Facebook Must Improve Site Search To Stay Competitive

Advertising industry insiders and analysts anticipate that on-site search will become one of the next services Facebook rolls out. With search ads now part of the social network's offering, the next step to ad targeting points to better search functions that link intent.

For Facebook to "truly go after Google" it will need to compete in search, and Google must go after social to compete with Facebook, according to Brian Solis, principal at research group Altimeter Group, and Pivot conference editorial director. "It took years for Google to create an algorithm to serve up the correct pages from a search query, but Facebook doesn't have the luxury of time," he said.

Bing powers the Web search function in Facebook, confirms a Microsoft spokesperson, but no word if the team that keeps building Facebook features into Bing is helping to build out Facebook's site search. Facebook did not respond to requests for comment.

Microsoft on Thursday introduced a feature that allows friends to search for photos on Facebook, as well as "like" them and add comments from the search engine. Users upload more than 300 million photos to Facebook daily.

Better site search on Facebook should improve ROI for advertisers. Research from Nanigans suggests the search ads Facebook launched last week provides insight into improvements. The ads tagged as "Sponsored" look similar to organic search results. Compared with marketplace ads, the recently launched Facebook search product produces click-through rates that are 23 times higher, 78% lower cost per click, and 14% higher app install rates.

When it comes to monetizing social campaigns, marketers ask the wrong questions, Solis said. Too many are conditioned to look for clicks, conversions, traffic, likes and comments, but these are ineffective. The strategy does not consider the culture of the network. Marketers need to stop thinking about Facebook ad units as inventory and start thinking about designing a series of ads for users.

Research firm eMarketer revised Facebook revenue estimates downward Thursday to slightly more than $5 billion in 2012 -- down from more than $6 billion in February. Revenue should increase rise 31% in 2013, as Facebook continues to roll out new ad products, such as an ad exchange.

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1 comment about "Facebook Must Improve Site Search To Stay Competitive".
  1. Kevin Lee from Didit , August 31, 2012 at 3:09 p.m.
    There is definitely huge room for improvement in Facebook internal search. However, the biggest challenge to improved FB search is that huge percentages of members have incomplete profiles. This is very different than LinkedIn where profiles are more likely to be complete, allowing for better search results. Of course FB probably knows much more about members than what's in their profile, but that can't be exposed in a search algo.