How to Rank in Facebook Search

4th Nov, 2010

Earlier this week I looked at how your posts to Facebook can gain greater visibility, aka how can they be more popular through higher ranking in Top News. After all if a post ranks higher in Top News the more likely fans are to see it, which in turn suggests the more chance the message will get read, clicked, liked, commented on or shared.

Another important aspect in Facebook marketing is being found. Just how does Facebook rank its search results, its not as clear as how Google does it, and sometimes it can feel downright clumsy when compared with the worlds leading search engine. There’s two places to search on Facebook in the suggestion box at the top of the page, the most ideal place to be ranked, and again in the more detailed results page where results can be filtered by people, pages, groups, applications, events, web results, posts by friends and posts by everyone.

Hard To Find?

More often than not searching for brands in Facebook can be difficult especially if;

– Brand name is a common name or commonly used word

– It shares its name with people and places

– Has no unique characteristic to it

– Has such a unique characteristic, spelling, abbreviation etc. that it is hard to remember

– Is a long name with two or more words in it, but the customer only searches for the first word

– It’s a new page or an existing page for a brand

Search By Name

Facebook Search works on names only. So doing a search for a business with a generic name will bring back dozens of other results, of people, pages, places, community pages, apps, all with that name. It’s not like Google where you can type in the business name, location and whatever service it provides to bring back what will more than likely be the answer to your query. Although, in the suture, Bing integration with Facebook might help alleviate this problem if users know to click on ‘Web Results’.

How Facebook Ranks its Search Results

While researching this piece I found this on Facebook SEO. There’s a lot of great points in it and well worth the read. It was written in June and may not be out of date just yet (I’m sure Facebook tweak their ranking system from time to time).

To rank in the auto suggest box the factors in order of importance were;

1. People with the keyword in their name rank first

2. Previous pages/profiles the user visited that contained the keyword will rank higher than pages the user hasn’t visited before.

3. In keeping with the people first aspect Facebook will rank events the user has been invited to. After all its events where people mingle, gossip is created, photo’s are taken and once its over the event lives on, on Facebook.

4. Events the user is attending.

5. A page the user has liked, or whats listed under their profile likes and interests. The piece also mentions if there isn’t a Facebook page for a like or interest facebook will auto generate a community page for it.

6. Next are pages or interests the users friends like

7. Everything else based on fan count

To rank in the results page on Facebook the factors in order of importance were;

1. The user has friends with keyword in their name

2. Pages the user is a fan of

3. Pages users friends are fans of

4. Users friends social mentions

5. The keyword appears somewhere in a wall post thread

6. Pages with a high number of fans

To rank in the results, under the pages section, the factors in order of importance were;

The article does point out that this was the most difficult part of their test, as the ranking factors are complex and can be affected by the users historic connections to the page.

1. Community pages can triumph if the users friends have mentioned the keyword. As all keyword mentions will be aggregated on a community page for the keyword.

2. Pages the user already likes.

3. Pages with most friends

4. Pages the users friends likes

How to get Ranked in Facebook Search

That same article goes on to mention a number of slightly spammy ways to get ranked on Facebook. The most above board suggestion is to take out ads directing fans to your page. People may like it, or just look at it and leave. Either way the page is building clicks and due to the historical nature of Facebook search the page will feature high in the auto suggest box of those users the next time. However, if someone lands on your page and decides not to like it, what use is your page ranking high in their auto search function?

It does come down to people being able to find your page. Eventually, enough clicks and likes might give it greater visibility but there are ways to increase the chances of people finding your page;

1. Pick the url closest to your brand name, if its not available the next most logical url

2. Ensure there’s links to the page everywhere you are online for people to see; website, Twitter, Youtube (use annotations in clips too), Flickr, blogs etc.

3. Link building will also help if people use Google to search for your Facebook page. Often this is a faster route, but does the average person know this?

4. Promote the url offline. A url that replicates the brand name will stick in a users mind so next time they might skip search and go direct to the page.

Since that research was carried out Bing has integrated Facebook into its search results, which again puts an emphasis on gaining ‘likes’ in order for brands to be more visible in social search. I wrote about that here. If the brand is promoting the page and linking to it, as mentioned above, and the customer remembers to click on ‘Web Results’ in search there is also a good chance of the page being found.

Slightly complex, but it’s a subject I have queried for sometime. It’s not by any means definitive and Facebook ranking criteria might change over time. But it does throw up a few interesting pointers that might be of use.

I’d love to hear your input or experiences on using Facebook search.