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As Facebook becomes an increasingly important commerce platform, brands are starting to direct users straight to their pages on the site.
Unfortunately it can be difficult to get Facebook pages to appear in the SERPs, even for larger household names.
I thought it would be useful to take a quick look at a few Facebook Page optimisation techniques, and some of the more common SEO problems on the site...
First of all, time for a quick infodump:
In 2010 “Facebook” was the single most popular search term on Google, with almost 25bn separate search requests.
During the same period, Facebook reported that its own internal search had almost doubled, accounting for around 2.5% of US searches (and we'll look at this again later).
It's not a stretch to imagine that figure increasing significantly in the future, particularly as new generations of users become more comfortable with the idea of Facebook as a search engine.
These are massive numbers by any standard, and assuming that regular users aren’t always accessing the site through search then we can reasonably guess that the already huge social network is still growing, and fast.
Despite this a 2010 survey by Brightedge.com suggested that of 200 major Fortune 500 brands on Facebook, 70% did not appear in the top 20 Google results, even for brand specific search terms.
There are a few reasons why it can be difficult to gain decent SEO traction using Facebook, but let’s start with an obvious one:
Google and Facebook hate each other.
OK, so that’s a provocative and not-quite-entirely true statement, but for the SEO in the street, it can be a frustratingly accurate one.
Despite the professional rivalry however, optimising for external search is actually fairly straightforward. Facebook releases limited data onto the external web, so initially at least you can dispense with a lot of the more complicated under the hood tinkering you take for granted with a regular site.
Let’s look at what’s out in the open:
There’s a lot of talk in social media about influence, but on Facebook, popularity counts for a lot.
How you go about getting extra ‘likes’ is an entirely different kettle of fish, but in general the usual social buzzwords apply: Relevant, regular, engaging content please.
URLs and naming conventions
The most visible element on the web. Keep it succinct and branded. It’s also worth thinking about other channels you operate on.
If your Twitter account is @GreatDonuts, don’t call your Facebook page ‘We make Great Donuts’. That may sound obvious, but it’s often overlooked.
Not to be patronising, but there is occasionaly confusion over privacy settings and in the past I have come across a few page owners who’ve inadvertently locked their page down.
While there are cases when you only want to display content to fans, do a quick double check to make sure anyone can find you easily.
Unless you're a band, that's images and videos to you. I’d hope that any serious marketer would already optimise here, but it’s easy to forget to name or tag a Facebook picture properly, especially if you’re adding it using an external CMS.
Again, consistency counts.
Info and about
These are one of the most important places to put your keywords. Get a good SEO copywriter to optimise your information page.
Most visitors won’t read the information page, but it’s a good place to park some dense, keyword-heavy copy. Similarly, you’ll also want to put your brand name (or better still, a link) in the ‘about’ box.
Since the reintroduction of iFrames, every landing page is a separate company microsite as far as SEO goes, so make sure you’ve put aside enough time and resources to optimise everything on them.
Don’t (just) rely on being popular to generate authority. Again, consistency and attention to detail will help.
Unfortunately there is a fairly limited lifespan for most social media.
Most posts on Facebook receive around half of their ‘Likes’ in the first 90 minutes, before slowly grinding up to around 95% a day or so later, so you have a fairly small window of opportunity.
It’s also relatively hard to build a legitimate link-building campaign around a tab unless you are doing something long running and particularly awe-inspiring there, and you will also run up against UX problems.
Usually tabs won’t have optimised navigation, so directing to older content can confuse users. In addition, fresher content is generally more likely to appear in the SERPS.
As mentioned, all of these are fairly straightforward, but unfortunately that’s not the end of your SEO efforts.
Never mind the SERPS
It’s often said that Facebook is a walled garden, and the wall holds whichever side of it you are on. Facebook is now well on its way to 700M users. Another massive number, and as any social guru will tell you, one that businesses can’t afford to ignore.
Always remember that for Facebook users, being redirected to your site to purchase is often a major turn-off.
Facebook are on Facebook –they don’t want to be on your site. This has seen a lot of companies leaping into the F-commerce arena in an attempt to lower abandonment rates.
