What Graph Search needs to do

graph-searchFacebook’s Graph Search is a revolutionary new form of searching and finding information about ourselves, friends and the world.

The problem is it’s too much work.

Many have come away from trying Facebook’s new take on search unimpressed. They wonder how they’ll ever use it in their daily life. They don’t get satisfactory results when they do try a query.

This is largely because Graph Search puts the onus on users to ask clever questions if they want to get better answers. To a degree this is true with any search engine: using certain keywords and operators will help narrow down the results to be more relevant. But for most queries, users can find what they’re looking for even without advanced search features. With Graph Search, the value of the product is hardly apparent until users add more qualifiers, like the specific audience they want to search among or content type they’re looking for.

Google doesn’t require people to search for “highest ranked website about the NFL” or “article about the sequester by popular news sites.” Someone can type “NFL” or “sequester” and likely find what they want.

Now, Graph Search isn’t positioned as a replacement for Google. As CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the product launch, web search is about asking open-ended queries to return links that might have the answer to a question you might have. Graph Search is about precise queries and exact matches.

But in effect, this means users must come up with their own algorithms for what they’re looking for, whether it’s “movies my friends like,” “movies my friends of friends like,” “movies liked by people who like movies I like” or “movies liked by NYU Film students.” That can be difficult for people who don’t naturally think in precise queries.


Graph Search Optimization: The New SEO and What it Means for Social Advertisers

This is a guest post by Todd Herrold, senior director of product marketing at Kenshoo Social, a Facebook Strategic Preferred Marketing Developer with Facebook Exchange access.

Todd-Herrold-headshotFacebook introduced Graph Search in January signaling a major shift in social search. Graph Search matches natural language search terms with content from the searcher’s network (social graph) to identify and return relevant results based on several factors.

The volume of Facebook users alone could propel Graph Search to be the first true challenger to traditional Web search engines, but the announcement of this revolutionary search technology prompted a number of questions from social marketers including:

  • How will consumers respond/adapt to social search?
  • How does Facebook determine relevance?
  • What can we do to ensure our pages will appear in search results?
  • What advertising options exist in Graph Search?

Determining Relevance

To determine which pages are relevant to a search query, Facebook utilizes a natural language processor (both to suggest search terms and identify connections) combined with algorithms that examine the “nodes” or connections of a searcher’s network to find content friends have “liked” that match the search. Graph Search can also consider second-degree connections or friends of friends, as well as content which has been shared either directly with the searcher or publicly on Facebook.

Unlike standard search engines, Facebook owns all of the data (page posts, photos, videos, etc.) which has ever been posted to the network. This inherent advantage enabled Facebook to implement a unique indexing structure to categorize the data based on a number of predefined properties. This indexing of owned data allows Facebook to quickly search, sort, identify and return relevant content. They dubbed this infrastructure “Unicorn.” Similar to a standard search engine, it supports search queries including “multi-hop” queries in a series of steps while searching “nodes” in a similar style to the way a search engine utilizes keywords.

The results then get scored based on a number of criteria depending on the search terms. Facebook implemented all of this with the goal to “maximize searcher happiness.”

Graph Search Optimization (GSO)

When marketers initially started exploring how to boost their website ranking in search results they coined the term Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Graph Search spawned an analogous process of searching for answers on how to optimize content to ensure it appears in Graph Search results; think of it as Graph Search Optimization (GSO). While Facebook hasn’t revealed the exact formula it uses to determine Graph Searching of content (they did provide a look “under the hood” which marketers may find helpful), we can identify several factors which likely impact Graph Search rankings.

Facebook tests ad placements on Graph Search results page, not related to queries

ads logoFacebook began a small test today that inserts FBX and Marketplace ads between pages of Graph Search results, a spokesperson tells us. These ads are not targeted by a user’s search query.

Like the ads on the right hand column of Facebook.com and ads that appear in the lightbox view of photos, the ads on the Graph Search results page are targeted to an audience based on interests, demographics or data from the Facebook Exchange or Custom Audiences, for example. This test is simply one that opens new inventory, not a new ad type or targeting capability.

As seen below, two or three ads will appear horizontally between pagebreaks when there is more than one page of results. This happens only for Graph Searches, not for web searches where Bing results appear. Those pages have Bing ads at the top and to the right of organic results.

Ads on Graph Search Page v2

Facebook offers “Sponsored Results“ ads that allow advertisers to promote their business in the social network’s drop-down search results. Rather than broad keywords, advertisers bid against specific pages, apps or places. For now, there is no way to bid on a Graph Search query such as “movies my friends like” or “restaurants nearby.”

Facebook calls out ‘Local Search’ on iOS

placesFacebook has renamed its Nearby feature on iOS “Local Search,” making its function more obvious and possibly increasing the number of users who will try it.

For now, the tab is still called Nearby on Facebook’s mobile site and Android app.

The social network relaunched Nearby on mobile as a local search product in December 2012. Previously it was a feature to see friends’ check-ins. Now its seeking to be a Yelp competitor, allowing users to search for specific places, browse categories or see broadly what’s around them, organized by their friend’s recommendations, check-ins and other social cues, such as star ratings. Users can see a place’s business hours, description and price range, as well as options to get directions, call the business, check-in, Like the page or visit the business’ Timeline.

Publishers can now see Graph Search keywords that led to their sites

graph-searchFacebook has begun passing keyword data to websites that receive referral traffic from search queries that originate on the social network, allowing sites to more accurately track where visitors are coming from.

