Facebook SEO: Ranking Well for Facebook Search Queries
Posted by Elmer in Geek on July 14, 2010

Facebook used to be just a place for friends to communicate, interact and share. But Facebook wasn't contented with that role, in the company with Ning, Tagged or Friendster. When searching for information, users typically leave the site and head towards popular search engines. Facebook wants to be the one-stop web utility and not just a social media hangout. Not long ago it revised its page layout to emphasize use of search engines. Unlike its early days, Facebook now displays people's profiles, groups, pages and web results. Therefore its usefulness extend beyond simple searches; it becomes a legitimate search engine more than just an internal site search feature.

As we consider Facebook's 400 million plus users spending longer hours to play virtual games, viewing photos or writing on "walls", chances are, a portion of them should be using Facebook search at any given time. If our Facebook fan page does not appear on the autofill results screen, we are missing out on Facebook's opportunity. Heck, many sites don't even have Facebook pages.

But to those who wish to rank for Facebook pages, being there as the user types the first few letters of a search query brings lots of opportunity (brand exposure, to begin with). However, unlike typical search engines where rankings are based on finite set of factors, Facebook relies on user behavior (past visitors, likes, events, clicks, connections, etc) so that the search form can be more appropriately called suggest form rather than search form.

Possibly, Facebook does this auto suggest feature to attract users into clicking them and staying in the website instead of going directly to the search results page -- a portion of which is served by Bing -- whose quality is still inferior compared to Google's.

According to Aim Clear Blog, Facebook Suggest ranking factors could be the following:

1. Name of a Contact

If you're searching for a term and that happens to be part of a name of a Facebook contact, there is high likelihood that this friend will be on top Facebook search suggestion. True to the very nature of social media, Facebook puts contacts above in the hierarchy. Therefore, if I am searching for "George Steinbrenner", my friend George Booke would probably rank higher than the recently deceased Yankees owner in the suggestions.

2. Past pages visited

Facebook page


Facebook search suggestions are also perceived to be heavily influenced by our behavior online. If we had visited a less popular page, a related search in the future could display that page ahead of popular ones (those that have more fans). Therefore it is almost impossible to do SEO for Facebook's auto suggest feature because of its personalization-heavy instead of content-centric factors.

3. Events we are invited
Facebook's event feature may be hidden in a set of suggestions, requests and invitations page, but that does not mean it is ranked in low priority. If we are invited in an event, a relevant search match yields the event name among top results, even if we did not commit to attend that one. This makes events a way to get someone's attention.


Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/timothygreigdotcom/

4. Events our friends are attending

Facebook has increased its focus on events in its effort to make this feature more effective than competing applications and encourage usage by members.

5. Pages with most fans / likes

Should we search for a particular product that has different variations / pages in Facebook, the one with most likes / fans will naturally come on top. This could be under the perception similar to inbound links in Google: the more fans you have, you must be good and the higher your credibility becomes.



6. Pages user liked or friends liked

We may not 'like' a certain profile or page, but if half of our friends do, that profile or page would still rank within Facebook's auto suggest results. Which means if we have diverse set of friends, we can expect Facebook offering us diverse suggestions. There could be more factors such as keywords found within wall posts or type of media shared (photos, videos, news) but since I found no data supporting these hypotheses, they are just but mere speculations. If we ignore the suggestions and insist on seeing the results by clicking the magnifying lens, we'll notice the order of grouping of information: pages, people, posts by friends and Web results. This makes SEO for Facebook quite difficult, if not impossible if we use the standpoint of traditional SEO process. That's because Facebook makes use of extensive personalization and delivers results tailored to an individual's and his social group's behavior. Google does similarly, looking at geography, web history and other personal factors to deliver the most relevant search results. But while we have a platform (links, page content, keyword densities, etc) we can manipulate for Google SEO, such web page elements do not apply to Facebook.

Hat tip: Aim Clear Blog

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