These days, we know Facebook as a powerful social channel to connect brands to their clients.
But what about Facebook as a search engine? And can you do Facebook SEO? In this post, we do a deep dive into these topics.
This article will introduce you to Facebook’s powerful search feature, and brands can use it to further connect with their target customers.
What is Facebook Search?
Put simply, it’s how you search for something on Facebook.
Facebook is home to a powerful (and woefully underused) search engine designed to display results for search terms and queries. It’s the big white box that says Search at the top (you can’t miss it.)
In fact, you’ve likely used it before to search for friends or pages – and likely not much else.
But Facebook Search has a lot more going for it than simply finding friends; thanks in part to the introduction of Facebook Graph search in 2013.
According to Wikipedia, Graph Search was “a semantic search engine…designed to give answers to user natural language queries rather than a list of links.”
In theory, this was really cool. It meant that you can type in something like “friends of friends who like hiking and live in Australia,” and return accurate results.
In practice, it was met with controversy and privacy concerns from users worldwide. Though it has undergone some changes, Facebook kept the basic principles of Graph search, and using it, people can search for very specific things and people.
Because Facebook uses natural language, it differs a bit from your traditional Google search. As you begin to type, Facebook will start showing you suggestions. These suggestions are personalized and will vary from user to user.
What Do People Search For Using Facebook Search?
The options are almost endless here.
First, you can break your results into categories, listed horizontally at the top of the search results. Those categories include:
The most obvious use of search, of course, is searching for friends.
- Facebook Search for friends
You can search for friends based on name, city, education, work or mutual friends. Or, you can begin search queries with the following patterns:
- My friends
- My close friends
- Friends of my friends
- Friends of Laura
- Facebook search for interests, likes, etc.
This is where you can search for friends with specifics likes and interests. For example, I can enter in “friends who like Metallica” and be served a list with any friends who have listed the band in their likes.
You can narrow the search even more by using the filters on the left-hand side; filter by people, photos, etc.
Similarly, you can use the search in the same way to find photos. Possible queries include:
- Photos of [new zealand]
- Photos liked by me
- Photos liked by my friends
- Photos liked by [laura]
- Facebook search for restaurants, etc.
Craving some late night Chinese? Find the restaurant nearest to you with searches like “chinese restaurants near me,” or find out what you’re friends like by asking “chinese restaurants liked by my friends.”
You can do the same for hotels, businesses, etc.
- Facebook search for news
Facebook has really picked up its news game as of late with the introduction of features like the Trending Now ticker on user’s homescreens.
But if you don’t find exactly what you’re looking for over there, it’s easy to perform a search. Use hashtags, keywords or “news about…” to find what you’re looking for.
Facebook Search Most Popular Topics
While many searches tend to be friends-related, there are other categories that are clear winners.
As of January 2018, entertainment, people, and sports ruled the search bar.
Searches for things like Super Bowl LII, Tom Brady, The Oscars, and The Grammys dominated, while searches for brands and products received very few active searches.
What does this tell us? That trending news, people, and events will receive a vast majority of searches. You can’t rely on brand searches when it comes to Facebook; instead, you need a clear content plan that incorporates current events as they relate to your business.
Facebook Search For Business
Okay, we’ve established that Facebook houses a powerful search engine. Now you’re probably wondering what that has to do with your business.
First of all, let’s look at a few numbers.
Worldwide, there are over 2.13 billion monthly active Facebook users, which is a 14 percent increase year over year.
So in case you had any doubts, Facebook is still the place for users and business to be, and it doesn’t look like that’s changing anytime soon.
One thing that has changed, however, is the Facebook algorithm and its effect on businesses.
In a nutshell, it’s harder than ever for a business to show up organically in a user’s newsfeed.
Search, however, is a different story.
Facebook Search Segments For Business
When we talk business, we’re generally talking about a few individual search segments: Pages, Groups, Places, Apps, Events, and Links.
According to Facebook, more than 600 million people visit Facebook Pages every day.
To make it more likely that yours is one of them, make sure you’ve done the following:
- Complete all the information on your page.
The more information on your page, the more Facebook has to pull from to match search queries.
- Category and description: this is the most important when it comes to search; make sure you’ve assigned your page the most accurate category, and have completed your description using solid related keywords your ideal audience might be search for
- Address, opening hours, phone number, etc. – we’ll talk more about this in the Places section
- Profile and cover photo – people like pictures, and will be more likely to click on your Page if you have unique, eye-catching photos associated with it
- Spread the word.
The more fans and engagement your Page has, the higher it’s likely to rank. You can invite people right in Facebook, or even upload an email list and invite everyone on the contact list.
- Ask for reviews.
You’ll notice that when a business pops up in search results, it features a starred review under the title (if it’s received any reviews).
Good reviews signal to other user’s that your business is trusted and provides a solid product or service. The more good reviews you can gather, the more likely it is that other user’s will want to take a look at your Page.
Facebook Search for Groups
Groups is one of the greatest tools available for brands on Facebook. Make sure yours is easily searchable by:
- Optimize title and description.