Whether you are setting up second home or considering ignoring platform instability and throwing all your eggs into Facebook’s basket, once all those searchers have found Facebook, they like to stay there.
From an SEO standpoint, this means that concentrating entirely on SERPS might not be the best tactic, instead, you may want to focus on Facebook’s internal search.
Whenever you type a search term into Facebook’s autocomplete search bar and hit enter, Facebook takes you directly to the top-ranked page.
In many cases these are determined by sheer popularity, but there are also a number of other weighting factors that can help get you into the drop-down menu that appears.
Yes, there is a ‘search more’ option, but unless they have a very specific page in mind, most users will never bother with a second click.
Optimising for Autocomplete
Again, Facebook centres its search results around personalisation, and beefs things up a bit with a learning algorithm.
It’s far from perfect, but search for ‘Pizza Hut’ once or twice, and Pizza Hut will begin appearing in your results every time you type in ‘PI’. A feature which could be especially useful for local businesses looking for repeat visits.
Again, autocomplete factors are based around user names, your history, and your friend’s history.
These are then balanced against various features and apps, and here’s where we run into trouble.
While optimisation isn’t complicated, it’s subject to change based on Facebook’s whims and there doesn't seem to be any cohesive logic behind how things are weighted, so it's probably better to optimise across the board to be on the safe side.
Let’s look at our main targets:
Pages and posts
Keywords are what matters here. When setting up a page use best practice and keep it branded and succinct. There’s little you can do about personalisation other than targeting users with a lot of friends geographically using ads.
Facebook is currently promoting Questions. They’re weighted heavily, so get you community manager asking away as often as possible.
So far, Questions don’t seem to feature in external SERPS either, so again we’re reminded of the importance of internal search and Facebook’s desire to wall its users.
Optimisation is again pretty straightforward:
- Keywords in title and answers
- Links in answers: You can link directly to related pages within the 'Add options' field for Questions. So far there's no real data on how this affects authority, but it's obviously beneficial to add your own or affiliate pages in here:
Groups and Apps
Groups and apps don’t appear to be hugely important to Facebook, possibly because they may conflict with the interests of branded pages. Areas to remember include:
- You or an immediate friend is a member/user
- Number of total ACTIVE members.
- Keywords in the group title and content.
Oddly enough some research has suggested that Admin name might also be a factor here, particularly if there’s a keyword in the name. In other words, if your name is Johnny Axe-deodorant, your group could do well…
All these factors are pretty walled-in, so short of PPC it can be a struggle. Keep stuffing those keywords and inviting friends/employees/family pets etc...
With the advent of Places check-ins, Events have become more important for general page traction but are otherwise relatively unimportant and difficult to optimise.
Various quirks in Facebook search mean that obvious factors like location or number of attendees don’t seem to have a massive effect, but it’s safest to assume that some or all of these will be indexed, especially as Places becomes increasingly important. Cover your bases and keep it simple:
- Frontload keywords in event titles.
- Gather as many ‘I’m attending!’ replies as you can.
Even if there’s no SEO payoff, there is some virality to be grabbed from events so it’s a useful PR tactic.
Incidentally (and please be very, very careful here), you can also directly invite users to events by email, so this could be a good way to initially build a following.
In addition to these, you might want to consider targeting Bing! more as it's now powering the internal web results and it isn't unreasonable to assume that it will be featuring Facebook results more prominantly in the future than Google, and it's always worth putting keywords into your general wall posts as a matter of course.
For the moment, optimising Facebook pages is a fairly straightforward, albeit time-consuming process. The results and effects of your efforts may be subject to change however so overall it makes sense to cover as much as possible.
Much of the on-page optimisation might charitably be called grey hat as well, with a heavy reliance on keyword stuffing, so never underestimate the importance of good copy. In addition it appears that shorter updates and titles (Under 80 characters) are more appealingto users. Make sure you have solid, optimised copy across your page, and while there is a lot of talk about influence and relevance in social media, there’s no doubting that on Facebook, sheer popularity also counts.