Facebook’s new Graph Search will find you people, photos, places and interests. It may sound harmless enough, but searching others’ interests and places particularly reveals a whole world of favourites and preferences. Favourite brands, local businesses, restaurants and holiday destinations will be laid out as a list of recommendations, as plainly as if those people had said them to you. Graph Search has provided us with something that has unmetered potential; an almost tangible version of word of mouth.
Word of mouth has long been recognised as a powerful influence in business and the consumer world. Even just a single person saying to you that their experience with a business was good or bad immediately influences your decision to take your custom there or not. But until yesterday, word of mouth only extended as far as the people you knew or directly asked. If finding out what your friends and friends of friends recommend is only going to take a single search, the business world could be in for a shock. If plenty of people ‘like’ one shop, you’ll probably go there too. If they don’t, or they’ve posted bad reviews, you might think you’re better off choosing a competitor. This complex blend of social media marketing (SMM) and search engine optimisation (SEO) opens a whole new playing field for businesses on the web. Quite obviously, this social media phenomenon could have big implications for the business world and search engine optimisation.
As far as businesses making their mark in the world of the internet, Graph Search is a new search engine to optimise for. When Facebook introduced Graph Search to us, they said it would be different to web search, and they’re not wrong. Web search is not likely to be outdone by this new social search any time soon, but optimising for the social search engine will be important if one is going to capitalise on the good opinions of others. If gaining likes and reviews on business Facebook profiles were important before, assuming Graph Search is a success, it will now be crucial. For example, for a shoe shop in Brisbane, appearing as likes on peoples’ profiles will send an important message to their friends and family when they search ‘shoe shops in Brisbane liked by my friends in Brisbane’ on Graph Search. If people are going to find you on Graph Search, you need to be well ‘liked’ by those they know.
Graph Search was developed with privacy in mind the entire time. Facebook users’ privacy settings will be honoured; if a particular piece of content is set to ‘private’, it won’t show in search results even if it is directly searched. Similarly, if privacy settings are set to ‘friends only’ or ‘friends of friends’, only those circles of people will see your contribution to any particular search. Obviously content set to ‘public’ will show to all searchers. These privacy parameters will likely mean that building ‘likes’ locally will be the most important for businesses, as they will stretch through friends of friends without being lost to privacy settings.
There’s one last hurdle for businesses and SEO. If Graph Search can’t show you any results, web results make a reappearance. The catch is, they’re not from Google where 95% of us (in Australia) are accustomed to searching, but instead come from Bing. Keyword rankings for websites in Bing will therefore be more important than they were. This adds yet another level to the importance of SEO; whether people are searching directly via web search or socially, ranking for relevant keywords is vitally important.
Graph Search will provide us with a whole new search experience based on both the opinions of our peers and web results. For SEO, this will mean optimising for all search engines, the web search engines as usual, and now for social search.
To find out more about privacy or to join the waiting list for Facebook Graph Search Beta (in US English), visit Facebook’s sign up page.