It may seem like an exercise in futility to take on Google when it comes to search. Likewise, it seems a sucker’s bet to take on Facebook when it comes to creating a social network where you can post cat photos or brag about your trip to Aruba. To that end, both Google and Facebook have seemed content to dominate their realms, with Google abandoning its Google+ attempt at its social network and Facebook not taking search seriously. That seems like a wise move considering Google owns 63 percent of overall search and a virtual monopoly at 95 percent of mobile search.
Still, Facebook wants its users to spend even more of their valuable time on their pages. Making your friends jealous with your overexposed Cancun vacation pictures wasn’t enough, so Facebook made posting video incredibly easy. Then they made it easy to post and share news (albeit sometimes made up) stories, so now it’s the place many people get all of their news.
It appears Facebook now wants you to stay on your page and do your searches, too. With its sea of users and millions of business pages, coupled with all of the location, behavioral, and demographic data, it would seem obvious that Facebook could have great search possibilities. But their efforts have been mixed thus far, with a user experience and search return quality nowhere near what Google offers.
But Facebook is making a new push into search, and with its social media data, it could add some elements to local search that even mighty Google can’t match. Here are some things Facebook is doing to improve its search capabilities.
Location is accurate
Of course, location is critical for local search. What’s the point of looking for the closest pet boarding facility when results show up from a city two states away? Previously, if the user didn’t specify the location in the search, Facebook returned results from all over the place. Now the listings are truly local, utilizing Facebook’s location data. Plus, they added a map (like Google) and pins.
Results are more complete
Facebook now returns deeper search results, including photos and ratings. Up until just a year or so ago, searches could return just a couple barebones listings. Still, results can be inaccurate — often searches for a local service such as dog boarding will return results from four states away, particularly if the title of the business has some overlap such as the word “Park” in the title.
Indexing is better
Facebook search was a joke, not returning even well-known results as recently as a year ago. This was due to poor information indexing. Although there are still gaps (especially when compared to the thoroughness of Google), search results use existing information much better now. Facebook also added suggested search terms when the user starts typing in the search box.
Using its power to its advantage
Facebook seems to know it will never match Google in basic search, so it is adding what it does best — social media — to its search function. In place listings, Facebook is testing including mini profile pictures of friends who have either posted about the business or have checked in at the business.
This kind of intimacy could make a big difference for a local business. Word-of-mouth is by far the best generator for new business. Because you know the person or people talking about the business, the power of their recommendation has far more weight than a review from someone you don’t know. People trust their friends, and this kind of recommendation and inclusion in search could change local search in Facebook’s favor.
City Guides on Facebook are an area of search that differs from generic Google search. If you’re searching for a place like the Lincoln Memorial not only will the place come up, but so too will your friends who have been there, along with their posts about it. Again, familiarity with the reviewer, in this case, can make a big difference in the decision to visit the location or not.
So, how does your practice make sure it’s getting found?
These improvements seem to show a new dedication on the part of Facebook to become a player in the search world. So, it’s important to be sure your practice is Facebook friendly in this realm. To do this, review the “About” section of your practice Facebook page to be sure the information there is getting you into the relevant searches.
Here are a few steps to help in that area:
- Make sure your Facebook business profile is complete. Check the contact information, the details about your practice, and such.
- Verify your location information so that you can get on the map when your page is displayed.
- Add business categories, if applicable. Although when your page was set up, you had to designate one business category, you can now go back in and edit the “About” section to add two more business categories to help broaden your search potential. For instance, if you’re a dental practice, but you go beyond general dentistry with options such as Invisalign and root canals, you could add Orthodontics and Endodontics to your listings.
- Activate buttons that Facebook offers, such as call-to-click and appointment schedulers to help with conversions.
- Don’t leave any blanks in any section, as you don’t want Facebook to crowdsource answers for you. You want your answers to be the answer shown, even if it is “No” or if you indicate the question doesn’t apply to your practice.
At Advice Media, we’ve long touted the possibility of your practice’s Facebook page as a place to expand your interactions with your patients. Now it appears Facebook also wants to be the place where potential customers can find you through search. It’s an intriguing possibility when considering all of the different personal information Facebook has from your potential patients.
Whether we handle your practice Facebook page or not, if you have any questions about it don’t hesitate to ask your Advice Media representative.