Facebook's Search Engine, Graph Search.

facebook-graph-searchIt's become common knowledge now that Facebook has entered the search engine arena with their new graph search. It seems as though everywhere you look there's information regarding it's features and how to use them. You can get a look at graph search and it's features here at Facebook. What I do want to share with you is how it impacts us as fan page owners and what it means for your business now and in the future.

You can expect to see some big changes to fan pages this year, one of those big changes are going to be how fan pages are represented in graph search. Besides the social connection based search results a user can search for a particular service industry or category with other factors like Geo location and see a list of fan pages based on that category or industry.

Say you are visiting Northampton and you want to go out to an Italian restaurant while you're here, you decide to do a search on Facebook and you find a number of fan pages listed. With graph search, particular attention is drawn to pages your friends have liked, followed by pages that are listed based on certain factors, primarily just one, but we'll get to that in just a moment. You check out and like some of the fan pages on offer but you decide to use the one that has been liked/recommended by your friends, because we tend to trust peer recommendations more than traditional advertising. Or the other scenario is, you may even find yourself being one of those that like to break from the pack and choose a restaurant in the list that has no social connections on the graph with you. Ultimately though, the value in this is huge.

So, if my page meets the search criteria, how do I get my page to the top of the search listing besides having a social connection with the searchers friends?

like-150x150This is a good question and the answer that's going around at the moment should be handled with caution, but right now it is a major factor in your pages rank and the only occasion I can think of right now where it doesn't matter is if your page is in an area where you have absolutely no competition on Facebook, but for the majority of us there is going to be some competition to be seen on the first page of the listings and just like for a website on Google a fan page needs enough of the right kind of back links to be there ahead of the competition and for Facebook fan pages the right kind of back links are LIKES!

You'll even see this change happening when you visit a page and like it from the timeline, you already get a drop down showing you suggested pages based on niche categories but by the time Facebook Graph Search becomes available to the wider audience on Facebook you'll get the pages your friends have liked and the top competing pages.

You see, just Like being on Google's page 1 for certain keywords has enormous value to a business because of capturing a large amount of the search traffic through SEO and the right kind of back links, so it will be for your fan page. Facebook want to give you the opportunity to get your business seen by potentially millions of eyes, just for having the right kind of SEO on your fan page. Facebook want your business to succeed on their website if you're willing to play by their rules and right now their rules for determining where your page ranks in graph search is the number of page likes you have. But is that the end of it?

Graph is big and changing

graph-searchIf we've learnt anything from Facebook and that's nothing ever stays the same. You may remember a while back when Likes had suddenly become unimportant to make way for Facebook's new EdgeRank algorithm and the focus had shifted to getting pages to create better, more engaging content that would get rewarded with greater viral reach, this makes sense right? obviously a page with real engaged fans will spread the brand around Facebook more effectively than a page that just posts spammy sales links all day and doesn't provide value for the user, so we found edgerank was the major player at work, but now the focus has gone back to likes, but I see a big problem here, one that could seriously affect your page in the future.

Since Likes are back on the cards I've started to notice a bunch of new sites springing up ready to sell you likes, by the thousands if you want them, all though these sort of sites are nothing new there seems to be a new rush to pump your page with bucket loads of fans for the very reasons we explained about with the graph search. The big problem I see is that these fans will be fake fans from fake profiles and the sites selling them will have automated systems to like your page. If history has taught us anything you should know that this "Like" gold rush won't last for long and you'd be wise not to get caught up in it. Other than the fact that when a genuine visitor likes your page and they are impressed with your number of fans and it looks good social proof, how are a tonne of false fans going to help your page? are they going to turn in to customers? sign up to your list? is there any point in running a sponsored post to fans who are not going to engage?

By the time Graph Search hits the wider audience you can be assured that "Likes" won't be the only factor at play and we will have a merging of likes and edgerank, so remember, the best way to grow your fan page is to continue mastering the art of content and engagement, targeted ad campaigns and growing your brand in a real way so when graph search finally rolls out for the rest of us, your page is ready for the challenge and isn't going to get left behind because you wasted your time and money on short term quick fix solutions that will lead to poor edgerank. Graph Search is on it's way, don't shoot yourself in the foot before it gets here.

What are your thoughts on Graph Search? Are you on the graph search beta test? if so, tell us what you think of it below, we'd love to hear about it. If you liked this article, let us know by clicking the like button.