Just like your Facebook Page, your Group needs to have an appropriate title and description that conveys the topic of your group.
Unlike your Page, your Group name doesn’t have to match your business. This is a great opportunity to include your target keyword and improve your rankings in the search results.
Make sure you also include that keyword and any secondary ones in the Group description. It should tell potential members what they can expect from the group and why they will benefit from it.
- Ask members to invite their friends.
Facebook is all about connections – namely, those with your family and friends.
So if your friend likes a certain Group, it’s more likely to show up in your search results. You’ll notice in the Group search tab that the top results include which of your friends have already like that group. The more friends that like it, the higher it ranks.
Your goal is to reach as many connections and therefore show up in as many results as possible. The best way to do that is to ask your existing members to invite any friends with similar interests to the Group.
- Post consistently.
Remember this: the more engagement – on your Page, Group, Video, etc. – the higher it’s likely to rank.
In the Group search results, the top results are feature Groups that receive 10+ posts a day (and it tells you that under the name). Make sure you’re community is active by posting engaging consistent, engaging content like polls, open-ended questions, and running events like live Q&As.
Facebook Search for Places
If you’re a local business especially, you’ll want to pay attention to this part.
The places section returns results as they pertain to a specific user. So if you’re trying to attract a local clientele, make sure your Page is optimized for location.
- Fill in all location information – address, phone number, opening hours
All of this should be kept up-to-date and accurate so users can find you.
- Adopt local SEO practices
Local SEO rules apply.
Make sure your titles and descriptions are optimized as well with any important keywords. Think about what people search for in regards to your business; words like “cafe,” “boutique,” and “pizza place” are common searches, and should be included if they’re relevant to you business.
Facebook Search for Apps
Have an app? Facebook has a whole section for that.
You can connect your app to Facebook, and when clicked on in the search results users will be sent directly to your app page.
Optimizing it for search is similar to how you would optimize any other category: the emphasis is on engagement and the inclusion of relevant keywords.
Remember, people might not be searching for your app specifically. For example, recipes. If your app falls into that category, that’s a word you want to include in your title and a short description.
This is another time to collect reviews and promote like crazy. The more monthly users your app has, the higher it will appear in search results.
Facebook for Search Events
Facebook Events have been around for a while, but they don’t just have to live on your Page.
They too have a dedicated section in the Facebook’s search engine.
To get the to the top, fill out all information (title, description, overview) with descriptive keywords – and do not skip location information.
Searches on Facebook often look like this: “events near me,” or “marketing events near me.” In order to appear, your business needs to specify the exact location, date, and time of the event.
And remember: the title of your event is extremely event. It should be searchable and clearly get the topic of the event across.
How Can Brands Be Found on Facebook Search?
Facebook represents a unique take on your typical search features. To be found, businesses need to take into consideration both SEO and social best practices.
Barry Schwartz outlined a few important differences that hold true today:
“With Facebook Search, the objects we search for aren’t Web pages but instead virtual representations of real world objects: people, places and things. The connections are primarily Facebook Likes. Did such-and-such a person like a particular photo? A particular doctor? A particular restaurant? Those likes are the ties that bind the information in Facebook together.”
Facebook goes beyond traditional SEO by giving weight to the connectivity between followers and friends. If a friend liked it, you’re more likely to see it.
To be found in Facebook Search, businesses need to first focus on optimizing for traditional SEO. That means focusing on:
- Page titles, URLs
- Select the most appropriate category
- Completely fill in the description and About section using descriptive keywords
- Add a link to your website
- Post regular, quality content
- Make sure it’s related to your business
- Ask people to interact with your content – ask questions, tell them to comment, like, or share, etc.
- Make it creative and unique
- Include descriptive keywords relevant to the post
- Link to your blog, website
- Photos and videos
- Include as many photo and video posts as possible; historically, they perform very well on Facebook
- Encourage users to share your photos
- Create and share infographics
Once you’ve covered the SEO basics, it’s time to work on
Engagement Signals for Facebook Search
Social signals – likes, comments, check-ins – are important ranking factors for Facebook search.
As we covered above, the brands that earn the top spots in Group, Places, Events, App, etc. searches are those with the largest amount of followers and engagement.
The bottom line here is that you need to build a strong, engaged following to excel in Facebook searches.
First, build brand awareness.
Once you’ve created a Facebook presence, you need to promote it to your target audience in every way possible. Talk about on your blog and email newsletter, and include links wherever you can.
It also means utilizing Facebook’s tools, like brand awareness ads.
Next, create engagement.
A big following isn’t enough. You need a big, engaged following.
Easier said than done, yes, but there are a few proven ways to get your audience talking:
- Ask the audience a question
- Hold a contest
- Include calls to action (CTAs)
- Run a poll
For more on how to boost engagement, click here.
Introduction to Edgerank
To maximise your exposure and potential engagement, you have to take Edgerank into consideration.
EdgeRank is Facebook’s algorithm for deciding when and if a post appears to a specific user. The more a user has interacted with a page, the more likely it is to appear in their feed.
