Shocker: According To Facebook Talking Points, Facebook Is The Future Of Search

I like Jesse Stay (and am a reader of his blog) and wasn’t initially going to blog this.  But thinking about it further, and as someone who works both on social media and SEO clients/projects, I felt a need to weigh in and not leave this conversation unchecked.

Jesse wrote a post titled “Facebook and the new SEO.”  And I feel like it misunderstands both SEO and the motivations of someone searching the web in the first place.  Very similar to how Ben Elowitz misunderstands Google and thinks media somehow needs to be “saved” from search by Facebook.  Let’s dig into it.

Perhaps the group that should be paying most attention though are those that currently pay attention to SEO for their company, or the brands they represent.  With Facebook’s entry into the search space last week, Facebook should now be part of every company’s SEO plan.

The answer to this at the moment is a tentative “maybe.”  It is premature to say that Facebook’s search engine will get used in any degree of scale for searches other than those seeking things directly in the network, such as people or other objects within the social graph.  While Facebook search is growing (as with more users, it naturally would) user behavior of the web is still Google search as the default.  The branding, relevance and sheer quality of Google’s core product is not going to get trampled simply because another popular web product starts hyping their search.  Ask Bing/MSN how well that went — and they also have a 9 figure user base they get to tap (Hotmail has 343 million users globally).

Just last week, Mark Zuckerberg was quite clear when he said, announcing Facebook’s new Open Graph Protocol, that Facebook was working to make “people index the web”.  No longer are the days of complex algorithms, PhDs focusing on the fastest and most relevant search results through code.  What better way to provide relevant content and experience for what people are looking for, and often even when they don’t even know they need it, than through their friends’ activity on Social Networks.  Search is now all about relevancy.

This paragraph just irks me.  It’s just a vision statement of the Facebook CEO echoed by a Facebook fan.  Their PR team must be proud that influencers such as Jesse simply quote talking points that were obviously crafted to position Facebook against Google.  Zuckerberg and his team are consistently masterful at manipulating the media.  As a PR professional myself, I do have to give them kudos for that.

But to explain why this is wrong:  the web’s link graph is already to a good degree people-driven.  The most valuable links on the web are not built by robots, they’re built by humans.  Also, Google already takes social signals into account when ranking content, so this is not a new innovation to Facebook.  Lastly – search is already all about relevancy.  A relevancy driven by an algorithm we as humans have helped shape.  Google improved and iterated on their algo for years to deliver a ridiculously strong product.  It’s not as if Google is blind to everything happening on the web from a social standpoint.

This paragraph is written as if Google search sucks and Facebook is the web’s saving grace from a search standpoint.  I’ll let you pause and think about just how eloquently Google has already solved the problem of web search.  If you think Facebook is going to define a more relevant algorithm simply through a “like relevancy” you’d have to be drinking some serious Facebook Kool-Aid.  Solving web search is not as simple as some of the tech pundits make it out to be.

SEO is something that is now a standard part of any businesses web budget.  It’s simple – you build common strategies for formulating your content to appear properly in Google and others’ search results.  You try to guess the keywords you want your website to appear high under, and adapt the content of your site to make finding it in search engine results much easier.

(Emphasis on “It’s simple” and “You try to guess the keywords” mine – SEOs: the comments are yours!)

I pointed out in the comments on Jesse’s site just how absurd this statement was.  You don’t “try to guess” the keywords you want your website to appear higher under.  If you do, that’s not SEO, that’s flying blindly.  Also, as someone who works on enterprise level SEO projects, I have to laugh at the “it’s simple” statement. My point with this is that Jesse is writing an article about how Facebook is going to usurp Google and SEOs should take notice, and yet doesn’t quite grasp SEO himself.

Facebook has made it clear that this is a search game.  The release of Open Graph Protocol makes this clearer, and you should be paying attention.  Through your likes, Facebook now has the potential to provide near exact matches of advertising towards exactly what you’re looking for, without you even knowing you needed it.  That, my friends, is the holy grail of advertising.

That’s contextual advertising.  And Google is already doing that – as are other web advertising networks.  The thing is, contextual advertising isn’t necessarily as valuable as search advertising because of the lack of intent.  Just because I “like” something or I’m reading content on a page is not necessarily an indicator I’m actually seeking that product out.  Consider how blind we are to most text link ads on most pages that are contextual.  Yet search ads are a different story.

Facebook just did something huge last week.  It is now in the interest of every single company out there to be getting their brand visible in the Facebook search so this can happen.  This is a search game more than it is social.  Facebook just made it a whole heck of a lot more valuable for you to be investing in SEO, but this time it’s on Facebook’s terms, not Google’s, and in the end everyone wins.

Even if this statement was true, I don’t see why “everyone wins” because it’s on Facebook’s terms, not Google’s.  There is absolutely no logic to that statement unless you are more of a fan of Facebook than Google.

If Facebook isn’t currently a part of your company’s SEO strategy it’s time to start re-thinking what SEO means to you and your company.  Like it or not, Facebook is the new SEO.

Rand at SEOmoz for already debunked this statement nicely.  But further, unless users even start to associate Facebook with web search, this statement is flawed without further argument.  Consumers clearly prefer Google, as say the analytics results of any properly optimized website and search stat numbers.  Facebook is definitely a high value referral source and a great outpost for your social strategy, but to say “Facebook is the new SEO” is pure linkbait and nothing more.