Facebook officially supports hashtags

hashtag300-204Hashtags were rumored to be coming to Facebook earlier this year, but the site officially announced Wednesday that it has added support for the popular Twitter and Instagram staple. Now whenever a Facebook user puts a hashtag in their status update or comment, it connects it to others talking about the same thing.

For instance if you leave a comment on a post, something like “Go #Spurs!”, you can then click the #Spurs hashtag and see the discussion around the keyword on Facebook. This could be huge for Facebook’s Graph Search, which will now allow users to search by keyword.

Several users have reported that hashtags aren’t linked yet, so it appears that this is a gradual rollout by Facebook.


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.

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.


How Facebook Comments impact Google search rankings

This post provides a brief introduction to Google’s update; content publishers and webmasters should read on for the full, free, overview at The Facebook Marketing Bible.

Google’s November 2011 changes to its web crawler have created new opportunities and liabilities for all websites implementing Facebook Comments, with important implications for SEO. Webmasters who properly implement and manage Facebook Comments stand to gain, but the recent changes could significantly hurt the rankings of sites who do not properly prevent and manage spam.

Google announced last November that it had begun indexing Javascript and AJAX content, without requiring webmasters to implement workarounds. While Google has not yet claimed to be indexing 100 percent of Javascript and AJAX content, it became clear soon after the change that Facebook Comments, which is displayed using AJAX and HTML5, are now indexed by Google.

Facebook Comments Example

Previously, in order to get Google’s crawler to index Facebook Comments, webmasters had to use a workaround like displaying an duplicate plain-text version of Comments that was visible to Google’s site crawler, but invisible to visitors, who would still see the regular Facebook Comments.

This workaround required webmasters to use the Facebook Graph API to pull Comments (access to Comments through the Graph API was announced on the Facebook Developer Blog in April). The technical nature of this workaround meant that few websites implemented it, and therefore, for most sites, Facebook Comments had no impact on Google Search rankings.

Given the November change, Facebook Comments are now indexed by Google without any workaround. Since Google’s search rankings are affected by the quality and relevance of the text on a given page, as well as the quantity and quality of outbound links, this change means that any site visitor can affect search rankings by commenting. Quality, relevant comments and links may help boost a page’s ranking, but spam in Facebook Comments may also hurt rankings.

To learn more about the specific advantages of Facebook Comments for site owners, read on for our free, detailed overview in the Facebook Marketing Bible, where we cover:

  • Facebook Comments versus Disqus, ECHO, and IntenseDebate
  • Who should use Facebook Comments? A few examples of live sites that are doing it well
  • Getting a search ranking lift through Facebook Comments
  • Facebook Comments and the spam risk

>> Click to Continue Reading

Study: SEO Matters for Facebook Pages as 34% of External Referral Traffic Comes From Search

Search makes up 34% of all external referral traffic to Facebook Pages, with Google 27.5% coming from Google, according to a six month study of 1,000 Pages by analytics provider PageLever. This means Facebook Page admins should be concerned with search engine optimization when naming Pages, filling in fields on the Info tab, posting content, and placing links to their Pages on websites.

The study also shows a high variance in how much traffic is sourced from search, indicating some Pages do much better at SEO than others and that there is a high potential for gain if Pages execute a smart SEO strategy.

Through its APIs, Facebook shares data about internal and external referral traffic of Pages with their admins. PageLever used data on 1,000 Pages with more than 10,000 fans between January 1st and June 30th, 2011 to conduct the study.

Internal sources include links in the news feed, profiles, as well as Facebook’s internal search engine which has shown to account for the bulk of internal traffic sent to Pages. Overall, external referral traffic only accounts for an average of 27.8% of total traffic to Pages, and those with over a million fans see closer to 8% of their traffic come from outside Facebook.com. In addition to search, external referral traffic is sourced from official websites for businesses, blogs, and other social networks such as Twitter.

Still, the amount of external traffic coming from search is enough to make it worthwhile for Page admins to consider SEO. Optimizing for Google PageRank should be their priority as the other top search engines contribute much less traffic, with Yahoo delivering 4.1% and Bing delivering 2.3 of total external referral traffic.

While trying to court Google PageRank, admins should consider whether they have the best possible name and URL for their Page. They should look to publish links to their website frequently, and have their website reciprocate by posting links to the Page wherever appropriate.

Pages should employ these basic SEO strategies to make sure anyone trying to them from outside of Facebook.com can do so without having to wade through other search results. By combining SEO efforts with compelling default landing tabs that encourage visitors to Like them, Pages can convert this search traffic into additional fans.

A closer look at key Facebook Page search engine optimization strategies can be found in the Facebook Marketing Bible, Inside Network’s comprehensive guide to marketing and advertising through Facebook. 