The EdgeRank equation looks like this: E = UWD
- U = Affinity score between you and your audience; the more interaction, the higher the score
- W = wieght for EdgeRank type; videos have a different weight, images have a different weight, text with different types of tags have a different weight, etc.
- D = Time decay factor; when was the post sent out?
Facebook combines all those factors – your affinity score, the weight of your post, and the timing – to determine what’s shown in user’s newsfeeds.
Improving your EdgeRank will improve your overall visibility, and therefore your ability to appear in relevant searches.
Start by making sure you’re targeting the right people with the right content.
To do so, I like to run a sentiment analysis. That should incorporate the following:
- Sources of traffic – find this in Facebook Insights; it will tell you which sources sent traffic to your page, and lets you create more content that will align with the traffic that’s coming to your page
- Tab Analytics – Facebook will show you your individual tabs and how much traffic each gets; if you find some are getting more traffic and engagement, focus more on them. If some aren’t, cut them out and start over (or remove altogether)
- Demographics of people visiting your page – look inside Google analytics and find the demographics, take that information and compare it to your social media demographics and use that combined information to create your personas and content
- Action on page – you can see how many actions are taken on the page and which demographics are taking those actions; then you can then refine your strategy to better target
- Where fans are online – find when your audience is most active to form a more effective posting schedule
- Top posts – filter your best posts by engagement and apply that information to your future editorial calendar
- Tags and hashtags – make sure you’re using the right tags and hashtags to improve your EdgeRank
Once you’ve completed the analysis, you should have a better handle on who is actually engaging with your content (and which kinds of content they prefer), which will help you form a more effective strategy going forward.
Other Ways to Improve Engagement for Facebook Search
Post format is important when it comes to Facebook.
A 2016 Quintly study on Facebook video formats found that when comparing native videos to YouTube, Facebook native videos received a 109.67% higher interaction rate and 477.76% higher share rate.
Interaction’s what we’re going for here, and clearly video is the way to get there.
Narrow Down Your Audience
This may seem counterintuitive, but hear me out.
Hopefully, you have a pretty solid handle on your target audience. But if it’s a pretty broad one, it may be helpful to narrow down by certain interests or locations.
Facebook allows you to set preferences for each post, and though it will reach less people, honing in on only those your post is most relevant to will likely lead to a boost in engagement.
According to Facebook, users spend 3X more time watching Live videos than non-Live videos, and they’re more likely to appear higher in news feeds.
So spend some time brainstorming with your marketing team different ways you can use live videos for your business.
Participate in Groups
Remember, it’s all about exposure. By joining and participating in groups related to your industry or product, you can expose your brand to a large community of like-minded friends and followers.
As you begin to post quality feedback and answer community questions, members of the group will be more likely to seek you and your business out on Facebook and engage with you there.
Facebook Search Key Takeaways and Tips
In general, here are a few of the most important you want to keep in mind when optimizing for Facebook Search:
- Always include photos – whether it’s your Page, Group, or Event (both a profile and cover photo are required to make your business Page visible in searches)
- Set a call-to-action button – on your Page, make sure you click the call-to-action button and select the most appropriate one for your page
- Post consistently – the more posts your Page or Group has, the higher it will rank. If you don’t have an active community yet, make sure you’re posting engaging content a few times a week
- Fill out all information – again, this one applies across the board. Make sure you’ve filled in a searchable title, location information, and an optimized description
- Consistently work on building engagement – remember, Facebook is all about connections and prioritizes posts and pages that are liked by user’s friends. The more follows or likes you have, the larger your network will be
Facebook Search FAQ:
1. Does Facebook Search Offer Any Kind of Filtering?
Type any search term in the search bar and check out the results. Then, look at the content in the left-hand sidebar. You’ll see that there are plenty of ways to filter the results.
Specifically, you can filter by:
- Post author
- Post type
Note that when you click on any of those elements, the filter will take effect immediately. That’s unlike some other where apps where you have to click a button to apply the filter.
2. Can People Use Facebook Search for Shopping?
For example, go to Facebook and type “car” in the search bar. Scroll down through the results and you’ll see a section called “Marketplace.” As the name implies, that’s a place where you can do some shopping.
There’s also another Marketplace section that shows photos of cars that you can buy. In addition to the photos, you’ll also see the price in a black bubble.
Although most people use Amazon or Google to search for products they’d like to buy, there’s no doubt that the Facebook search engine can be used for shopping as well.
3. Can Developers Use the API to Find Pages With a Facebook Search?
Facebook offers access to an API that includes a search function.
You will need a user access token to use it, though.
Additionally, your app will have to go through a review process for the Public Content Access feature permission.
Once you’ve completed those steps, you can search for a page based on its name, ID, location, or link.
By default, the Facebook API will return a JSON response that your application can parse.
Wrapping Up Facebook Search
We’ve covered a lot here. But the most important takeaway is this: your focus should continue to be on growing your audience on Facebook.
Combined with incorporating SEO best practices, it’s the best way to increase your reach on Facebook.