announced a completely new search experience, called Facebook Graph Search. Graph search allows users to search for information within Facebook using natural language search queries, e.g. restaurants in Berlin liked by my friends from Berlin. Results are ranked primarily using the relationships between people (friend, follow) and item popularity (likes). (Naturally, reality is slightly more nuanced, and it is a safe bet that not all likes are created equal.)

In comparison, traditional Web search engines like Google and Bing use links to a content item as a primary signal to determine its popularity. The power of Graph Search lies in the ability to perform complex searches which emulate the old-fashioned human behavior of asking a trusted friend for a recommendation.

Facebook’s Graph Search does have a few limitations. Graph Search only knows about data within Facebook and only about people, places, photos and interests. News feed updates are planned, but have not yet been included — a regression from the older Facebook search. Results from Bing’s Web search appear to supplement information not on Facebook (currently broken if accessing Facebook from Italy; I’ve reported this as a bug). Facebook notes that Graph Search is a very limited beta program for English (US) audiences.

Twitter Finally Revamping Its Own Search

Twitter is also giving greater attention to making historical data discoverable. Over the past few years, they have rewritten their search engine and improved the search interface, yet users were still limited to searching on tweets from the last week or so. In February, Twitter announced they would begin to show some older tweets in Twitter search.

They also noted that ultimately, their goal is to surface the best content for your query, which isn’t necessarily the same thing as the “completeness” some users may be expecting. Currently, Twitter is offering “Top” and “All” options to filter tweets, and I am seeing tweets from as far back as 2008. Will they be filtering out more than just spam and protected tweets? That remains to be seen.

LinkedIn Discovers Value Of Comprehensive Search, Too!

Still in doubt that social media properties have awakened to the importance of a robust search feature as a key to unlocking the value of their data assets? In March, LinkedIn joined the fray as well, announcing a significantly improved search system. The race for better social search is on!

Google Social Media Properties Come With Search Built In

It shouldn’t be too surprising that Google’s social media properties have included rich search options since long before their rivals, from limiting a search to Events in Google+ to 3D movies over at YouTube.

What Communicators Need to Know: SEO Isn’t Limited to Google & Bing

Now that social media properties are revitalizing their search features, communicators need to start seriously considering how to ensure their social media collateral is easily found by searchers within a social media site. WPP head, Martin Sorrell, noted that marketers have been slow to move spend from print to digital, even as the people they presumably are trying to reach have migrated to digital.

Ironically, when marketers do spend on digital communication, there is often a serious disconnect between investments and user behavior. In Search Engine Marketing (SEM), most spend is on paid ads (PPC/SEA) while most user clicks are on organic SEO, i.e. earned media, results.

You know better. SEO isn’t just for search engines any more — it’s also for social media as part of a broad Social Media Optimization strategy. In the conclusion of this two-part series, I’ll look at social media SEO techniques applicable to multiple business cases and social media properties.

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

How To Optimize For Facebook Graph Search: SEO Meets Social

As Facebook Graph Search evolves and marketers begin to come to grips with the opportunities provided from the social graph, it becomes clear that a combination of both search and social media tactics are required if brands aim to improve visibility in the graph search engine results.

Today, I would like to focus on how you can utilize SEO and social sharing best practices to both optimize your Facebook page and foster engagement.

The Graph Search Differentiator

Facebook Graph Search is based on a social graph, which means that a user’s search results are personalized based on his or her connections.

Compared to searching on Google or Bing and being presented with results from all across the Web based on keyword matches, Facebook Graph Search presents you with results from content shared only on Facebook. This is from a database of over one billion people, more than 240 billion photos and over a trillion social connections.

The content is limited due to on privacy settings, and the output is based around pages, apps, groups, photos and places.

While optimizing for Facebook Graph Search is not the same as optimizing a webpage for search, there are several techniques you can use to optimize your Facebook page based on SEO best practices. Once optimized for search, you can then focus on how to optimize for social engagement on these pages. It is a great example of the importance of social signals and the convergence of search and social media best practice.

Big Data & The Personal Social Graph

I have talked about the importance of big data in search and social and how utilizing the huge amount of content and social media data has fostered rapid innovation in the social graph space. Adding social layers to big data has allowed Facebook to take advantage of the some of the 3.3 billion pieces of content being shared on Facebook each month.

Facebook Graph Search is personal big data. It’s a search engine based on your network data (connections, likes, interests, etc.). Graph Search blends local, social and content data for individuals and (eventually) for businesses. In order for marketers to maximize opportunity from the Facebook Social Graph, there are a number of search and social based strategies and tactics that can be deployed.