Core Strategies From Facebook and BrightEdge’s Facebook Page SEO Whitepaper

Facebook has co-authored a white paper on search engine optimization for Facebook Pages and Facebook integrated websites, together with enterprise SEO platform BrightEdge. According to a BrightEdge study, 70% of the top 200 brands in the Fortune 500 don’t have their Facebook Pages in the top 20 search engine results for their brand. By improving understanding of SEO for Facebook Pages through the white paper, Facebook can increase its own traffic while helping the brands it hosts, and BrightEdge can draw in more clients.

Here we’ll analyze and extrapolate on the best practices outlined in the white paper.

Securing a high search engine rank for their Facebook Pages is an easy way for brands to push down websites that don’t help their business, such as those of competitors or that criticize their brand. Facebook Pages naturally have a relatively credible standing among search engines, so with some strategy it can be easy to get them into the top results for a query of the brand’s name. According to the white paper, being a top result helps brands manage their reputation, increase their visibility, and drive engagement to their Facebook Page.

BrightEdge offers services to assist with SEO including automated recommendations, competitive analysis, and a metrics dashboard. However, there’s much that brands can do on their own to enhance SEO.

The “Facebook for Social SEO” whitepaper offers five core strategies for brands looking to improve the SEO of their Facebook Page:

  1. Set your vanity URL to exactly match your brand name – You can set your vanity URL through the “Username” section of the Basic Information tab in the Edit Page admin interface
  2. Link to your Facebook Page from your website – Link to the vanity URL of your Page with the anchor text “brand name] on Facebook” on your home page, or preferably as many webpages as possible through a footer or standard template
  3. Mention your brand name in updates published by your page – these updates are crawled and improve the Page’s rank
  4. Attain Likes – Links generated from the profiles of users who Like your Page are indexed by search engines. Draw more Likes by adding the Like Box social plugin to your website and running Page Like Sponsored Stories ads on Facebook
  5. Create sub-Pages for high value keywords – If your website has distinct sections or categories, consider creating additional Pages specifically for these sections, and linking to them from the website sections. For instance, Amazon has sub-Pages for its Amazon MP3 and Amazon Student stores, which it displays on the main Amazon Facebook Page using the Featured Likes option in the Edit Page admin interface

Additionally, the white paper explains that traditional websites can significantly improve their SEO by attaining Facebook Likes and Shares using Facebook’s social plugins.

Facebook is beginning to realize that the social ecosystem it has created is not so simple for businesses to maneuver. Educational efforts like this increase the confidence of businesses, leading them to focus and spend more on Facebook marketing and advertising. The measurable benefits of the building a Facebook presence are starting to emerge. Now brands just need more guidance on what steps to take to maximize returns from their social investment.

Google +1 Challenges the Cross-Web Presence of Facebook’s Like Button

Google today launched a new feature called “+1″ that allows Google Profile users to endorse search results, ads, and soon web pages. +1 could be the social layer Google has said it was developing for its product line, or at least part of it. Currently, +1 will help Google contest Bing’s Facebook-powered social search, and bring social context into its AdWords ads product, which has encountered new competition from Facebook’s interest, demographic, and friend connection-targeted performance ads.

In a few months, Google plans to allow websites to add +1 buttons, which will improve a site’s search ranking when clicked. This incentive could lead to rapid integration across the web, challenging Facebook’s domination of the embeddable plugin space that has given the social network’s name and logo real estate on many of the internet’s most popular destinations.

Google users could previously see recommendations on search results sourced from the Buzz or Twitter updates of those they followed. Now a test group of users and any who manually enable the new endorsement feature can click +1 buttons on search results and AdWords ads to append their name and face to the results or ads seen by their Google, Gmail, Gtalk, Buzz and Reader contacts. Its unclear if the +1 will appear to a user’s friends in any of these channels as viral distribution.

+1′s Advantage Over the Like Button

+1 offers a lighter weight method of expressing affinity for something than the Like button, which subscribes users to updates from the button’s owner. This means Google users might be more generous with their +1s, endorsing search results or ads they think their friends would find interesting, even if they don’t want to click or open a communication channel with the entity.

Google could begin factoring a user’s previous +1s into the relevancy algorithm for serving AdWords, or even its other ad products. We’ve speculated that Facebook might introduce an Open Graph ad plugin that could allow advertisers to use the same targeting parameters from Facebook across the web. +1-powered ads could reduce the margin by which an Open Graph ad plugin could improve on existing advertising solutions.

+1 to Incentive Integration with SEO

While social media sharing buttons for Twitter, Digg, and even Google Buzz are shown on blogs and news sites, Facebook’s Like button and other social plugins have been integrated into more than 2.5 million websites, including ecommerce, brand, and web service sites. Facebook released an analytics tool for these integrations earlier this month, convincing more holdouts.

