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Facebook is now part of the search engine market, and with a massive connection infrastructure already in place and a new take on SEO, the company could be set to give both Google and rivals Bing a run for their money in the very near future.

There's been plenty of recent commentary and speculation surrounding Facebook's search strategy, but if recent developments prove fruitful it seems Zuckerberg's baby could soon take its place alongside Bing as a potential Google-killer.

In recent times Google has been enjoying a hard-fought ubiquity in the search engine market, so much so that it's easy to forget that for a long time the company was neck and neck with Yahoo, Ask and many others. Just because Google is currently on top, it doesn't follow that it will stay that way.

Facebook meanwhile hasn't previously been renowned for a particularly accurate or powerful search function, but with the increasing use of Open Graph, it seems the company haven't been slow to tweak and update their protocols, with external websites are starting to show up in Facebook search, a function that could help the company in its battle with Google for web supremacy.

Open Graph's current index breaks objects down into categories: Activities, Businesses, Organizations, People etc, with a number of object types in each category (types Facebook is now showing in search results as part of the push to attract website administrators to Open Graph). Given the sheer number of Facebook users - and the amount of time they spend searching - appearing in these results is incredibly attractive to any content provider and has the potential to drive massive amounts of traffic, making the service particularly appealing to media companies because of their reliance on referrals. Zuckerberg has mentioned on several occasions that he doesn't see Facebook's future as site-specific, and although such a large context shift will take time, it seems the ball is already rolling.

Facebook also recently confirmed to its developer community that “all Open Graph-enabled web pages will show up in search when a user likes them” placing Open Graph at the forefront of the site's search strategy. While very few sites are currently being indexed the potential for traffic is enormous, so it makes sense for companies to begin optimising sites for Facebook Search. Currently the examples showing up seem to be related to improperly formed tags (as dictated by Facebook's URL Linter), meaning that SEO functionality will be attainable within Facebook, with the network ranking importance according to reach.

In other words: the system relies on link-baiting, aka 'like-baiting'. 'Like' replaces the traditional link in this context, and the current ‘create custom landing page’ function is merely the most direct aspect of much wider search functionality.

As usual with Facebook developments of course, there are rumblings of dissent: Facebook search results list external pages as though they are contained within the site itself, making the entire process at least slightly grey hat. Facebook will have to tread carefully to avoid its search results becoming the latest incarnation of customer-annoying pop-ups, but given the massive entrenched audience it is doubtful even this would have a major effect on traffic potential

While the company hasn't made a public announcement or marketing push regarding its search ambitions so far, Facebook is now part of the search engine market, and with a massive connection infrastructure already in place they could be set to give both Google and major rivals Bing a run for their money in the very near future.

Matt Owen

Published 30 June, 2010 by Matt Owen

Matt Owen was formerly Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up on LinkedIn.

203 more posts from this author

Comments (3)

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Vidar Brekke

I think there is even more to the story: Facebook has something unique going for it that few are talking about yet: The combination of the Open Graph protocol and the "Like" button. Together they make it easy for marketeers/publishers to create a channel of communications directly to visitors who find their various web content interesting.

How? Visitors who click the "like" button (on an external website) are implicitly allowing owner of the "liked" web page to publish messages into their Facebook newsfeeds. If retailers were to put a like button on every product page, they'd have a is lead-generation, re-targeting and CRM machine on steroids. This could eat into Google's advertising revenues as as well if marketers start spending their ad budgets on generating "Likes" rather than one-time clicks in search engine results. http://is.gd/d80GW

over 6 years ago

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farouk

very useful post, now in order for a website to survive it must work on building strong facebook presense through a fan page (to get a big number of likes) so that if FB did well in the search engine battle the site would find itself in a good position

over 6 years ago

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Mark O'Dare

Going forward I see Facebook making a big play in the search arena given how much data they process.  Further, that data has a social structure that could play an important part in ranking the importance and relevance of different pieces of information.

Their Open Graph API is already having a big impact across the web and with developers who have created sites such as http://www.facebooksearch.us that explore the possibilities of a Facebook search engine.

about 6 years ago

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