A big announcement from Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg flew under the radar here on our blog in January … but that doesn’t mean it is not important:

Now that we’ve read the first feedback and reviews from Graph Search Beta Testers it’s time to look at the opportunity of Graph Search, where we think Graph Search is going and what Graph Search means for businesses like yours. In this first article on Facebook Graph Search we will discuss:

  1. What is Facebook Graph Search?
  2. How does the Graph Search Engine work?
  3. Why use Graph Search on Facebook?
  4. How will Facebook Graph Search affect SEO?
  5. How do you use Facebook Graph Search to your advantage?
  6. Will Graph Search on Facebook overtake Google?

What is Facebook Graph Search?

On January 15 2013 CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook’s new Graph Search.

This new social-driven search engine allows Facebook users to find people, pages and places through likes and shares of their Facebook friends, friends of friends and community.

Because Graph Search’s results are pulled from the searcher’s social connections this new search engine has the potential to deliver highly relevant and localized search results for its users compared to other Search Engines such as Google and Bing.

Hypothetically, this could impact the way people search on the web. Rather than switching over to Google to look for a new restaurant why not ask Facebook to help you find local restaurants; ones that your friends have been to?

How Does the Graph Search Engine Work?

Facebook Graph Search uses your social network’s history and information to provide you with the results that are most relevant to your network of friends. Here’s a sampling of searches Facebook is promoting to help showcase their new search capabilities:

  • “People who like cycling and are from my hometown”
  • “Photos before 1990”
  • “Photos I like”
  • “Photos of my friends”
  • “Music my friends like”
  • “Cities my family visited”
  • “Restaurants in London my friends have been to”

Here are a few highly interactive and graphical results to the above searches:

 

Why Use Graph Search on Facebook?

Facebook says that by using Graph Search you can:

  1. Explore your world through photos.
  2. Discover restaurants, music and more – all through people you know
  3. Find people who share your interests

In a recent article posted at Search Engine Land, SEO Manager Aaron Friedman summarized Facebook’s social search concept as follows:

“Social search is a means of uncovering information, to fill a knowledge gap taking into account crowd sourced information from your network, which contains information from a reputable source within your network, giving more of a credible touch to the content.”

How will Facebook’s Graph Search Affect SEO?

Based on our research so far we are predicting that Graph Search will add a new level of social interaction and connectivity to Facebook and elevate the importance of optimizing your presence on Facebook.

Because Graph Search results are based on likes, shares, and posts from Facebook user’s friends, your business needs to focus on interacting with real people on Facebook and creating content that generates social shares and likes. In a way you need to “optimize” your Facebook network for results, which can have a much different strategy and require a different skill set than optimizing your website.

6 Graph Search Tips for Business Owners

Here are six tips for business owners to get ready for Graph Search and using Graph Search to your SEO advantage.

1. Be On Your Facebook Game

Make sure your Facebook page is up to date with as much information as possible. Make sure that you are in the right category, have the correct URL and include all the data people might be searching for. If you have a location or local page make sure your address is up to date for when someone searches for a specific location.

2. Vamp Up Your Social Interaction

Focus on creating content that generates social shares and likes. Be interesting, valuable and engaging in some way, shape or form. There are already talks that engagement and viral rates will eventually be incorporated into the Graph Search algorithm too.

3. Attract the Right Fans and Know Your Brand Ambassadors

Facebook suggests that businesses attract the right fans to their page and give them a reason to interact with its content on an ongoing basis. One example that comes to mind is a local Vancouver radio station’s morning talk show. Most items of topic in their show are incorporated into their Facebook Page – polls, contests, videos, pictures and so on. Their fans have a real reason to interact with them on Facebook.

Experts are also suggesting building niche networks full of your brand ambassadors, industry networks and targeted channels who will likely promote you (through shares and likes) to their friends. There’s a good chance that these brand ambassadors are connected to other like-minded users. This strong network of influencers can help you in Facebook’s search results because the results are being based on social factors. For example, having “likes” from people with lots of friends on Facebook increases your ability to be shown for “pages my friends like” type searches.

4. Make It Even Easier to Connect to Facebook

Shares and likes are now more important than ever! Make sure that all of your content, products, descriptions, videos and other promotional materials have Facebook links to make it easier for viewers to Like and Share you with their friends.

5. Make Meaningful Connections With Other Brands

It is clear that in order to start appearing in Graph Search results you need to be well connected. Start reaching out to brands, organizations and associations connected with your business through Facebook.

6. Expect Future Improvements

Based on reviews by others who have used the Graph Search Facebook Beta model, search results seem to be a little skewed, non-useful and at times humorous. Most reviewers suggest that including status updates, image captions and other 3rd party apps will help improve search results on Facebook. If Facebook takes this advice and adds status updates, images and so on to its search algorithm we will be presented with even more opportunity to “optimize” our Facebook presence.

Other Ways to Use Graph Search
to Your Business Advantage

As we have discussed, Facebook search results are a combination of all the information created and/or shared by your business and the connections of the person doing the search, which could be friends, likes, check-ins and so on.

But up until now we have only focused on how to use Graph Search for your SEO Benefit; that is how Graph Search will help bring searchers to you.

Let’s now consider how businesses can use Graph Search to find others. Here are five ideas from Guest Post Labs that are quite intriguing to get you thinking of all the possibilities of Graph Search:

  1. Find customers or fans that checked into your location and ask them to write a review or offer them a coupon for their next visit.
  2. Find people with relationships with your brand and bounce new ideas off of them for feedback.
  3. Find talented people who like your company and recruit them to work for you.
  4. Find people who like a related product or service to yours and have them participate in a survey.
  5. Find photos taken from your location and ask for user permission to use on your website and other marketing materials.

So is Facebook Graph Search the New Google?

In wrapping things up we need to make the point that Facebook is not going head-to-head with Google on the search market.

They have gone a new direction and created their own type of search based on their strengths. Let’s face it; Facebook knows a lot more about each of us than many of our friends and family do. Facebook is leveraging everything they know about you to provide the best answers to your questions if users start to rely on their search tool more often.

At the end of the day there is still one major obstacle to overcome: Facebook search results do not include the entire web’s information (yet).

So far Facebook results are constrained to the likes, shares, photos and other data people have shared within Facebook. Generally speaking most people’s privacy settings are set to “everyone” so Facebook’s search results can often reach beyond personal networks and friends. Also, all public businesses, places and other pages are up for inclusion in results if well-connected.

Are you a Graph Search Beta tester? Are you a business trying to grasp how to optimize your Facebook presence and increase you connectivity? Are you a regular Facebook user and worried about your privacy with the new Graph Search?