Last month, Facebook launched an update to its search experience enabling users to search keywords and get actual posts as results. This is arguably the most significant search feature Facebook has ever added beyond he ability to find a person or Page. It enables you to see what others have said about any given topic.
When Facebook made its update, it also dropped Bing from the equation. Microsoft's search engine used to supplement Facebook's results with more from the web. Facebook no longer includes web results at all. Moz (formerly SEOmoz) co-founder Rand Fishkin thinks that may change, and that Facebook might just do it itself.
Might Facebook Take On The Web?
In his 10 Predictions for the Marketing World in 2015 post, Fishkin said, "2015 will be the year Facebook begins including some form of web content (not on Facebook's site) in their search functionality. Facebook severed their search relationship with Bing in 2014, and I'm going to make a very risky prediction that in 2015, we'll see Facebook's new search emerge and use some form of non-Facebook web data. Whether they'll actually build their own crawler or merely license certain data from outside their properties is another matter, but I think Facebook's shown an interest in getting more sophisticated with their ad offerings, and any form of search data/history about their users would provide a powerful addition to what they can do today."
We reached out to Fishkin, a thirteen-year veteran in search marketing, for some additional thoughts on Facebook's search efforts.
"With Bing, Facebook was simply showing external results (like a metasearch engine)," he tells WebProNews. "I think if they use their own crawlers to gather data and a system to serve it, there will be a more holistic, cohesive experience, likely biased/filtered by some of the things Facebook knows about the user(s) doing the searching."
Are Facebook's Changes Having An Impact?
Facebook's recent search improvements are certainly significant in functionality. But are they having a significant impact on how people find information so far? Will they more so in the future?
Fishkin says, "No, and I think in the next few years, the answer will continue to be mostly no (at least if we're talking about websearch kinds of information vs. 'where's my friend's party Friday night?' or 'What does so-and-so's new boyfriend look like?'). But, long term, I think there's a possibility. If their early efforts show promise and a direction, I think we can extrapolate from there. For now, I'm not sold."
Facebook has been releasing a lot of standalone apps. Among these are dedicated apps for messaging, for managing Pages, and for Groups. Would they launch a dedicated search app? Should they?
"No and probably no," Fishkin says. "I think Facebook's castle is their social graph and the private postings of people to whom other people are connected. They should continue to release products and apps that help build that moat, but for right now, broad search doesn't fit that world, IMO."
Advice for businesses for increasing visibility in Facebook search
Regardless of whether or not people are actively using it as such, Facebook search gives users new ways of obtaining information. This must mean that businesses, who have suffered drastic declines in organic reach in the News Feed, have some new opportunities to get in front of those actually searching. Fishkin's advice is as follows.
"Do remarkable things that people on Facebook want to talk about and share," he says. "And if that's too much, at least make sure all your business details are as up-to-date and accurate as possible on Facebook, and that you're sharing things your followers/fans on that network will actually care about (even if that's only a few times a year). Just make sure you don't make Facebook the center of your online promotional efforts - save that for your website and use Facebook to drive traffic to it. You should never build your castle in someone else's walled garden."
I think a lot of people learned that lesson the hard way over the past year.
Image via Moz