It's only been out for less than two weeks but the talk surrounding Facebook's answer to search is still ongoing as it's slowly rolled out to everyone. Not only does it give people an easier way to find relevant people and pages, but it also presents a great opportunity for businesses to promote themselves to the wider world.
While not everyone has it yet, already there has been talk about optimising your page and improving your chances of being discovered through Facebook's new search engine. As people start testing out the service, there are ways to increase your chances of being found, but how much of an influence can you have over Graph Search's results?
A Different Type Of Search
First things first, it's best to say that as of yet, there's no Graph Search version of SEO since it works differently to traditional search engines. While search engines get you to enter in keywords, Graph Search gets you to enter in phrases like "Friends who like coke," or "Restaurants my friends have visited." Search is both context sensitive and 'like' sensitive, the latter meaning that the more friends that like a particular place, the greater the chances are that your place will pop up in the search results.
This presents its own problems. For one, most pages will have likes from their main country - where most of their business would actually come from - but in the rare cases, you could end up with a situation where your likes are spread geographically.
If this is the case, then your 'likes' may put you at a disadvantage, and for anyone thinking about gaming the system and buying likes, you will only be wasting your time. As well as being morally and ethically wrong, the number of likes is irrelevant to Graph Search. Instead, it's the quality of likes and where they're coming from that's important.
That's because traditionally, the majority of users' friends would be based in the same city or country as themselves, with the exception of maybe 10-20% of your friends. When they look for page suggestions, they will only see the places that their local friends have visited or already liked, and since it knows where you live (because you already entered in that detail), it will show you corresponding places based upon that information.
Therefore, the type of factors that will be prioritised are who's been to a place, how many of your friends like it and the address. Only one of those three things you can control, which for those used to SEO style optimisation, will probably be a concern.
To understand how people are going to find you, you will have to look at the search function itself and see what criteria is used for discovery. Now chances are the majority of users are just going to type in their search query instead of using the advanced section, but as people get used to the service, it's worth keeping these criteria in mind for future reference.
Firstly, there are the obvious details for places, mainly the type of place, where it's located, what it's called and its overall rating, but there are others like liked by and visited by which are the ones that will get the most attention. Judging by previous searches, it looks like any place that has been checked-in or had friends tagging themselves at has been given greater priority over those which hadn't.
This is rather problematic since Facebook hasn't any real incentives for checking-in or tagging yourself at a place. It's placed it front and centre whenever you're writing a status update, but it's failed to emulate Foursquare's method of rewarding users for participating, either by offering deals or rewards for checking in. Facebook has experimented with check-in offers, but despite the hype behind it, offers in general has fizzled out. That's really because you can only prioritise so many things and the company has far bigger things to focus on than check-ins.
Also worth keeping in mind is the search function is designed to solve problems and answer questions like "Where's the best place to eat?" and "Who lives in this area?" Therefore, you should relate this to how you will be found, what your industry or business is and fill out your profile to achieve this.
Location also plays a factor in which results appear, but more specifically, how many people checked in or tagged themselves at a particular place. It's the latter that is going to get the most data as people will always tag where they are in images and status updates.
In short, the things that will determine whether your business appears is mostly outside your control - which is a good thing as it mainly benefits those who engage with their local audience - so don't try and force it.
Instead focus on what you can actually do, starting with your own details and your own content. That means filling out all details on your about page, posting engaging content and build up your likes organically. You could look towards encouraging people to tag the location in their status updates and photos, but providing a good incentive without breaking the bank might be difficult.
Chances are that after it refines the service some more, Facebook will look at search criteria again and modify accordingly so that certain pages can jump ahead of others. However, and this is Facebook we're talking about here, expect it to be a paid venture like Sponsored Search since it will want to keep a tight leash on how people do this.
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