Facebook Search: The Little Engine That Can’t
AdWeek posted an article yesterday about how Facebook’s internal search engine doesn’t work. I have this same thought several times a week, but after reading the article, I decided to see if our concerns were valid.
I went to Facebook and searched LA Times. The app, but not the page, appeared in the dropdown, so I navigated to the Page search section and got the results you see at the right.
From this, it would seem that the LA Times doesn’t have a page for the whole paper, just one for the food section. I also, marveled at the inclusion of the Jonas Brothers, “LA Baby” page. Curious.
So I went to Google and, since I was typing too fast, put “lat times facebook” in the search and guess what I found.
Look at that. The fact that 191,324 people have “liked” their page tells me that it can be found, and that’s the problem. People don’t need to use the Facebook search, so it doesn’t matter that it’s lousy.
As David Berkowitz of 360i points out:
“This problem has been part of Facebook for so long that we don’t hear [complaints] a lot from our clients. If we were convinced millions of people were searching for our clients’ pages [through Facebook’s search bar], we would be raising hell. But it’s not going to be the most important way that people are finding brands’ pages.”
But why is this acceptable to Facebook? They’re not a newbie, start-up working out the bugs. I’d say they have people on staff who can build a proper search algorithm. So why don’t they?
Facebook says it works fine. It’s set to deliver different results to different people. This is true, but not in a good way. Once I’ve visited a site, it’s more likely to appear at the top when I search internally. Great, but what about the new visitors. Those are the people I really want to capture. People who already like the page will have links on their newsfeed or profile. They’ll go through the effort to find the page again. A new person won’t.
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And don’t tell me that vanity URL’s solve the problem. When was the last time you typed in or guessed at a full Facebook URL?
Expecting Facebook’s search engine to return top results every time, for every person, isn’t asking for the moon. It’s an important part of a site that’s growing bigger every day and I say it’s time Facebook stopped depending on Google’s search engine to do their job for them.