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like-buttonAs 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:

Likes

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.

Privacy

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.

Multimedia

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.

Everything else...

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.

Questions

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:

  1. Keywords in title and answers
  2. 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:
    facebook questions

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:

  1. You or an immediate friend is a member/user
  2. Number of total ACTIVE members.
  3. 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...

Events

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:

  1. Frontload keywords in event titles.
  2. 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.

Matt Owen

Published 6 June, 2011 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 (28)

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Corrie Davidson

Corrie Davidson, Social Media Manager at Sisarina, Inc

A really great meaty analysis - thanks!

about 5 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

Great ideas for making your Facebook page more SEO friendly. I also like to post snippets of company blog posts to Facebook; not the whole post! You can use Facebook to drive traffic over to your site. The "hook" gets them engaged and when they click to read the whole article they are transported to your site. There, you have a better chance of getting them to convert.

about 5 years ago

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William King

By getting positive response on your event invitations and more and more like certainly improve your ranking on Facebook. What I have learn from here is that never relate Google and Facebook while promoting your site by any way. For better rank on face book you need to communicate more and more with your followers try to win their trust by winning their trust you will be able to attract their friends and so on.

about 5 years ago

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Yomar

This is quite possibly the most complete look at Facebook as a business solution. The key take-away, for me, was coming to terms with the small windows of opportunity Facebook represents.

I've all too many people get caught up on the massive followings and reach. Realistically, Facebook has to be treated almost as an independent entity (consistency still counts of course). It's like a self-contained community so persistence is imperative.

I've managed to get Facebook to create 10-20% of total referrals so there is SEO value. Still, it's crucial to recognize how much hard work it is. The beauty of popularity-driven or "bumping" social platforms is that you can focus more on human audiences than search engines and techie "magic".

about 5 years ago

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Maciej Fita

I think Facebook has some nice ideas up their sleeve. They see these numbers and their recent integration with Bing sheds some light on their focus for the future. Facebook could just be the gauntlet that eventually sticks it to Google's market share.

about 5 years ago

Gus Ferguson

Gus Ferguson, Co-Founder and Director at Quad London

Saw Matt presenting about this topic at the Online Marketing London Meetup group in May. It brings up loads of interesting points that I'm sure will be the focus of many a post/conversation over the coming months.

about 5 years ago

Peter Leatherland

Peter Leatherland, Online Sales Manager at Ethical Superstore

Nice article, I’ve looked around and there isn’t much info on SEO for Facebook pages. One thing I would say is that with the new pages using iFrames, whatever you put in the iframe is not seen by Google as being on the Facebook page itself, iframes have always been bad with SEO. Because of this probably the best place to put optimised content is the info and description sections, this isn’t in an iframe and you can also put a decent amount of content in it, this should also help with your Facebook search ranking (although you are up against it with all of FB’s personalisation results).

Also one key thing for SEO would be to simply build links to your Facebook page as you would for your normal site, Google will see this as a safer indicator than Facebook information as there are usually a number of similar pages for things making it hard for Google to identify the main or real page. When asking for a link to yoru site also try asking for a link to your FB page.

about 5 years ago

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WotPoo

That actually does make a lot of sense when you think about it.

total-privacy.no.tc

about 5 years ago

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Laura Jennings

Great post and a real insight into how to start ranking using Facebook. Thanks very much.

about 5 years ago

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Alice ENDERS

Facebook's 30% commission for Zynga credits from 1 July 2011 has incited companies to drive traffic off Facebook and onto their sites - f-commerce is not entirely a no-brainer for an e-tailer!

about 5 years ago

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Beth Granter

Great article! Just one small point to add - when you type a search term in on Facebook, the top result will prioritise anything the user has already liked/connected to. So, when I type 'EC' I don't get eConsultancy (because I haven't liked it - yet!), I get another page I have liked. If you haven't liked anything matching the search term, then the top ranked page/app/group will show up.

about 5 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Head of Social at Econsultancy

Thanks for your comments all - a great point made by Richard especially: iFrames have always been a slightly murky proposition for SEO, so it makes sense to link from default Facebook settings where possible. Thanks also to Beth,. I don't think anyone has all the answers to this yet, and as mentioned Facebook does like to change things fairly often (since this article was published, it seems as though Questions have been tweaked, possibly removing the ability to link within answers).

I'd say for now this is definitely an 'areas you should consider' guide, rather than a hard and fast set of rules. I certainly wouldn't claim to be an expert in the field, so this is mainly drawn from working with Facebook a lot, seeing who is ranking and where.

Thanks very much for your input - very much appreciated:)

about 5 years ago

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Steve Cullen

Interesting article. There isn't very much written about Facebook and SEO so its worth a reference.

about 5 years ago

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aimee joseph

Thanks for article.

As the others have said, there is not a lot of clear information about this.

Just to clarify there are definitely things you can be doing to help with SEO , most of which I was aware of anyway ( apart from asking others to also link to your FB page - thanks Peter!)but really facebook pages don't rank in search engines unless you have millions of fans?

about 5 years ago

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Mark Alexander

Very good analysis. I need more about this.....

about 5 years ago

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Chris Work

great article, guys. like some other things you've written as well - plan to follow.

about 5 years ago

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Mike

Great article, Mark - so many actionable insights here. The influence power of Facebook's 700m members can't be ignored (especially B2C). I really liked your point about keeping content on Facebook. So true. Thanks for the insight.

about 5 years ago

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bpo services

I don't really put value on facebook pages before but, now I'm excited to make one! Excellent. Very useful tips you have here.

about 5 years ago

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Brandon Seo

It's "200 major Fortune 500 bRands"...not "200 major Fortune 500 bands," just fyi...

about 5 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Head of Social at Econsultancy

Thanks Brandon -typo fixed!

about 5 years ago

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Hit Counter

Great information about Facebook SEO.But does Facebook provides dofollow back links?

about 5 years ago

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SEO Durban

From what I have heard all Facebook links have the "no follow" rule added to links. So this could pose an interesting question if Google is using Social Metrics for page ranking.

almost 5 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Head of Social at Econsultancy

Hey guys, I believe you're right,although FB does change these things periodically (and just about everything else!). Google's new indexing - http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/8213-google-starts-indexing-facebook-third-party-comments -
should also shake things up quite a bit!

almost 5 years ago

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James Hart

Nicely done.

almost 5 years ago

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Jason Scott

Great article, very nice analysis

over 4 years ago

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Miko

its very true that google and facebook hate each other. I agree to what others comments that this is an interesting article. Helpful article thanks.

over 4 years ago

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Lenny

With the new Google Update, social media like facebook and other social media has a great importance in optimizing now.

over 4 years ago

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Outsourcing HQ

With the advent of Google Panda update, social signal as well plays a vital role in ranking your site, thus leveraging the use of Facebook pages is also a good source social signal.

about 4 years ago

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