Facebook confirmed Friday that the social network has stopped using Microsoft’s Bing in its search. Microsoft worked with the social network for eight years to provide search results with Bing.
The social network said the change was made to better help users find what is being shared with them on Facebook and enhance user experience by making it simpler to look at past posts from friends. However, Google has proven how effective a well-organised keyword search can be for advertisers.
During a discussion of the company’s Q2 earnings (28 July 2014), Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg stated that web search would be one of the group’s key growth initiatives. With one billion search queries within the social network everyday, there is a huge opportunity.
Improving “Graph Search”
There have been other moves to improve its search technology. Last week (8 December) in the US it introduced a tool to allow iOS users to better search the activities of their friends. The “keyword search” allows users to look through old posts or find recommendations and reviews from friends with simple keywords.
This is a further development of Facebook’s “graph search” which was released in March 2013 and for the first time allowed users to access an internal search engine that responds to natural language queries and delivers user-specific search results.
Leo Ryan, group head of social at Ogilvy & Mather Group, says: “What Facebook is doing [with its latest search changes] that brands should pay attention to is improving its “graph search”. Brands need to think about what keywords they are most likely to be associated with and how to optimise for that so that their content, or posts from their fans, are found through ‘graph search’.”
This could be a step towards better search functionality. Previously it was reported that search options were too basic to be of use for advertisers, according to Chris Buckley, chief digital officer at TMW Unlimited.
“Better search options will create more visibility for brands and more insight into search behaviour within a social context,” he says.
Keyword search is an important step for Facebook because it indexes content within its own walled garden, which was previously swathes of uncategorised information.
Although there will be no ads on Facebook’s mobile search, keywords can carry lucrative purchase potential and better targeting for brands. Just today (15 Dec) Searchmetrics reported that more than one in five UK consumers would have looked on Facebook for information on gifts to buy this Christmas.
Independent web search product
According to Ryan its unlikely that Facebook will launch its own web search engine that competes with Google or Bing outside its own platform. He adds that creating a web search product would put Facebook in direct competition with one of the smartest media companies – Google – in the world in one of the most difficult areas of marketing.
In regards to Facebook dropping Bing from its search tool Ryan says: “Facebook is really only interested in improving its ad product so that users click on more ads or in improving its user experience so that users go there more frequently (and therefore click on more ads),” he says.
Search is complex and Facebook currently has more than a trillion posts to index within the platform, according to Buckley. It is partly why better search options have taken so long to develop.
He adds: “As with all Facebook updates, it will be rolled out slowly and bit by bit.”