The leading global search engine, Google has been dominating the search market shares for several years now, and all the efforts by the competitors to steal the market share has been futile. Not to mention, in the mobile search sector, Google with its 95% share holds a monopoly. The only closest competitor and the dark horse in the race is another global platform, Facebook, which has the capacity to be a match to the Google’s massive audience share and resources. Facebook has all the vital components including location data, millions of users from around the world, demographic information, millions of business pages, behaviour data, and social networks to assist the users to search for local products and services and also help the business be found by the local audience.
Although Facebook has huge potential to pose a serious threat to Google in the local search business, it has not been a very effective competitor. In a research conducted by The Local Search Association on how the customers in 12 different cities with varying population search for the local business, it is reported that the search engines account for 80% usage as compared to 48% usage for all social networking platforms.
Facebook is focusing on the effective use of the location
As documented by Google’s emphasis on proximity and physical address in getting higher local search results, location is the most important aspect of local search. In this purview, Facebook is focusing on highlighting the map at the top of the local business pages in the about us page as well as the home page. In a test conducted by Facebook where the location was not specified by the users, the got results from far off places. However, today, with the improvement in local searches, if you search for restaurants in India, you may get the results of the restaurants within two miles of your current location. Moreover, the results also include the address and the map location. The below image is a comparison of search results in November 2015 and June 2017, which demonstrates the differences in the local listing:
Priority is given to the place
With Facebook focusing more on the search result, it is not only using the location more efficiently but also giving much importance to places. Earlier, the places tab was not given any importance by Facebook, however, the tab is highly functional today and it provides the most relevant information for all searches. For example, if a user searches for the best plumbing service Bangalore, the search results show the returned places at the top of the results page and the local business follows next.
The search results are more specific and robust
The search results today are not only relevant to the search term but also they provide in-depth information. For instance, if your search for the best lawyer Mumbai, the search result will not only list the lawyers in the vicinity but also would show their address, distance from your current location, their office hours, rating points and even the profile picture. The listing also provides information on the type of lawyer they are and their field of expertise like criminal law, family law or real estate law.
Improved indexing of information
One of the major problems that Facebook previously had was with that the indexing of the information was pretty poor. However, Facebook has fixed this problem, which is in line with its focus on improving the local search. The social networking platform has also helped improve the search functionality by adding suggested search terms when the user is trying to search for a particular thing in the search box. The suggested terms frequently pull up the various business categories that Facebook offers to its business users and help them identify the type of business they are into.
Facebook is testing its beta version of new features including local search and integrating friend posts
In its bid to make the search unique than Google search, Facebook is trying to incorporate the social media data in its search results. The global social networking giant has been testing with a few users who have mini profile pictures to place the listings of their friends who have either checked in at a certain place or have posted about a particular place or business organisation.
It is a known fact that the users are prone to trust their friends when it comes to providing reviews. Knowing that a particular person has chosen to subscribe to the services of a certain business, it becomes easier for the users to make their decision. With the huge volume of users on Facebook and the vast information available Facebook could literally change the face of the local search business.
Facebook is building its database through crowdsourcing
Facebook, undoubtedly has a huge user base and it is leveraging that manpower for free, just as Google did with its ‘local guide’ plan, which proved to be quite successful. Facebook has been asking its users to provide details about the different places that they have checked into through the Facebook editor. At a time when the user check-in or tries to tag a place, the person will be prompted to answer a series of simple Yes-or-No questions, such as does the place have a parking lot? Is the place open on Monday’s?
Introducing City Guides
One of the most popular subjects that most users love to post on Facebook is travel. It has been reported that the social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are helping boost the people’s spending on things like travel, food and entertainment; people love to share with their friends new experiences about their travel adventures and the exotic places they dined at.
In this regards, the Facebook created city guide to provide people information on the most popular places and the most frequently visited places by people from around the world. One of the distinct features of city guides is that it provides information about the user’s friends who have been to the place they are looking for and when the users tap on the friend, the city guide will bring up a list of the places they have visited. Also, the city guide is designed in a way that it provides information on the local favourites.
How to be found on Facebook search
With Facebook introducing all the above improvements to its search functionality, users now have all the reason to spend more time on the platform and consume more content. Thankfully, Facebook has realised the importance of penetrating the local search business, which can greatly help the small businesses to cater better to the audience. So, if you are a business owner, it would be the best time for you to review the About Us Page on your website and look how the information is showing up on the search result and ensure that the page picks up the increasing traffic through Facebook. Here is how you can get started:
First and foremost review the business profile on Facebook and make sure that the profile is complete including contact information and other vital details about the business.
Ensure that the local information is accurate and a physical map location show up at the top of the business profile when the page is displayed.
To describe your business better and get higher traffic, add business categories. Although when you create your own Facebook page, you would be asked to mention just one business category, you can later edit the About section and 2-3 more business categories. This will greatly help in improving the visibility based on the search terms used.
Activate the buttons on your Facebook profile like call-to-click and appointment schedulers. This will have a significant impact on conversion rate.
Never leave any sections on the page blank. This may lead Facebook to crowdsource answers. If the question is not relevant to your business, you can answer NO or indicate that the question is not applicable to your business.
To conclude, Facebook is making some serious in-roads in implementing changes that would improve its local search; especially in melding social media data with local search results. This may put Facebook right at the top as one of the major search players and a leader in the local search business.