Is Facebook Stepping Up to Search & Display?

If there is one company on a mission to capitalize on search and display, it’s Facebook. Recent evidence this year shows that the social giant is stepping up its game across both channels – in search, they have announced the Graph Search, and in display, they have made big waves with consistent announcements surrounding the Facebook Exchange (FBX).

Impact On Search

Today, Facebook serves as a gateway to the Internet, much like Google. Until now, each company has taken its own approach via a specific channel – one through search and the other through social. More recently, they have begun encroaching on one another’s turf – Google with its Google+ social network and Facebook with its Graph Search.

What Facebook has created with Graph Search is another searchable mechanism for consumers. Eventually, this could open up a number of monetary opportunities for Facebook in the form of search advertising.

Additionally, for search marketers, this creates another avenue for advertisers to reach a targeted audience based on search activity. The difference on Facebook is how the search functionality works. Instead of an organic search, you receive personalized results based on your Facebook friends’ experiences – where they have traveled, what they like, brands that they follow, etc.

With that said, Graph Search is fairly limited today. It really isn’t a Google or Bing alternative — and obviously, the volume of searches is going to be comparatively low. This begs the question: Is it worthwhile for marketers?

To answer that question, I think it is important to remember that Facebook’s social data offers search marketers another source of data for search advertising. Think of all the additional data points that a search marketer can use when you combine social with search behaviors!

So, the answer is a cautious yes. However, in order for this to really take off, consumers have to actually use Graph Search. Until the level of adoption for Graph Search grows, search advertising on Facebook will not scale.

graph search vs web search

Impact On Display

In a recent whitepaper, “Facebook Marries Real-Time Buying,” John Tuchtenhagen, VP Group Director of Digitas, called the Facebook Exchange “a reach extender.”

[W]ith nearly a billion Facebook users, volume becomes a major asset for FBX and provides a whole new opportunity for brands to extend reach.

Facebook has proved to be a valuable player in display with its recent announcement of FBX and innovation behind News Feed ads — not to mention the impending launch of video ads. Earlier this year, eMarketer reported that Facebook is expected to account for more than 15% of the total display market in 2013. FBX will likely have the largest impact on Facebook’s overall share of display ad spending, which is expected to reach $2.75 billion by year end.

This impact is not just because of the innovation or its enormous user base. FBX is also having an impact by providing more RTB inventory, and, importantly, RTB inventory of a known quality. Advertisers on FBX know where their ads will be displayed, and they also know that the risk of those ads being shown to bots is low because real users are logged in. The value to marketers cannot be understated — a buy through RTB on FBX gives you a known placement, a user that is actively engaging with the content, and impressions that avoid being delivered to bots.


Even though there is a lot of value in credible inventory and volume, it is possible for marketers to cap on reach within FBX. In order to truly leverage the value of display enabled by Facebook, marketers need to use third-party data, including search data for retargeting. Additionally, although companies continue to report positive results from FBX, we should all understand that FBX’s massive supply of inventory combined with cheap pricing will most likely produce strong results for advertisers. So, should we take this additional source of display with a grain of salt? Not entirely.

As Facebook continues to step beyond social and enhance its cross-channel offerings, marketers should expect more opportunities for ad sizes, targeting and data. We don’t know how long cheap prices will hold out, how much display inventory will be available on Facebook’s exchange, and how quickly Graph Search will be adopted by its massive user base. Only time will tell just how much value Facebook will bring to the search and display markets.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Display | Facebook | Facebook: Facebook Search | Search & Display


About The Author: is VP of Technology Operations at Magnetic, and is responsible for spearheading the company’s infrastructure, QA and technology operations.

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  • Neil Pursey

    Facebook search has still a long way to go in my mind. The data that Facebook presents when one does a search is still very basic if at all none existant.. Time will tell…

  • Andrew

    Well I agree with Neil. Facebook Graph search is nowhere near as good as Google… and it has one big problem… it’s limited by Facebook users. Using Graph we can search only through data provided by users. And while the entire world wide web has billions of pages, facebook users can provide very limited info…

    Personally I think that Facebook should keep focus on social while Google on search. Google + wasn’t and never be able to compete with Facebook in social, and Graph search will never be able compete with G search…

    If Facebook will continue fighting about search market (they can’t win anyway) they will lose power in Social…

    There are companies who tried to win similar “wars” (Cola and Pepsi for example) unfortunately results were very bad for them.

    “Marketing Warfare” is a great book that shows mistakes big brands are doing. In my opinion Facebook is making mistake… But time will show.

    P.S However, Graph Search is a powerful marketing tool so some people will love it.


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