Facebook Opening Profiles to Search Engine Indexing

SMS Text

Facebook, the super popular social network which has enjoyed somewhat walled garden status by not letting search engines index the bulk of its user profiles, has announced that they will begin letting Google, Yahoo, Ask.com, MSN and other search engines index public profile pages of their users.

Facebook plans to open up its search functionality this week and will then give its users one month to opt-out of their opening to search engines by changing their user privacy settings. Currently Facebook is not blocking spidering of their user profiles, but most public profiles (which feature the user name, image and basic info) are not accessible due to no sitemaps style communication between the company and search engines.

Facebook adds (via Mashable)

The Public Search Listing of a profile shows the profile picture thumbnail and links to interact with a user on Facebook. People will always have to log in or register to poke, message or add someone as a friend. A user can also restrict what information shows in their public listing by going to the search privacy page. For instance, if a user does not want their profile picture to be shown, they can uncheck that box under “What people can do with my search results”.

There are currently a bit over 25,000 Facebook public profiles indexed in Google, mostly via external sites linking in to them (like this Ron Paul profile).

With millions of Facebook users about to hit the search engine results and over 18 million incoming links bound for Facebook (thanks Patrick), one has to wonder whether Facebook profiles will have Wikipedia status .. ranking highly for names and terms; which attracts the spammers. Hopefully this will not lead to thousands of Facebook pharmacy and payday loans profiles being launched.

Instead of Wikipedia however, the opening of Facebook to search engines reminds me more of how LinkedIn public profiles are ranking higher and higher in Google, and probably converting to new memberships. With the amount of vanity and friend searches on the Internet, users are bound to join Facebook who have not done so before in order to connect with old comrades from University or business days.

With the addition of external applications to Facebook however, search indexing hopefully will not become another Facebook annoyance, filling up email inboxes with messages via Zombie Bites, