Although Google's dominance of valuable search traffic market share seems beyond question, Facebook is making strides to secure a larger portion of it. Currently, Google has more than 63% of traffic in mobile search, where the growth is considered to be, and a monopoly on search traffic in general of 95%, according to industry intelligence gathered by comScore. However, Facebook has been steadily modifying how search works on its platform in ways that could mean new changes are coming to the local search landscape.
This is good news for businesses that would like more options to capture local customers while searching locally. Recently, industry expert SearchEngineLand.com noted the seven key improvements that Facebook is making after having tested each to see if they truly delivered:
- Using location much more effectively
Local business pages on Facebook have now changed to prominently highlight maps and directions at the top on "Home" and "About" pages. Many searches from the top search box also automatically return results based on the user's location. This provides truly local search results, SearchEngineLand.com says, noting that clicking through to see all results opens the "Places" tab and provides more results within three miles.
- Places are prioritized
In the past, the functionality of the "Places" tab was sorely lacking, according to SearchEngineLand.com, but now that has changed: "Facebook Places today is not only highly functional, it is the first information provided when relevant (i.e., when a search is made that implies a place or local business). For example, a search for "Texas Beaches" or "Plumbing services" returned Places results at the top, followed by pages of local businesses. And Facebook recognizes when location is not relevant — a search for "Wonder Woman movie" returned videos, news and a Wikipedia page."
- Search engine results are much more robust and complete
Search results on Facebook are now much deeper and provide more valuable information. The publication tested lawyer listings and found that they now show profile pictures, addresses, distance from the searcher, whether offices are still open, and a star rating, as well as a description of the type of law the firm or attorney practices.
- Improved indexing of information
Previously, Facebook had poor indexing of information in its search function, according to SearchEngineLand.com. Now, that is improved with the addition of suggested search terms that appear when a user is typing in the search box. These suggested search terms frequently pull up business categories that Facebook offers its business users to identify what kind of business they are. In this way, Facebook helps the searcher use search terms that will provide better results as indexed on the platform, the publication notes.
- Facebook is beta testing new features, including integrating friend posts and local search
Facebook hopes to compete with Google by incorporating its social media data with search results to make sure its offering is as good as its competitor's. According to industry expert TechCrunch, the company is now testing its improvements with some users to determine if extra posted information about a place or business makes a difference in their search and a business' ability to tap into valuable "word of mouth" leads. Facebook also is changing its map results from static to interactive, which SearchEngineLand.com says is a necessary addition to its search function: "The map functions much like Google or Apple Map local searches, providing business listings with pin locations on the map that can be pinched in or zoomed out."
- Facebook is using crowdsourcing to build out its database
Facebook appears to be leveraging the already proven tactic of tapping into its wealth of "free manpower" in the form of users providing recommendations, much the way Google uses its "local guides".
According to SearchEngineLand.com, some users are being asked to provide input into details about places that they've checked into via Facebook Editor. When the user checks in or tags a place, a series of yes-or-no questions are asked, such as "Does this place have parking?" or "Is this the right location on the map?" or "Is this the same place as [another name]?"
SearchEngineLand.com columnist Wesley Young notes: "Based on the information that I've been asked to verify, it appears that Facebook does have a fair amount of inaccurate information — leftovers from allowing users to create new place listings themselves. What appears to be a selective "trusted" editor function is an attempt to rectify that, but it also is making some users unhappy. Facebook didn't ask users to be editors and just automatically asks those questions once a new post is created. A Google search for Facebook editor suggests searches for "delete Facebook editor," "remove Facebook editor" and many other similar search terms — so it's unclear how long Facebook will essentially force its users to help clean up its database."
He maintains, however, that more accurate and comprehensive information would help further improve Facebook's search function.
- The introduction of city guides
Based on research that social media is boosting travel and entertainment spending as users seek out experiences that they can share with friends and reflect positively on themselves, Facebook has created City Guides that provide information on popular places such as restaurants and sights for frequently visited cities, according to SearchEngineLand.com.
The guides list the user's friends who have visited the city, and by tapping on each friend's name the user can see a list of places that the friend visited while there. The guides also list "local favorites" and Young says they have more of a "TripAdvisor feel that is more personalized or targeted and adds a rich surf-and-discover function to Facebook's local search experience."
How to benefit from the new Facebook changes
With the improvements that Facebook is making, SearchEngineLand.com notes that users will have more reason to spend more time on the platform and consume more content. This can easily result in small businesses that already benefit from the engagement it provides becoming customers of its advertising offerings.
We agree that it's a good idea for businesses to review their local pages' "About" section, checking for how information appears in search results to make sure it captures search traffic in accordance with Facebook's changes. Both SearchEngineLand.com and we recommend doing the following as soon as possible:
- Review your Facebook business profile and make sure it includes contact information, details about your business and interactive functions you can adopt.
- Make sure your location information is accurate and offers a physical map location that shows up at the top of your business profile when your page is displayed.
- Add business categories that further describe your business. Although you are only asked for one business category when you create your Facebook page, you can return and edit the "About" section to add two more business categories that may help improve visibility, depending on the search terms used.
- Activate buttons that Facebook offers, such as call-to-click and appointment schedulers that help convert traffic to your page.
- Don't leave blanks in any section that might trigger Facebook to crowdsource answers. Your answers will be the most reliable answers.
If your business needs assistance with your Facebook presence or other digital marketing initiatives, contact DAS Group today at 1-800-717-2131.