With the launch of Graph Search, Facebook more deeply incorporated Bing so that queries that can’t be answered by Facebook’s internal search, will direct users to a page of results powered by Bing. This could lead more users to conduct searches through Facebook that end up on third-party sites. However, previously, there was no way for someone to tell whether a visitor from Facebook came via search or a shared link somewhere on the site.


Facebook shares its ‘favorite ways’ people use Graph Search

detailFacebook today shared a summary of its “favorite ways” people have been using Graph Search since the product launched in beta. The company highlighted ways that users are finding out about friends, finding photos, planning trips and discovering new things.

There are now hundreds of thousands of users with access to the new search, but reception has been mixed. Graph Search helps users navigate and discover content within the social network by using natural language processing rather than simply matching keywords. Users can form complex queries, such as “photos of me and my family in 2006,” “my friends in Los Angeles who like Jay Z” or “restaurants in New York liked by chefs,” to get highly specific results.

However, in many ways, Graph Search is limited by users’ own creativity. Today’s blog post seems to be an attempt to spark ideas for how the product can be used.

Facebook lets developers know how often their app is found through search

insightsFacebook is now offering developers information on how often users find their app through the search bar on Facebook.com, according to a post on the company’s developer blog.

Canvas developers will find a Search Results tab in their app insights under “Other Features.” This will track both organic and paid clicks. For now, this only includes clicks from the search bar typeahead, not clicks from the search results page or clicks from mobile. However, clicks will be counted from users whether or not they have Graph Search.

This change will help canvas developers understand how often users are coming to their app via search, which could give them a better idea whether or not running Sponsored Results ads would be valuable.

Currently, pages receive data about how many new Likes they got from the search results page, but they can’t see how many times people visited their page after searching for it. If Facebook wants more pages to run Sponsored Results, it will have to offer data that shows how important that channel is for discovery.

Search results data for apps will go back to Jan. 21, 2013.

Guest Post: Get Ahead of Competitors and Implement Strategies for Graph Search

team photo shoot, summer 2012This is a guest post by Sarah Reilly, VP of Sales at Blueye, a Facebook Preferred Marketing Developer.

Facebook recently held a hyped-up press event announcing their new product: Graph Search. In pure Facebook fashion, they made an emotionally charged video on how this product will revolutionize the way users search the Internet. It all led me to reflect – Facebook makes strides in product development that we might not immediately understand. But if marketers look back, they’ll often say, “oh, now I understand why Facebook launched that product.”

From a consumer standpoint, Graph Search tells a pretty compelling story. A key takeaway I noticed is that customers matter and loyalty is key. Why? Because customers will be talking about brands – and their sentiments will influence their friends’ purchasing behavior.

With that in mind, we’ve developed a few ways brands can get ahead of their competitors and leverage Graph Search.

Facebook roundup: Bing social search, PMD policies, Open Compute Summit, more

facebook logoFacebook shares back below $30 - Wall Street was apparently unimpressed with Facebook’s Graph Search announcement. Facebook shares, which surged past $31 last week in anticipation of the company’s first big press event since going public, closed today at $29.66, down 6.5 percent from Monday. The share price began to drop immediately following CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement of an overhauled search product. Although the tool has a lot of future potential, it is in very limited beta for English speaking users on desktop and Facebook did not announce a corresponding monetization plan for the tool. Investors may have also been let down after rumors of a Facebook phone, e-commerce products and possible new ad types did not materialize.


Bing adds more Facebook info to social search – Shortly after Facebook revealed its Graph Search beta product this week, Bing announced more features for its social search sidebar. The search engine now incorporates Facebook status updates, shared links, comments and photos from friends that may be relevant to a user’s query.

Facebook updates PMD policies - Facebook added four new sections to its Preferred Marketing Developer policy page this week, including a new rule about comparing Facebook ads to ads from other channels. If using last-click attribution, PMDs must create separate reporting tools for comparing search marketing and Facebook ads. Additionally, Facebook made it mandatory for Ads API companies to provide PMD Team members with login credentials upon request, and noted that advertising apps need separate App IDs for self-service, managed service and white-labeled apps. The company also made it clear that it reserves the right to grant or remove access to the platform or program at its sole discretion.

ocpFacebook announces innovations in hardware design – Facebook revealed a number of advances in data center hardware design at its Open Compute Summit on Wednesday. Facebook contributed a new architecture specification for motherboards. This specification nicknamed “Group Hug” can be produce motherboards that are completely vendor-neutral. This disaggregation could improve efficiency in data center construction and operation.


How Graph Search can help users see the world through different lenses

graph-searchFacebook Graph Search addresses several categories of search — some that were made explicit during Facebook’s announcement on Tuesday and others that are still being discovered as beta users try it out.

Navigation around Facebook, people discovery and recommendations for places and entertainment are valuable features the company has already highlighted. One of the less obvious realms is research.

We’ve talked about how businesses can use Graph Search to uncover consumer insights and how public figures can use it to better understand their followers, but there are other interesting applications for students, researchers, journalists and everyday users.

Facebook’s combination of identity and structured data allow users to answer very specific questions that no other service can. Although Graph Search uses natural language processing to understand what users are actually looking for rather than simply matching keywords, one might get a better sense of what’s possible with the tool by thinking about the following formula:

Type of Content + Subject + Type of Person + Location + Time


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