Optimization For Facebook Graph Search

In the visual below, I have highlighted (from left to right) how marketers can leverage key search optimization techniques and social sharing best practices. The process below starts with optimizing your Facebook page and ends with how you engage and share content.

Page, URL & Title

Just as on-page optimization is vital to SEO, Facebook page optimization is the first place to start on your Graph Search strategy. Ensure that you have selected the appropriate category, and plan for your basic information (such as the short description and the elements on your About page) to contain descriptive keywords, just like search. Make sure your page is relevant, always up to date, and publicly viewable and sharable.

Ensure your Page name and URL are direct, but natural and relevant to your brand/businessEnsure users can find you by adding a link to your Facebook page from your websiteInvite friends to your page

Local Search On Facebook

Facebook Graph Search is a great tool for local and small businesses, and it is now more important than ever for these businesses to be active on Facebook. Users searching for a particular product or service can now easily find those recommended by their friends. In order for businesses to take advantage of Facebook Graph Search, a local listing and a local following are essential.

Danny Sullivan explains this in more detail while discussing Facebook Graph Search’s “multi-dimensional searches”:

Another difference is the layers of searching or refinement that Facebook Search offers compared to Google. For example, a Google search can show you restaurants in San Francisco, a pretty much single dimensional view. A Facebook search can show you restaurants in San Francisco liked by your friends. Or further, those liked by your friends who actually live in San Francisco, as opposed to those who live elsewhere. Or those liked by your single friends, your straight friends, your gay friends, your friends who work for a particular company….

To prepare your Facebook Page for local optimization within Graph Search, consider the following:

If you have a location or a local place page, it is vital that you update your address now to make sure you can appear as a result when someone is searching for a specific locationIf you are in a niche sector such as hotels, restaurants, recruitment, travel and tickets, then you should be embracing Facebook Graph Search now

Content, Images, Video & Sharing

The sharing of content (posts, images, video, etc.) is the key to appearing within Facebook Graph Search results. The best way to attract and engage your audience is by regularly posting quality, relevant content.

Ensure your content is related to your businessUse high-resolution images when you shareEncourage people to interact with your content when appropriate: post updates that elicit Likes or Comments, ask users to share or tag photos, etc.Build creative, unique content that allows people to connect with your brand

Engagement Signals

When we talk about the importance of social signals, Likes and Check-ins can be viewed as important ranking signals for Facebook Graph Search. It is important to get creative with engagement- and interaction-focused strategies, such as competitions and quizzes with your fans. Attracting the right and relevant type of fans and groups allows you to send out a far stronger ranking signal.

Facebook shares more insight on fan acquisition and Page publishing best practices here.

Edgerank

Facebook’s proprietary algorithm, EdgeRank, determines how, when and if a post appears in a user’s News Feed. In general, the more a user interacts with a Facebook Page (liking, sharing, posting, commenting, clicking links, etc.), the more that Page’s content will appear within their News Feed over time. This means it’s not enough to simply get fans to “Like” your page. If you fail to engage those fans, your content may not appear in their feed at all!

Marketers need to understand EdgeRank well to create and post content that reaches the maximum number of viewers. They should ensure that interactivity and user engagement are top of mind when crafting a Facebook Page content strategy.

(For more information on EdgeRank, check out this useful infographic from PostRocket.)

What’s Next for Facebook Graph Search?

Optimizing for Facebook Graph Search is not an exact science as the product (and the social graph itself) is continuing to evolve. What is certain, however, is that Facebook has huge amounts of data at its disposal and the platform has some of the strongest social signals on the Web. Businesses can and should take advantage of how Facebook presents structured data by optimizing for Graph Search today.

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

14 Ways Facebook Homes In On Local Search

With the announcement of Facebook Home, Facebook has pushed the accelerator on its local mobile strategy, which was already in high gear, thanks to Facebook Local Search and its big brother, Facebook Graph Search. By the end of 2013, I expect the social media giant to further strengthen its hold as the #2 local search app; so, it might behoove local marketers to get a handle on exactly how their businesses are showing up in Facebook these days.

There are numerous ways that local business data makes it into Facebook, including:

“Link” buttons on local business sites“Share on Facebook” buttons from local review sites, local deal sites and other business directoriesCheck-in appsLocation data attached to images (e.g., from Instagram)Bing Local (Bing provides the default Web search on Facebook)Neustar Localeze (provider of the base US business listings data for Facebook Local Search & Facebook Place Pages)Business owners adding their own data

So, make sure you have a good handle on the status of your business data in those services because, as you’ll see, Facebook is a virtual maze of business data. Here are all of the places in that maze where your business might appear:

Reviews In Timeline

Yelp reviews can be shared on a user’s Facebook Timeline, which links back to the business’s Yelp profile.  Thus, it is important to ensure that your data on Yelp (and other major review sites) is up-to-date and includes plenty of great photos to encourage sharing.

