The unveiling of Facebook ‘Home’ felt like one of those key moments that really polarize opinion. It’s the current Marmite of the tech world; some people rushed to cover their screens in juicy Facebook goodness, others saw it as evidence that the Mayans were a year out.
I guess I fall somewhere in between, which makes me the exception that proves the rule. To paraphrase Russell Brand, to me Facebook ‘Home’ is like candyfloss; it just sort of exists. I’ve not got a problem with you liking it and I won’t be outraged if you don’t. It has no real impact on my personal life. But then I do have an iPhone…
Regardless of this; my own opinionated indifference, it’s quite clear that Facebook ‘Home’ is a big deal and it will have some impact on my professional (SEO) life. Aside from that, it helps to clarify exactly what sort of direction the social giant is taking.
That direction is mobile, people.
So then, if Facebook ‘Home’ is set to make at least some waves in the mobile market, it makes sense to draw some conclusions about Facebook ‘Home’ in relation to mobile search. So that’s what I’ll be doing. Right now.
Hide and Seek?
Facebook ‘Home’ is less a home screen and more a sort of integrated app overlay. All your traditional Android-y features are still there, they’re just hidden behind snaps of your cats, friends’ cats and friends’ cats’ friends (if I’ve managed to get all those apostrophes in the right place, I’ll be very happy).
One result of this potentially cat-infested overlay is that the traditional Google search bar found on the home screen of most Android devices is covered up, and requires the clicking of a button to reveal it (by accessing the ‘traditional’ home screen).
“Big whoop” I hear you say “Who cares if the search bar is covered, it’s only one extra click”
You should care, that’s who. Making the Google search process that one step more convoluted is either a shrewd move or a happy accident (something Danny Sullivan talks in depth about this here). Why? Because that extra click will dissuade users from using the Google search bar.
We are innately lazy creatures (well, I am) and so let’s face it given the choice between a 1 step and 2 step process, we’re (I’m) going to choose the former.
And that’s where it may be a shrewd move from Facebook. What else have they recently announced? That’s right it’s Graph Search. With integrated Bing search for anything that can’t be found on the social side, it’s surely only a matter of time before a Graph Search bar appears on the ‘home’ screen.
In fact, that seems to be the express intention of Mark Zuckerberg who said: “When that [Graph Search] is available, hopefully we’ll be able to make that available here [in Home]“.
This is big for mobile search. Not huge but definitely sizable. Let’s play out a potential future scenario:
Facebook ‘Home’ is a hit and takes a chunk of the market
A Graph Search bar is made available on ‘Home’
Bing continues its partnership with Facebook serving up any search results that can’t be found on Facebook itself
Lazy so-and-sos like me go for the easiest option and just use Graph Search/Bing bar to search all the time
Currently, Google has an unbelievable 97% market share of mobile searches which is significantly higher than the 66% it achieves on desktop. You have to say then that much of Google’s mobile market share comes from being the default on Android and Safari on iOS. If we were to see Facebook ‘Home’ gain any kind of traction, then that would inevitably lead to Graph Search as the default search tool on a significant number of devices. And that would make things interesting. Very interesting indeed.
So if this imaginary scenario were to play out, how should we as SEOs approach the new challenge of having another search engine (and let’s face it, it is a search engine) to cater for? Well, in reality, you should have started thinking about Graph Search optimization regardless of whether it appears on ‘Home’. My colleague Craig has written an article explaining how to optimise business pages for Graph Search that’s well worth reading.
Getting your Facebook page seen is one thing, but what about your site? Well it looks like SEOs would have to concentrate a bit more on the often neglected Bing. A more even Bing/Google duopoly would lead to a re-evaluation of where SEO priorities should lie.
So what are the main differences between optimizing for Bing and optimizing for Google? Broadly speaking, you’ll need to consider things like:
The greater focus on inbound anchor text
Other than that, it’s really all about quality and relevancy, just as for Google and all the other usual SEO stuff. It’s not that complicated. I promise.
“Facebook Phone Home”
So there you have it, Facebook ‘Home’ could have an enormous impact on the mobile search industry… that’s if consumers buy in. And that’s the key point here – as yet, users are most certainly not convinced: it currently only has an average rating of 2.2 on Google Play.
It will be interesting to see if future iterations and more exposure turn Facebook ‘Home’ into a genuine player. For now though, I’d say don’t get too worked up about it, but keep it in mind.
Facebook’s mobile move isn’t quite ‘home’ and dry just yet.