Although Facebook’s latest foray into the search game is still in beta and only available to around one million Facebook users, it's only a matter of time until it rolls out to the rest of Facebook’s one billion active monthly users. Marc Purtell explains what it's all about ...
Since the way Graph Search functions is vastly different to Facebook’s current search engine, it's important for marketers to understand how it works so we can use the platform to spread our brand.
How it works
Graph Search is very different from traditional search engines such as Google who return results based on keywords. Graph Search's are based on connections.
The way results are displayed is different as well, because they're much more specific. A search that returns thousands of results in Google may only return half a dozen results in Graph Search.
Graph Search is powered by a backend technology known as Unicorn. Unicorn is composed of an index that contains entities referred to by Facebook as "nodes" (pages, people, places, photos, apps, games, events, etc) and a framework that connects these nodes.
The nodes are connected via their relationships and the relationships are composed of connections (ie, friendships, pages liked, etc) and actions (ie, commenting, tagging, checking in, etc).
These are Facebook "edges" (in other words, everything that "happens" in Facebook).
When a user performs a search in Graph Search, Unicorn will filter through the relevant nodes based on how closely they are connected to the user. Nodes that are connected to the user either directly (ie, the user likes a page) or indirectly (ie, the user has a friend of a friend who likes a page) are given preference over those with no connection to the user.
Because of this, the greater number of users connected to a business’s node, the more likely it is the business will gain visibility in Graph Search results.
How businesses can take advantage of Graph Search
Own multiple nodes
The way that Graph Search returns results from a variety of nodes for each search opens up the opportunity for businesses to "own" multiple search results.
Having a brand presence in a variety of nodes not only provides that business with more space (real estate) in Graph Search results, it can also limit the real estate available to competitors. This makes it essential for companies to be present on Facebook in as many nodes as are relevant to their business:
To start with, virtually any business can and should have a Facebook "page". This is the most basic node for businesses.
In addition, businesses with more than one physical location should have a page for each of them and a Facebook "Place" node for each. (Facebook Places is Facebook's smartphone app.) The Page and Place can then be merged.
Depending on the search, results can be hyper-localized. Therefore, having Places nodes not only provides additional real estate, it also gives the business an advantage within its locale.
Creating events is another way to own more Graph Search real estate. By regularly hosting events, whether online or in person, a business can gain some great visibility in the time leading up to that event. If the business doesn’t have a bricks and mortar presence, events can be created around an idea. For example, they can be created around a new product launch or even an afternoon in which participants avoid eating red meat. Creating events requires a bit of creativity, but can have a strong impact.
Games and applications are also nodes that can be used to grab more Graph Search real estate. Even if they don't drive direct business, they're great for gaining brand exposure and of course limiting the space available to competitors within the search results.
With the connections, or edges, between nodes being the backbone of how Graph Search functions, it is more important than ever to promote and facilitate engagement with a business’s Facebook properties.
Facebook users with direct or indirect connections to a business’s nodes will be more likely to find the business within Graph Search results.
Therefore, the more direct connections a business page has, the more indirect connections it will also have. In order to continuously increase the number of connections, businesses must continuously promote their Facebook properties, whether they be pages, places, games, etc.
Including a Facebook badge in a prominent position on your business’s website is the first step in promoting their Facebook page. Additionally, linking to Facebook pages in other digital marketing materials such as emails and newsletters also contributes to building a strong network on the platform.
Promotion of Facebook properties doesn't have to be limited to digital marketing. If a business has a physical location, put up a sign to promote its Facebook page. If the business sends direct mail, that's another great place to promote.
Regardless of the method of promotion, including some sort of incentive to consumers will help build your connections.
Give consumers some sort of discount or offer for liking the business’s Facebook page. Also, regularly post new offers on the Facebook page because as people interact with those offers, it will show up on their friends’ feeds and often cause the friends to like the page as well.
The future of Facebook Graph Search and social media
As mentioned, Graph Search is still in beta, but it's expected that additional functionality will be added before it's rolled out to all Facebook users.
With these new features will come new opportunities and more ways to optimize for maximum visibility. So stay informed of changes being made to Graph Search and be prepared to adjust your strategies accordingly.
Understanding Graph Search is especially important to SEO practitioners because it really sets the stage for what the future of SEO can hold.
The web is becoming more and more social and search engines are trying to learn as much about users as possible in order to give them a personalized experience. As a result, many of the principles currently behind Graph Search’s functioning will more than likely be adopted by search engines as their algorithms continue to evolve.
Interested in Facebook?
Read Spice up your Facebook page by Kristi Hines
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About Marc Purtell
Marc Purtell is Director of SEO at MediaWhiz, North America’s leading performance marketing agency. The agency helps clients engage, acquire and retain customers more profitably through the combination of performance marketing capabilities, proprietary technology and digital-media expertise. Practice areas include: affiliate marketing, mobile, search, social media, display advertising, email and data acquisition. MediaWhiz is part of Matomy Media Group, a global performance marketing company.