Check-Ins In Timeline

Foursquare Check-Ins can also be shared via Facebook, which similarly link back to a business’s Foursquare profile. I have noticed local businesses in Pleasanton providing incentives for customers to check-in via Foursquare or Yelp. But, how about incentivizing customers to share that check-in on Facebook?

Places Widget In Timeline

The Places widget on the Facebook Timeline, which appears embedded on a Bing/Nokia Map, shows a user’s most recent check-ins.

Facebook Map

All users have a Facebook Map attached to their user profile which highlights all the places they’ve ever checked into or have been tagged. I don’t want to get all creepy on you, but you could check out your customers’ Facebook Maps to get a better idea of where they go and what they do, so you can better target them.

Status Updates From Location

Adding a location to a Facebook status update often prompts the user to select from a list of nearby businesses. Want your business to appear here? Ensure that it’s listed in Neustar Localeze’s database.

Facebook Ads/Sponsored Stories

I have two girls — take pity on me.

Facebook Local Search

The algorithm formerly known as “Facebook Nearby.” Again, make sure that, at a minimum, you’re in Neustar Localeze to appear in these results.

Facebook Places Results

When Facebook detects a query with local intent in its main search app, the user is shown Places results, which consist of a combination of the Neustar Localeze data and claimed Facebook Pages for relevant businesses. As you can see in the example below, claimed businesses have enhanced results that help them stand out among a sea of generic unclaimed listings. So, go claim your Facebook Page already!

Claimed Facebook Place Pages

Here’s what a claimed Facebook Place Page looks like. You can add various features to these pages, but the most important thing about claiming your business on Facebook is that you have control over what appears on them.

Unclaimed Facebook Place Pages

The big problem with unclaimed Facebook Place Pages is that they show a list of competitors near your business. It’s still hard to believe that there are businesses out there that haven’t claimed their Place Page yet.

Local Topic Pages

City+Category results linked from Place Pages. Please don’t make me go to Chuck E Cheese. Please.

Bing Local Web Results

When a user clicks on a local query in the “search the web” section of Facebook’s search results, they get a set of local results powered by Bing Business Portal. For best visibility, make sure that you have claimed and updated your business info on Bing.

Facebook Local Graph Search

Local results influenced by Friends’ likes, shares, locations, etc., are another place where your business might appear. To ensure that your business can do well in Graph Search, make sure you have a Facebook Place Page for each business location; regularly add content to these pages (e.g., menus, events, promotions, etc.) to keep them fresh, and add keywords that make them eligible for more queries. And, don’t forget to generate plenty of local “Likes,” as these will likely help improve your visibility in Graph Search.

Coming Soon! Facebook Home Local

You can imagine that, eventually, the businesses mentioned in Chat Heads will link to the Facebook Place Page, and Facebook has said it will be showing ads on the lock screens of Facebook Home. I don’t expect Facebook Home to change how you market your business on Facebook, but I imagine that, over time, we will see Facebook enable local marketers to continue to make its service a local social marketing machine.

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

Live @ SMX London: Facebook’s New Graph Search & Its Marketing Implications

In January, Facebook unveiled its first major move into the search space: Facebook Graph Search. Graph Search is not just another index of the Web, however. Rather, it’s powered by what people are liking and sharing, leading to vastly different results than you’d see on Google.

And while it’s not currently a direct threat to Google, the writing is on the wall, so to speak: Graph Search is poised to change the very fundamentals of SEO, and socially-informed search and content marketing.

Graph Search is currently being rolled out as a small private beta, but over time all billion-plus users will likely be using it on an almost daily basis. In other words, it’s important, and something all online marketers should start thinking about – now, before your competitors do.

That’s why we’ve asked a group of search marketing experts with hands-on experience with Graph Search to share their insights and practical knowledge during the Facebook’s New Graph Search & Its Marketing Implications session at SMX London. Our panelists will take a deep dive into Graph Search, discussing how Graph Search is unique, how it will change SEO, and the opportunities and challenges it’s likely to present for advertisers and marketers.

Facebook’s New Graph Search & Its Marketing Implications is just one of more than two-dozen info-packed sessions on May 15-16 in Chelsea – check out the agenda for SMX London and register now!

Looking forward to seeing you in London!