Want to jump to the top of Facebook’s search results for any term? I’ve figured out how to accomplish this in under 60 seconds since currently there are few people competing for placement within Facebook’s search results. While not all the techniques explained are recommended, hopefully this will give you a better idea as to how Facebook Search works. Let’s get started! A few minutes ago, I used one of the tools created by Cameron, one of our engineering gurus, to generate 9 Open Graph objects.
Then I instantly headed over to Facebook to do some searches on these objects. For example, SMX Advanced, where I spoke last week:
Notice since there isn’t a page on SMX Advanced, I am automatically #1 on this search, as Facebook’s search doesn’t do deep semantics yet– to associate similar terms. And then on Localeze, which is a local listings service, where this new object ranks #2:
The actual page has only 117 fans, but with very little effort, it would be possible to outrank the real page with a fake page that has more fans, using Facebook advertising techniques. In fact, here is a rogue page on Verizon that we created a few days ago with zero promotion:
As you can see, it ranks #1 on the term “verizon” in my Facebook search results. I pinged the folks on this page to ask them how they got there. The overwhelming answer? They found it via Facebook search. There are 245 fans there, which is quickly growing. It happens to be a complaint page, given that Verizon overcharged us recently and then failed on the follow-up, but that’s another story. The point is that exact matching on keywords currently works for Facebook SEO.
Further, if the real brand doesn’t have a page, you can easily create a page about it, just like the unhappy United Airlines customers. Witness the United Breaks Guitars video , which got 8.7 million views, as well as untied.com, which one very unhappy customer made. You can probably name your favorite high-profile examples of social media– AOL’s cancellation policy, BP’s PR failure, and so forth.
What This Means For You
- Get your Facebook fan page up and properly optimized — not just because you want to drive sales, but because you want to protect your name. This is just like someone owning your domain name. but they own your name on Facebook. If you let them build momentum– and negative sites spread like wildfire– you might be in for a nasty surprise. Our favorite examples to present at conferences have been Target.com and Dell.com, who until recently weren’t monitoring their fan pages and allowed unless streams of ex employees and unhappy customers to post negative reviews that went unanswered in a hatefest seen by millions of their fans. Ouch.
- Whoever has more fans wins — Notice in the Verizon example that it shows how many fans there are? Users are judging who is the real McCoy by fan count and how nice the profile picture is. In fact, when you post a fan page in your status, it automatically shows the fan count. Who says that size doesn’t matter?
- More fans equals more SEO power — A Facebook executive told me that SEO on Facebook is like regular SEO in the sense that more fans is more links to pass juice. Does this mean you should blindly try to acquire fans? No– you should still focus on ROI and conversions, but you should put in a minimum amount as insurance on your brand. If you invest in reputation management, consider this a like (no pun intended) investment.
- Your Facebook page may outrank your regular page in Google and Bing— Yes, because of Caffeine and the May Day update, stuff in Facebook is showing in regular search results. And as we’ve proven today, vice-versa. This is the first we’ve seen of items outside of Facebook now showing up in Facebook search. Look at the “source” to tell where it came from, such as this search on cottage cheese:
Notice the livestrong.com page that shows up. If this is not an incentive to tie into Facebook– because your regular webpages can show up in Facebook search and because your Facebook stuff shows up in regular search– not sure what is. Gaming Facebook search today is easy, just like Google was years ago.
Some of the readers of allfacebook.com will now be tempted to go create a zillion fake pages and then link them together to pool juice. There will be Facebook SEO “experts” popping up to sell links, just like there are folks selling likes. In fact, any of the practices of traditional SEO will likely result in Facebook SEO. There are a few reasons why this is misguided and why you should disregard nearly everything you read about Facebook SEO up until this point (except for what you read on allfacebook.com, of course):
- Facebook search results are based on relevance to the user: Facebook’s engineering team explains it here. In other words, when you create an object and then search on it, of course it will show up in your Facebook search results. You are connected to it, in the same way that if you search “Keith Wilcox” (a daddy blogger), it will surface first the Keith Wilcoxs you know, then the Keith Wilcoxs that are in your area, connected to your friends, and so forth. Same is true for pizza or whatever term you type in. Certainly, Google is personalizing, but not to the same degree.
- People are searching for people on Facebook: They’re not search the same things on Google. Given that Facebook has created Community Pages and released global liking, that will change. But right now, I doubt more than a handful of people are searching on “viagra”, “local advertising company”, or “Las Vegas REO Speedwagon tickets”. The chicken and the egg issue is that Facebook’s search is people search and highly navigational– but once users see more pages for businesses, that may change search habits, too.
- Trust and influence factors are coming — Do you have that real world friend that seems to like everything? You know, the breathless one who say this was the best movie, best restaurant, best whatever? You know to discount him or her proportionate to how often they say this. Compare that to a normally reserved friend who rarely gets excited about anything, but then comes running up to you with some recommendation. You’ll probably listen. We have found that we can game Facebook by auto-liking objects– but I do not believe this to worth doing for several reasons. We have been openly testing it and told Facebook about it– so it’s clear they are designing against people who would abuse user trust, akin to that friend who shouts too much.
With regular SEO, the timeless practice is to create content that people (not robots) would actually enjoy and that deserves to be on the first page. Thus, with Facebook SEO, you want to do the same, which will then create organic links for you (likes from pages, friends, and fans) and boost you in the Facebook and Google search results. In the short-run, you can game the algorithm, but understand that these practices are short-lived.
Dennis Yu has helped brands grow and measure their Facebook presences. He has spoken at Search Marketing Expo, Search Engine Strategies, Web 2.0, The American Marketing Association, PubCon, Conversational Commerce Conference, Pacific Conferences, HostingCon, Affiliate Summit, Affiliate Convention, UltraLight Startups, MIVA Merchant, and other venues. Yu has also counseled the Federal Trade Commission on privacy issues for social networks. Yu has held leadership positions at Yahoo and American Airlines. His educational background is finance and economics from Southern Methodist University and London School of Economics.