Facebook Search: Why Google Should Be Worried

by Chad Wittman on Apr 03, 2012
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Facebook SearchBusinessweek reports that Facebook is officially making their move at search.

This is huge.

I’ve been encouraging and predicting for years, that Facebook needs to make a move at search with a serious team of talent.

It is now rumored that Facebook has applied a team of 20+ developers, led by a former Google engineer, to directly challenge Google.

Facebook could be the first legitimate contender to Google’s Search throne.

What Is Facebook Search?

Facebook Search

Facebook Search would be a complete revamp of their current search functionality. Facebook Search could combine social search results, along with traditional web results, to provide the most accurate search on the web. Facebook would listen to social input signals to help define search rankings to enhance accuracy.

Let’s look at the social graph data they could include:

  • Likes
  • Check In History
  • Offers Claimed
  • Profile Interests
  • Friends’ Interests, Check Ins, Offers Claimed
  • Geographical Proximity
  • Previous Status Updates’ Textual Analysis
  • PTAT (People Talking About This)
  • Comparable PageRank Algorithm
  • Quality Inbound Links

Leveraging a combination of these input signals, along with “traditional” input signals (e.g. quality inbound links), Facebook’s search results will be much more powerful than Google’s.

The web continues to evolve along social veins of technology, illustrated by the popularity of sites like Yelp, Urban Spoon, and many more. It’s apparent that the value of a social search result far exceeds a traditional search engine result.

The Competitive Advantage

Search is about delivering the information that the user is asking for. If this need is satisfied, users have little loyalty to the company solving their problems.

Facebook possesses several key ingredients as a potential search contender:

  • Greater Average Time on Site
  • Better Quality Input Signals
  • Comparative Active Users

Relevance

Facebook is in a position to deliver even more accurate search results than Google.

Imagine that your friends love Joe’s Local Pizza, yet you’ve never heard of it. You head to Google to find local pizza.

When searching for pizza, you are shown the top results based on PageRank. Joe’s Local Pizza doesn’t make the cut, but Papa John’s is #1.

With Facebook Search, the fact that all of your friends dine at Joe’s Local Pizza could result in a #1 result placement.

Papa John’s may still be second due to local and national popularity, but Facebook Search can present you with potentially more valuable information.

Google cannot compete with this data source in the long term. It just can’t. Facebook will inevitably win this battle. Facebook is in an unprecedented position to deliver better solutions to more user search requests.

Google is not going down without a fight

Google is currently fighting this shift from SEO to Social by including personalized search results integrated by Google Plus.

Personalized search results attempt to look at a wider array of quality input signals to deliver the best possible search results. In order to receive truly valuable new input signals, they’ll need it from Google+.

With Google+ still nowhere near competing with Facebook in audience size, the odds of them being able to gather these quality input signals are greatly reduced.

The problem is even further complicated for Google, as Facebook doesn’t necessarily have to hit a home run with the tool to “win”.

Brian Carter (author of several Facebook marketing books) explains “It doesn’t have to be as good as Google, because search result quality, after a certain point, is indistinguishable. Facebook search just has to not suck. Facebook can use their minutes-used-per-day dominance, and perhaps homepage layout changes to get more people to use their “good enough” search option.”

Time Will Tell

Facebook still has yet to release a new search or any details associated with it.

But it is clear that Facebook has an incredible opportunity at hand. Only time will tell, if they’re able to achieve success. I’m not saying Google’s de-throning will be easy, but I believe they are the first real competitor that could disrupt the Google search kingdom.

Google knows this, and they’ll be fighting with everything they’ve got. However, it boils down to the users and their needs. Currently, Facebook knows much more about their users, than Google.

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Co-Founder & VP of Product at Dolly, an iPhone and Android app that is like Uber meets U-Haul or Lyft for Moving. Former Founder of EdgeRank Checker (acquired by Socialbakers)...