Up Close With Facebook Graph Search

Danny Sullivan on
  • Categories: Channel: SEO, Facebook: Facebook Search, Features: Analysis
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  • We’ve covered the launch of Facebook Graph Search, explored how it differs from Google search but now it’s time for the hands-on. Come along for a tour of how it works.

    Sign-Up & Wait 

    To get started, you have to sign-up, where you’ll be added to a waiting list. There’s no particular ETA of when you’ll actually have it enabled:

    Expect it to likely take days and possibly weeks, especially if you’re late to signing-up. But when it happens, you’ll see a notice like this:

    The New Search “Box” That’s Not A Box

    Once you’ve turned on Graph Search, you’ll see the old-style search box go away to be replaced with the new bolder look:

    The tricky thing is that it’s not a new box that is taking over, not at first glance. Instead, you have to start typing in the “Search for people, places and things” area to get a search box to appear:

    It’s a clever idea, because it helps avoid confusion with people trying to search within that other important box on Facebook, the status update box.

    The search box, as you can see above, also suggests some initial search topics, such as:

    • Restaurants nearby
    • Music my friends like
    • Photos I have liked

    Looking For Photos

    The “Photos I have liked” search is pretty cool:

    It’s hard to believe you couldn’t do this on Facebook before. It also made me smile, because I have a lot of friends with kids who share pictures of them doing cute and adorable things. So my “Photos I have liked” stream was full of happy pictures.

    It becomes even more compelling how this will allow you to do a better job of going through your content on Facebook itself, as you drill into more suggestions, such as the “Photos I’ve Liked & Commented on” search:

    That’s an awesome type of search I’d have never thought to do. Biddy Biddy.

    But how about exploring beyond your own content. Sure. Anyone for photos taken in a particular place? Say Newport Beach? And say, in a particular time, like 2012? Facebook’s got you covered:

    Looking For People

    Enough with pictures and their thousands of words. Let’s look for people, which is currently the main search activity people do on Facebook. They’re typically trying to find people they know. But now, they can discover new people, say “People Nearby” their current location:

    That reminds me. I really need to catch up with Dave McClure.

    How about people who work for Google and live in Sydney? Yeah, Facebook can and did do that for me. I won’t show those results, because it’s hard for me to tell if I’m seeing some of the people because of information that’s only visible to me.

    But these kinds of searches along with others are possible, such as people I know who went to my college and live in Washington DC or people who went to my college in 1988:

    Don’t trust that guy. Nah, trust him. Good taste in films.

    Then there’s the type of search that makes me think LinkedIn might get a little nervous. Say you work at Facebook and would like to snag some Googlers? What better way than to figure out who works at Facebook but previously worked at Google. Yeah, Facebook Graph Search can do that:

    That Elliot Schrage guy, he’s probably got some connections. Keep in mind you can do this for any number of companies, too. It’s not just for Silicon Valley media giants.

    Searching For Places

    Now let’s make Yelp a bit nervous. Where to eat? How about asking about restaurants in a particular city that are liked by my friends:

    Calafia’s great, by the way, whether you want a quick bite or whether you’re the CEOs of Google and Apple looking to negotiate an impasse. No, really, that happened.

    Of course, I mentioned in my other story, How The New Facebook Search Is Different & Unique From Google Search, that there can be an issue if your friends aren’t really connecting in a way that’s helpful. Here’s an example of that:

    Trust me, Newport Dunes isn’t a hot restaurant in Newport Beach. The problem here is that I don’t have a lot of friends who actually check-in on Facebook to restaurants in the city. That makes this search result fairly weak for me.

    Searching For Things & Facebookpedia

    Lastly, Facebook lets you look for things. Things? I suppose anything that doesn’t fit into the people, places and photos category. Here’s an example, “things” that people who are my friends and who also like Barack Obama like:

    NPR. Who would have figured!

    These kinds of searches lead quickly into what I consider to be Facebookpedia-mode, where you start just browsing and searching out of curiosity.

    Jodie Foster and Lance Armstrong both had big news this week. If you wanted to have some music for a friend who likes them both, what would that be? Crazy, but Facebook gives you an answer:

    More practically, know two people and want to know what music, movies or other things they have in common? Enter their names, and Facebook can come back with matches.

    The Bing Integration

    Finally, Bing has long been Facebook’s web search partner. With the new implementation, it feels a little more visible for searches where Facebook itself doesn’t have an answer (and Bing has a short post with more about this):

    But then again, when I asked Facebook “who won the golden globes,” it kept trying to send me into various types of Facebook Graph Search matches, none of which were what I wanted. I had to really struggle to get the web search option for Bing to appear.

    No doubt, this will improve, as will Facebook Graph Search overall.

    It remains very early days, but I already find it fascinating the types of searches this is allowing me to do, searches I hadn’t contemplated before. It reminds me of how in the past, we wouldn’t have thought of doing things like YouTube searches or Twitter searches, since we didn’t have those resources. Now, we search at these places for unique needs. Facebook is a great repository of data, and it finally has a search catching up to all it knows.

    To come in the near future, how does Facebook’s new search really do against similar searches at places like Google and Yelp?. Expect some head-to-head action.

    About The Author

    Danny Sullivan
    Danny Sullivan was a journalist and analyst who covered the digital and search marketing space from 1996 through 2017. He was also a cofounder of Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land, Marketing Land, MarTech Today and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo and MarTech events. He retired from journalism and Third Door Media in June 2017. You can learn more about him on his personal site & blog He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.