This presence has helped Facebook continue to grow its user base, as site visitors who want the benefits of these plugins must sign up for accounts. The forthcoming +1 for websites, would raise a site’s PageRank with every click, creating a very strong SEO incentive for integration. Facebook might no longer be the only web service with a strong cross-web presence.

While Facebook has developed a significant lead in plugin integrations and social context ads, +1 could level the playing field, and serve as a basis for more social networking features from Google.

Now Available: The Facebook Marketing Bible October 2010 Edition

Facebook Marketing Bible

The October 2010 edition of the Facebook Marketing Bible: The Comprehensive Guide to Market Your Brand, Company, Product, or Service Inside Facebook is now available on the web!

The Facebook Marketing Bible has enabled thousands of marketers, social application developers, publishers, and entrepreneurs to navigate and get the most out of the increasingly sophisticated marketing opportunities on Facebook.

Now, as Facebook continues to roll out product changes affecting users, as well as brand marketers, advertisers and developers, this leading resource and tool is updated and more essential than ever before.

The web edition of the Facebook Marketing Bible is comprised of detailed resource pages, comprehensive how-to guides, and case studies analyzing today’s most successful marketing and advertising campaigns on Facebook.

The Facebook Marketing Bible contains strategies specifically tailored to brand marketers, advertisers, web content publishers, and app developers. Please see the full table of contents below.

In addition, Inside Network is happy to announce that through October 31st all customers who purchase the Facebook Marketing Bible will also receive a free $25 Facebook Ads advertising credit, courtesy of Facebook (see terms).

Now that Facebook has crossed the 500 million active user mark, there’s never been a better time to reach your target audience through marketing on Facebook.

The October 2010 edition includes updates on the following topics:

  • Facebook’s more stringent implementation of its advertising guidelines and what it means for advertisers throughout the ecosystem.
  • Recent performance stats on Facebook’s Open Graph and social plugins, and a look at the influence of the Like button and social plugins on site traffic and engagement.
  • Facebook Places, the company’s new location-based feature that is creating new marketing opportunities for businesses both on- and offline.
  • Facebook Questions, and how this new user-facing feature can offer a new ‘no-cost’ marketing channel for brands, advertisers, and developers.
  • Facebook Groups, the company’s brand-new collaboration and communication feature that could open up even more opportunities, and complexities, for advertisers, developers, and marketers.
  • Plus, comprehensive walk-throughs of Facebook’s tools for advertisers, web content publishers, and Page administrators.

Learn more about the October 2010 edition of the Facebook Marketing Bible at FacebookMarketingBible.com.

Table of Contents – October 2010 Edition

Building Your Brand through Facebook Pages

  • The Profile Page – A Walk-Through
  • Facebook Pages and Public Profiles
  • Strategy: 4 Reasons Why Marketers Should Choose Pages Over Groups
  • Strategy: How to Promote Your Page in 6 Steps
  • 10 Key SEO Strategies Every Facebook Page Owner Should Know
  • Vanity URLs for Facebook Pages
  • SMS Subscription Service for Pages
  • Adding Custom Modules to Your Page

Growing your Facebook Page Audience

  • The Basics of Status Updates for Pages
  • Increase Engagement and Insight through Status Tagging
  • How to Grow Your Page’s Audience through Page Invitations
  • How to Grow Your Page’s Audience through Fan Badges
  • Demographic Targeting for Status Updates
  • Updating Facebook Page Status Via Text
  • Receive Page Status Updates Via Text
  • How to Export Your Facebook Page Updates to Twitter
  • Facebook Learning from Twitter, Pages Getting Better
  • Branded Virtual Gifts on Facebook Pages for Viral Advertising

Designing Your Facebook Page

  • The Wall Tab for Making Pages Dynamic and Viral
  • How to Choose a Landing ‘Tab’ for your Facebook Page

Advanced Strategies for Facebook Pages

  • 8 Best Practices for Retailers on Facebook
  • Marketers Actively Bidding for Generic Facebook Pages
  • How Page Owners Can Restrict Content for Underage Users

Tools and Analytics for Pages

  • Facebook “Insights” Metrics Dashboard for Page Managers
  • Using Third Party Tools to Manage Your Facebook Page

Facebook Groups

  • Strategy: What About Spamming Existing Groups?
  • Quick Note on Groups and SEO

Facebook Events

  • Facebook Events – A Walk-Through
  • Facebook’s Events API
  • Quick Note on Events and SEO
  • Events from the Home Page

Facebook Questions and Places

  • Facebook Questions – A Walk-Through
  • How Marketers Can Get The Most Out Of Facebook Questions
  • Facebook Places – A Walk-Through
  • Facebook Places for Advertisers
  • Facebook Places for Brand Marketers
  • Facebook Places for Developers

Performance Advertising Fundamentals

  • Facebook Ads: Read Before You Get Started
  • Facebook Ads – A Walk-Through
  • The Facebook Ads Manager
  • Facebook Self-Serve Ad Types: Page Ads
  • Facebook Self-Serve Ad Types: Event Ads

Ads Targeting on Facebook

  • 10 Powerful Targeting Methods Facebook Ads Every Performance Advertiser Should Know
  • Friends of Connections Targeting
  • Facebook Ads: Language Targeting
  • 4 Connection Targeting Tests Every Advertiser Should Run
  • From Keyword Targeting to People Targeting: Understanding Performance Advertising with Facebook’s Tim Kendall
  • Time Scheduling

The Facebook Open Graph, and APIs for Web Publishers

  • Facebook Questions – A Walk-Through
  • How Marketers Can Get The Most Out Of Facebook Questions
  • Implementation Options: Like Button
  • Facebook CTO Bret Taylor Discusses the Open Graph
  • Facebook for Websites or Facebook “Connect”
Facebook Marketing Bible

Policies, Privacy, and Guidelines to Watch

  • Promotional/Sweepstakes Policies for Facebook Pages
  • The Future of Sharing on Facebook: A Hybrid Public/Private Model
  • Facebook’s Guidelines for Promoting Pages Outside Facebook

The Facebook Marketing Bible is available at FacebookMarketingBible.com

Facebook Wins Patent For Search Results Based On Clicks of Friends and Other Users

Today Facebook won a patent filed in 2004 for a search engine which ranks results or online ads based on the frequency of clicks by those connected to a user on a social network. Results would be accompanied by an image or text denoting how many people connected to the user clicked that link, similar to Facebook’s Like button/counter. The patent could, in theory, be used to create a search engine based on the clicks of one’s friends and friends of friends, or stifle a similar product of Google’s forthcoming social network Google Me.

The patent, filed for Facebook, Inc. on October 18th, 2004 lists Christopher Lunt, Nicholas Galbreath, and Jeffrey Winner as inventors.

It says a connection can be between “registered users who are related within two or more degrees of separation to the registered user within the online social network”. This leaves the degrees of separation up to Facebook, meaning results could be based on clicks by your friends, friends of friends, or every registered Facebook user. Searching for humorous content with results ranked by what your friends clicked could produce a more valuable experience than rankings based on clicks from across the web.

However, the patent doesn’t specify if results can be based on shared user characteristics, or connections to non-users, such as Pages. Facebook might not be able to use this patent to create a ranking system based on clicks of those within your network, country, or age group; or based on clicks by those who share a connection to an interest Page. If you were searching for political news, the power to see results ranked by clicks of those connected to the same political party could be useful, but it is not covered by this patent.

Facebook might not put the patent into use on its own products, though, as the site makes money from allowing Microsoft’s Bing to power its internal search. Instead, they might use the patent defensively. Social search could be a big part of Google Me’s differentiation from Facebook, but this patent could — again, in theory — restrict such features. Facebook owns or has applied for dozens of patents at this point, but it has not gone on the offense against rivals to date.

Facebook Third-Largest US Video Site Behind Google and Yahoo

ComScore’s latest Video Metrix numbers from July show that Facebook has climbed to third in the U.S. with 46.6 million unique video viewers, up 5.3 million from June. Facebook landed at number 3 right behind Google (YouTube) in first place with 143.2 million unique viewers and Yahoo with 55.1 million viewers.

In June, Facebook had 41.3 million unique U.S. viewers, according to ComScore, even as the company reported that same month that more than 20 million videos are uploaded monthly generating 2 billion video views during the same period around the world.

Overall ComScore reported that 178 million U.S. users — 84.9% of the Internet audience — watched videos online during the month of July for an average of 14.7 hours each. Google had the lion’s share of these viewers, 143.2 million with 1.8 billion viewing sessions for an average of 283 minutes (4.7 hours). Yahoo had around 55 million viewers with 238.3 million sessions averaging about 29 minutes while Facebook had over 166 million viewing sessions for its 46.6 uniques for an average of 18.3 minutes a pop.

The rest of the top ten list included, in order: Microsoft, VEVO, Fox Interactive Media, Turner Network, Viacom Digital, Disney Online and Hulu. Despite being lower on the list for unique viewers, several of these companies generated more and longer viewing sessions than Facebook. For example, Microsoft in fourth place had 219 million sessions averaging 40 minutes and VEVO had 202 million averaging 69 minutes.

Another interesting tidbit from ComScore this month is that the amount of time watching ads online is on the rise. Video ads averaging 24 seconds (.4 minutes) account for 9.8% of videos viewed and .9% of all minutes spent viewing online videos.

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