I have been travelling for a couple of weeks, so this post is coming a little late, however I feel that some discussion about a couple of enormous headlines from Facebook would be appreciated.
In case you have not heard, there were two key announcements from Facebook over the past couple of weeks…
For different reasons, both of these events have potentially game changing impacts on the search world, which will ultimately also affect SEO. Let’s take a look at each event…
So what’s different about the new Facebook search functionality? To answer that, we need to think about how Bing, Google, Yahoo and other search engines currently enable users to search social networking data.
Fundamentally Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Reddit and all other social network sites are just another website to the search engine crawlers. If a particular profile page, fan page or other section of the site has more internal/external links pointing to it, then it is considered to be more popular and therefore more likely to appear higher in the search engine results. A more popular page also passes on more popularity to the pages it links to.
Likewise, the number of clicks away from the homepage a particular page will be used as a significant indicator to it’s importance. The benefits of this can be seen by links which are ‘Dugg’ by lots of people on Digg.com, since the most popular URLs appear on the homepage, or within an increasing number of clicks away from it as the popularity falls.
Individuals or organisations who are popular on sites like Facebook and Twitter have many links pointing to them, so are more likely to be crawled regularly by search engine crawlers. It is impossible for the crawlers to regularly crawl and re-index the millions of other, less frequently updates pages which make up the huge social networks on search site, so they must prioritise the ones which they consider to be important.
If we focus on Facebook as an example, what this means is that whilst the search engines may allow me to find links to my friend’s profile pages with a simple search of their name, it is unlikely that their profile pages are considered important enough to be crawled regularly, so it will be difficult for me to search for recent content they may have shared (such as links, videos, photos, blog entries, etc…).
Even if the search engine crawlers could crawl my friend’s profile pages regularly, it is difficult/impossible for me to search for only content they have published (as opposed to content published by hundreds of millions of Facebook users).
The new Facebook search completely changes this with two key features…
The Facebook newsfeed contains status updates, photos, videos, blogs posts, links, comments and usually all kinds of other updates from various activities completed on Facebook, or in one of it’s plug-in applications.
So, 2 days before I flew to China (2 weeks ago), I performed a simple search on my Facebook (for ‘China) account and could instantly see up to the minute information from my network of friends, after which I realised that 1 friend had just flown home from the exact place I was about to go (Shanghai), a Microsoft colleague was in China present to our MVPs and my cousin had been on a Chinese back packing trip 2 weeks ago from which she has posted photos. . .
So instead of going to a search engine and finding results for China travel agents, hotel sales and reviews from strangers, I could instantly see recent posts from my friends and family (and organisations I am a fan of) and get trusted advice from my chosen network. Think about it! That has never been possible before! That is history in the making! :-)
The second piece of news which coincided with the announcement about the new search functionality (I am sure it was not completely accidental) reveals even more about Facebook’s strategy to become a central pillar in the online social world.
In case you do not know, FriendFeed is basically an aggregator for all of your other social networks (including Facebook). It allows you to provide a newsfeed from Twitter, Digg, Stumbleupon, blogs, LinkedIn, Last.FM, to name just a few of dozens of other supported services. . .
I already had my FriendFeed feed integrated in to Facebook, which means that everyone time I add a video to Youtube, add a new blog entry, specify that I ‘love’ a song on Last.FM or take any other action on a service which is monitored by my FriendFeed, my Facebook friends network is automatically sent an appropriate update. . .
These updates are also displayed on my FriendFeed homepage. . .
The huge variety and popularity of Facebook applications also means that many users have at least one external service which is updating their Facebook newsfeed with activities from external sites (via FriendFeed or directly). With the acquisition of FriendFeed, Facebook will most certainly strengthen this existing capability and move closer to becoming the truly single portal for social networking.
So not only does Facebook have the largest worldwide user base for social networking sites, they arguably also now offer the most comprehensive real time search across most popular social networks. I expect this functionality to improve significantly as the detailed plans of the FriendFeed acquisition become apparent. Facebook search just got serious!
Twitter lets you search their database in real time for the latest information on a topic, but will Facebook soon offer a similar/better alternative across all of your social networks?
Try searching from your Facebook – What are your friends talking about? What are you customers talking about? Bing or Google? Holidays or recession? Software bugs or cool features? What opportunities can you take to drive awareness of your content in network specific or public searches?
Have you got a Facebook page? Do you publish links to your content on Facebook? Does your network of friends/fans re-publish your links, so that their network of friends can see them?
If the answer to any of the above is no, do you think it’s ABOUT time you started thinking about doing more on Facebook? I do :-)