Although we're in the early days of social search, it's growing fast, and marketers should allocate more resources toward improving their Facebook visibility. Now is the time to make relevant connections as the average person gets used to "likes" becoming a regular part of their life.
The link between social media and SEO are no longer limited to improving a website's ranking within Google and Bing search results. This has become even clearer now that Facebook has expanded the release of its Graph Search abilities to include all English speaking users in the U.S. -- a big move for the social media juggernaut into the world of search. The Graph Search creates personalized results unique to each user based on their social connections. While the beta version of Facebook Graph Search was released in January, it was limited to a smaller number of users.
In fact, Facebook Graph Search is still limited due to the average person's lack of interest in giving a Facebook "like" to every professional, brand, and place they have positive feelings toward. In the future, however, it could be extremely resourceful as brands are able to make the case for placing a greater emphasis on earning "likes." As a result, people's "liking" habits will grow and rankings will improve within Facebook search.
Facebook "likes" can be compared to Google's version of links. In the early days of the internet, a website owner had little incentive to focus efforts on earning links or linking directly to other websites. As Google's PageRank significantly increased and became better known, the old mentality has drastically shifted to where we stand in today's digital world. Relevant links now appear often within publisher's articles and brands allocate significant resources toward earning links from these publishers.
Examples of Facebook's current search abilities:
- Real estate agents in New York City who are friends of my friends
- Hotels in Boston, Massachusetts that my friends "like"
- Tourist attractions in Orlando, Florida that my friends visited and "liked"
Users then have the ability to narrow their search with filters or expand results to include items such as pictures, videos, and additional connections related to the original search.
In the near future, Graph Search will likely expand to:
- Cars my friends "like" who "like" "Fast and the Furious"
- Companies my friends work for in New York City who are hiring
- Shoe brands my friends "like" who run marathons
While Facebook never included a "dislike" button, it may eventually allow users to identify places visited by their friends which failed to earn a "like." If someone is active enough on Facebook to check-in at a destination, it's a safe assumption that they are prone to giving a "like" to places they enjoy.
According to Facebook, using "not" in this search is not yet supported. This means that in the future, it's possible that not earning a Facebook "like" could actually hurt your brand.
As the world's most well-known social network transitions into search, SEO and social media marketing efforts must be integrated and optimized. Here are six actions that brands should take to improve Facebook graph performance.
Optimize your Facebook page
While Facebook's unique search experience focuses heavily on a user's social network, it can also influenced by relevant content. Brands should ensure that their page is properly categorized and has natural keyword optimization within its title, URL, and the "about" section of their page. Furthermore, if you are a location-focused brand, make sure you are providing the right address and contact information to optimize for local search.
Convert visitors into "likes" and understand their true value
It's true most brands have a conversion target prioritized above acquiring Facebook "likes," but there should be a strong attempt toward converting and measuring Facebook "likes" beyond a link to the Facebook page -- in the footer of the website. Someone who passes on buying a product today, but converts as a "like," may actually result in many sales over time as your brand is given a boost within their social circle.
Engage in social content marketing
Creating shareable content is one of the best ways to expand your brand's reach and attract more connections within social networks. Taking a quantitative approach to social media activity is a great way to refine your social content marketing strategy. Analyze Facebook Insights to compare how many shares and "likes" different posts receive and tailor your content strategy to maximize future post reach.
Connect with employees on Facebook
Encouraging employees to connect with your brand on Facebook was already important, but becomes more significant with Graph Search -- having employees "like" your page improves your chances of showing up in searches that are relevant to your brand. As Graph Search popularity grows, people may use it to research your brand before applying for a job or hiring your service. If someone searches for "friends who work at (your company)" and a familiar face appears, it helps build trust in your brand.
Turn Facebook visitors into sales
As Facebook promotes its search offering, it is likely that pages will naturally receive more traffic as Facebook attempts to change people's search habits. Brands must make sure their Facebook page is set-up to convey the most up-to-date marketing message and convert visitors into customers.
At the moment, the ability to leverage Facebook Graph Search varies depending on a brand's industry. While local restaurant owners can expect an immediate change in activity, an ecommerce company may have to wait for an improvement in Facebook's data mining capabilities to see a significant change in Facebook search traffic. All companies, however, should be focused on how to build their brand visibility within Graph Search to achieve strong positioning within a growing search engine.
Implement Open Graph protocol metadata on your site
A brand must also take action to control how its content is displayed when someone shares a page of its website on Facebook. Implementing Open Graph protocol metadata allows the marketer to identify preferred content attributes -- such as title, description, URL, site name, image, as well as the type of content on the website. A complete list of meta properties is available at ogp.me.
For reasons beyond Facebook Graph Search, marketers should also implement Schema.org semantic markup, which provides search engines with additional details regarding the content on a given website. Currently, Google is placing emphasis on this additional markup language in order to better understand and index a website's content. In the future, it is likely that Facebook will also use this language to influence their search results.
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