The New Search Engine on the Block

Internet Strategies

Kelly “Rags” Ragland is owner and operator of Rags to Stitches Productions, a holistic advertising-specialty company providing a range of services from web design and development to customized apparel.

With every new year comes fresh new competition. Whether it lies in business endeavors, personal challenges or the Super Bowl itself, the first few months of the year reveal new and exciting competitions from every angle. This year, Facebook launched a new feature to challenge the search engine arena with the release of Facebook Graph Search, and that means we have a new opportunity to expose our businesses to Facebook’s billion-plus users via this new channel.

The company’s announcement in January stated: “Graph Search and web search are very different. Web search is designed to take a set of keywords (for example: “hip hop”) and provide the best possible results that match those keywords. With Graph Search, you combine phrases (for example: “My friends in New York who like Jay-Z”) to get that set of people, places, photos or other content that’s been shared on Facebook. We believe they have very different uses.”

Different uses indeed!

The search bar first returns the top search suggestions including people, pages, places, groups and suggested searches. People can search for restaurants near them, hotels in places they want to travel, and photos posted by pages they like. The search results are based on factors that include information that has been shared by your business and the connections of the person searching. There will also be suggestions in the search bar that can then trigger web searches provided by Bing. (Facebook page owners also have the option of paying a small fee for sponsored results.)

As Facebook Graph Search allows users to perform searches with multiple keywords, including criteria such as “friends” and/or “location,” encouraging your customers to “check-in” at your business is more vital than ever.

Maintaining a Facebook business page that people “like” will also kick your business page into the top results. And by all means, content is a plus. Posting images and other interesting content on your business page that generate comments, likes and shares will undoubtedly improve your chances of hitting the top of the new search results.

The “local search” aspect of this new technology will provide a very strong presence for brick and mortar businesses, as this new search platform appears to be driving toward a “local recommendations” engine, much like Foursquare. Search results will be determined by a recipe of information created and shared by your Facebook business page, and connections of the person doing the search (friends, likes, and check-ins).

All aboard

Optimizing the page to work well with this new search algorithm starts with some simple tasks. The business name, category, website address and information shared in the “about” section of your page will help people find your business and should be keyword-friendly. If a physical location exists, be sure the address is accurate to secure the space as a direct result when someone is searching for a specific location.

From there, focus on attracting qualified “likes” from visitors to your page and be diligent in encouraging them to interact with the provided content on an ongoing basis. Encourage your customers to like, check into, rate and recommend you on Facebook.

For content ideas to keep visitors engaged on a regular basis, refer to the Internet Marketing Calendar, announced in the January issue, for ideas. A silent Facebook page will not be heard, so post often and try to generate interest or start a conversation that can go viral.

Finally, for many users, automation can be used to make page updates easy on the schedule and tie them in with a company website, blog and other social networks. For example, if you are a Twitter user, you can plug your Facebook information into Twitter’s advanced settings and have your Tweets post to your Facebook page simultaneously.

If your website or blog has an out-going RSS feed, there are apps within Facebook (such as Networked Blogs and RSS Graphiti) that can post your website and blog updates as well. Facebook pages also provide a special email address that can be used to post updates via email, which comes in handy when on the go and posting an update from a mobile device. Good luck and we’ll see you in the graph!