Facebook “Search War” With Google Mostly Sound And Fury

The people running Facebook are an ambitious crew; they see Facebook as a successor to Google in many respects. In fact many of the executives used to work at Google, including CTO Bret Taylor, COO Sheryl Sandberg, Advertising VP David Fischer and Communications VP Elliot Schrage, among others.

However as a search property Facebook has, in the past, been almost unusable and no threat to Google or any other search engine. In fact, it has been (so far) a missed opportunity for Facebook partner and investor Microsoft. But Microsoft’s Bing is becoming more prominent on Facebook and the site itself has tried to improve search.

Now the AllFacebook Blog declares that Facebook has declared “war” on Google with an “Open Graph Search Engine” that will create a semantic index of the web (via the Like button) and (eventually) make Facebook search better than Google. Have we thus entered the era of “Facebook SEO”? Should publishers and marketers be optimizing sites for Facebook search and SEO?

Over the past year Facebook has seen growth in search query volumes and has started to approach AOL in terms of overall query volume share, according to comScore. And certainly Facebook search has considerable potential — but that’s still what it is: potential.

AllFacebook shows that non-Facebook sites are now starting to appear and rank in “Facebook” results (as opposed to “Web Results”), as though they were internal Facebook pages — based on how many “Likes” they have:

This is interesting and may begin to create some new user behavior at Facebook, and among publishers/marketers. But Facebook has a long way to go before it can effectively replace Google or any other search engine.

In general the search user experience on Facebook is ambiguous and cluttered. (Marty Weintraub at aimClear details “Facebook Ranking Factors,” which illustrate some of the confusion in Facebook results.) In addition the information available via Facebook search (as opposed to Bing on Facebook) is quite thin right now.

Google, Yahoo and Bing (proper) provide a much more coherent and complete user experience when people really need information.

Has Facebook become an important — even critical — marketing vehicle and promotional tool? Absolutely. Is its search engine going to challenge Google in the near term? Not a chance — at least not without radical change and improvement.

As Danny said to me in an email and a comment on the aimClear blog, “If this is declaring war on Google, Facebook’s starting out by sending a boat against a battle fleet.”

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Facebook | Google: Employees | Google: General | Top News

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • http://bret.appspot.com/ Bret Taylor

    This is Bret Taylor, CTO of Facebook. I just wanted to clarify a couple of things.

    First, Open Graph-enabled web pages have been appearing in search since the product launched in april. This is not new and not indicative of a change in strategy.

    Likewise, only the pages you have personally liked appear in your personalized search results. While we plan on increasing the pages’ distribution through search in the future, right now, search is not the focus of the team working on product. We are focused on discovery and enabling users to build out their profile by liking things around the web.

  • http://bret.appspot.com/ Bret Taylor

    I had a typo in my original comment: only those pages your friends have liked will appear in your search results (not just the pages you have personally liked)

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Bret, thanks much for your comment and clarification. Appreciated!

  • http://traffic-jockey.com Jamie Barclay

    Thanks Bret for that clarification. But nontheless, this is a great post. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://janetstories.tumblr.com JanBrady

    Ok! I noticed something very big today when searching in Facebook and it lead me to this blog post. My obscure one page website….that has got to be worked on badly totally came up in a Facebook search under Bing. My eyeballs did a double take. How? Why? did my page come up? Nothing links me to it. It is just a simple little place-card one page thing until the real site is up. If they are going to FAVOR Bing and not Google…..everyone better snap to it and get going on the Bing Bandwagon!! I know I am….I am going to do the site myself tonight and get it up and looking good now. Decided not to spend money on a graphic person that is tied to GoDaddy – too many problems lately with them so I am off to do things myself. Thanks for shedding some light on this. All those past Google employees want to slay the beast…….and by siding with Bing – they show their power. Everyone start fine tuning your marketing now!

  • http://www.articlesbase.com/pets-articles/dogpedic-reviews-where-to-buy-dog-sleep-system-2612118.htm eleanloui

    “”If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

    Google should not offer any privacy controls, then, in a single product of theirs. They should not tout “security” as important in their products. After all, why have *any* privacy if it’s not important?

    But they do this. It is a completely hypocritical thing for their CEO to say one thing but the company itself provides the opposite opinion through every single one of their products. Dogpedic

  • http://www.doyoualoha.com mkematt

    Although I believe that Facebook has a long way to go before it can compete against the likes of Google, we may be finally looking at the initial stages of true “Personalized Search”.

    Think about it! Facebook collects mass amounts of personal information from its constituents (likes, comments, friends, family, connections, etc.). It has a large database of unique, individualized statistics in which to provide highly targeted search results (once Facebook gets the search aspect better integrated into their site). This is one area where the big 3 have tried and failed miserably.

    The very nature of the Facebook platform allows them to capitalize more heavily within this area of search than any other site before its time. I’m not saying that this is a definite. I’m saying it’s a very strong possibility (as a long-term strategy anyway).

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