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Facebook Graph Search: What’s Involved and How Will It Affect SEO’s and Internet Marketers?

159664001SL001_This post comes from our Social Media Channel sponsor Full Sail University.

Just a day ago (Jan 15th), Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg gathered major news media in his company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California to make a huge announcement for what he considers the next major “pillar of the Facebook ecosystem.” I’ve heard rumors and speculation surrounding the media event with talks of a possible smartphone from the social media giant or a redesign of their timeline feature. However, those rumors were quickly put to rest (for now) as Zuckerberg confirmed the inception of Graph Search – Facebook’s new feature that will allow you to perform searches based on their colossal database of what your friends have shared.

Features And Differences From Google Search
In his announcement, Zuckerberg made it clear that this was not a search engine. Instead, when users make a search query, Graph Search will direct them to people, pages, or places that already exist on Facebook, instead of a series of links that might have answers. And because Facebook has its massive social graph to parade, search results will be served based on the personal relationships that you’ve already established on their network – something you simply can’t do with Google or anywhere else.

So as this feature is slowly rolled out, we can expect to do searches like “seafood restaurants my friends have been to” or “barber shops my male friends like,” along with the more straightforward “hotels near central park” kind of searches that target geo-location. This opens up new layers of refinement for search beyond what Google offers. A recent business trip to Salt Lake City comes to mind when I wanted to find out if any of my friends have moved out there, a kind of search that would be nothing short of a pain to perform otherwise. Besides practical searches, the new feature will have the power to search for things like “photos of Brandon and me from 2004″ or better yet “wall posts from my ex-girlfriend” (not creepy at all). Just another way for us to spend hours of our “personal” time on Facebook. 

What about everything else? What if I want to search beyond Facebook?
About two-and-a-half years ago, Bing and Facebook decided to get in bed together to begin a path to merge search with social. Since then, “the search engine that could” may just have the weapon to make a dent in Google’s market share. With Graph Search, users will also be able to tap into Bing to provide web-based search results when needed to help fill up the content that Facebook can’t find within its own database – keeping people on their site and perhaps breaking the “Google habit.” 

Changing the field for SEOs and Internet Marketers
In the worlds of SEO and internet marketing, Graph Search will change the game entirely. Your fans are more important than ever. With Graph Search, people who like your Facebook Page and share your content will automatically become unofficial word-of-mouth brand advocates on your behalf. Facebook’s new pillar is further affirmation for a trend that we’ve been seeing for quite a bit of time – simply put, people prefer to turn to their friends for advice. Social media took that sentiment to the masses, and now we’re seeing concrete validation that people favor trusted recommendations from their friends over algorithms or anonymous reviews.

With the prospect that Facebook’s Graph Search could eventually become a fairly effective local search and recommendation engine, SEOs need to pay more attention to like signals, review signals and check-ins. Think about it, users will be typing in “pizzerias that my friends like” (meaning having a page that people “like” is a signal) or “pizzerias that my friends have been to” (meaning Facebook check-ins are a signal). The same goes for our clients – It’ll be our job to train our clients to focus on attracting the right fans to your page and giving your fans a reason to interact with your content on an ongoing basis. This includes providing incentives for checking-in upon arrival and engaging your audience with worthwhile content. This puts a whole new spin on the significance of developing a content strategy for Facebook – your business page just gained a whole new level of importance.

Despite what Zuckerberg said, Graph Search is in fact a search engine, and there’s going to be a whole new set of tactics and skills to discover, learn and adopt if we want to remain competitive. But why must we make this a subset of our current skills? Because the SEO we are all comfortable and familiar with for a search engine like Google is largely different than it would be with Graph Search. We have full control over our web pages but very little control over Facebook’s business pages. Simply put, we’re going to have get creative here people!

For right now, Facebook’s Graph Search is only available to a few beta testers. So we have a small window in which to take advantage and continue to focus our efforts on creating worthwhile content that can amplify engagement across the social network. Making that pivotal connection with consumers using strategies that are very much in play today, will in fact ensure that you aren’t trying to catch up in the eleventh hour when this new functionality is rolled out to over a billion people across Facebook.

The views and opinions in this post are that of that of the author and may or may not align with those of Marketing Pilgrim.

About the Author

Christian FranquiChristian Franqui started his digital career in 2002 and has long since evolved his education, experience and interests into web design, graphic design, SEO and project management positions. He currently works as a Course Director for Full Sail University, teaching Interactive Media and SEO for the Internet Marketing Bachelor of Science Degrees. Prior to joining Full Sail, Christian worked as one of the creatives of Ripley Entertainment, Inc. where he was responsible for the online presence (including social media, search optimization and mobile applications) for the global Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Brand. His experience consists of working for agency, freelance (www.thinkingmadevisible.com) and in-house roles – creating projects for clients such as the NFL, Red Bull, The University of Central Florida, Cirrus Aircraft and Guinness World Records.

He earned his Masters Degree in Film and Digital Media from the University of Central Florida in 2008 and his Bachelors also in Digital Media (Internet and Interactivity emphasis) in 2006. His interests lie in visual language and interactive media and how these technologies can be applied to promoting products and services through immersive entertainment.