Facebook to introduce sponsored results in search typeahead

Facebook is testing new “Sponsored Results” ads that will allow advertisers to promote their business in the social network’s drop-down search results, according to TechCrunch.

Rather than broad keywords, advertisers will bid against specific pages, apps or places, TechCrunch says. This will be in addition to Facebook’s other demographic and interest targeting, which could make the ad units particularly powerful and a major new source of revenue for the social network.

Facebook, however, has not offered statistics or information about the use of its search feature so it’s unclear how most people use the product. It is likely that users search most often for their friends and pages or apps they are already connected to, so Sponsored Results might come across as irrelevant. But if people begin to use Facebook search to find things they want more information about, as they do on Google, advertisers and users could find more value in the product. Sponsored Results appear in similar format as organic results, though they seem to include the word “sponsored” and a brief message from the advertiser, based on screenshots provided to TechCrunch.

As we wrote about last month, Facebook recently updated its search bar to include the words, “search for people, places and things.” At the time we wondered if the change was part of some preliminary movements toward one day introducing search-based ads, and today’s news is confirmation of that. [Update 7/19/12 5:25 p.m. PT – Facebook’s official statement about the news: “We are currently testing a feature that surfaces sponsored results along with the organic results when people are looking for things on Facebook. We try to show people apps and pages they’ll be most interested in.”]

Earlier this week we discovered a section in Facebook’s Help Center referring to “New Search,” though it’s unclear whether this is related to Sponsored Results or legacy wording related to a past change to search.