The Possibilities of a Facebook Search Engine

Posted on September 13, 2012

On Tuesday, at a TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg discussed the long-expected belief that Facebook will create a search engine to directly compete with industry leader Google. While speaking about the future possibilities of a search engine (and the current plausibility of making such a move) Zuckerberg stated that, “We’re basically doing 1 billion queries a day and we’re not even trying… Facebook is pretty uniquely positioned to answer the questions people have. At some point we’ll do it. We have a team working on it.”

Special emphasis was given to the value that such a feature would offer to users who search for local businesses. With Facebook’s vast catalogue of user data, there is both a built-in sentiment analysis (in the form of ‘likes’ and the comments about the company) and an instant ability to see the people in your network who have interacted with these businesses.

Additionally, since Facebook has received a sizable investment from Microsoft, it is very possible that a collaboration with Bing could be in the works as they enter this new field.

What it Means for Businesses

If we assume that the Facebook search engine adopts a fairly similar functionality to Google, Yahoo, and Bing (except including a special section of search results for Facebook Fan Pages) then this would be an entirely new avenue for Pay Per Click (PPC).

Under the current Facebook PPC model, users make no action to qualify themselves as a candidate to view an ad, which has resulted in notoriously low Clickthrough rates. With a search-based PPC scheme, the new system would display ads for businesses only when a user has searched for a related term, making for a much more targeted prospect.

Additionally, there will undoubtedly be much interest in how a Facebook search engine might rank Fan Pages within “organic” search results. First let us be clear that, as of yet, there is no way of knowing how this hypothetical system would work.

But with that said, we might speculate that along with traditional Search Engine Optimization (SEO) ranking factors, the rankings between two Fan Pages with identical keywords (like San Francisco dentist) might also be determined by factors that indicate the business’s level of interaction, such as number of fans, comments, posts, etc. If these do prove to be components for Facebook SEO it will be ever more important that businesses encourage clients to become fans, and then continue to promote interaction on their pages.

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