For years many have argued that Facebook is the biggest threat to Google's dominance on the web, and some have even suggested that the social networking giant could one day challenge Google in search.

The latter remains to be seen, but Facebook has taken a major step in that direction with the launch of Search FYI.

About a year ago, Facebook updated its search function so that search results would include posts from users' friends and family members.

Now, Facebook has updated its search function so that search results include posts from the entire Facebook universe, which consists of more than two trillion posts to date.

How it works

When users tap Facebook's search function on iPhone, Android and desktop to find connections and content, Facebook now generates personalized search suggestions that may include timely topics and current events.

Once a search is performed, Facebook organizes search results to include public posts that it deems relevant to the query. Search results from a user's connections will continue to be included as well.

In addition to surfacing public posts that may be of interest, Facebook is attempting to encourage greater engagement with content.

As Tom Stocky, Facebook's VP of Search, explained: "When a link gets shared widely on Facebook, it often anchors an interesting public conversation.

"Now there’s a new way to quickly dive into that discussion. With one tap, you can find public posts about a link, see popular quotes and phrases mentioned in these posts, and check out an aggregate overview of sentiment.

"This feature is a first step - we look forward to people using it and giving us feedback so we can make it even better."

Facebook is even harder to ignore now

The implications of Search FYI are significant. One of the most obvious implications is that Facebook just became even more difficult for marketers to ignore.

To be sure, Facebook was hard to ignore before, and many marketers count the world's largest social network as one of their most important digital channels.

Facebook's 1.5bn searches per day are still less than half of the searches estimated to take place on Google daily, but it's still a sizable figure and with Facebook changing the nature of its search, marketers ignore or give short shrift to Facebook at their own peril going forward.

Content marketing on Facebook just got a lot more interesting

Another implication of Facebook's search update is that the content marketing landscape on Facebook just changed in a big way.

With Search FYI, Facebook users have a new way to discover content and marketers have a new way to reach users they don't have an existing relationship with.

This could be a game-changer for marketers with compelling content.

Not only might they find they have a potent source of new referral traffic to their sites, they may also be able to use search to build their audience on Facebook.

The fine print

Of course, as exciting as Search FYI is for marketers, there's a lot that still isn't known.

How will users actually interact with Search FYI? How is Facebook determining which public posts are most relevant for particular queries?

Will the social giant eventually seek to monetize search by offering paid placement in some fashion?

After all, Facebook needs to make money, and free lunches come to an end, even in social media.

At the end of the day, marketers must remind themselves that what Facebook giveth, Facebook can taketh away.

Facebook's history with social reader apps is the perfect example of that.

Publishers that jumped on the bandwagon were rewarded with buckets of traffic early on, but when Facebook made changes, they were left high and dry.

Search FYI will evolve, and some of the changes that are made could require marketers to rethink their strategies.

How should marketers approach Search FYI?

While there are good reasons to believe that Facebook search is on the verge of becoming a very important tool for many marketers, it will take some time for all the ramifications to become clear and for Facebook's real vision to take shape.

Until there's more clarity, savvy marketers will begin to track the impact Search FYI has on their Facebook metrics and seek out opportunities to take advantage of it understanding that they will probably be dealing with a moving target for some time.

Patricio Robles

Published 23 October, 2015 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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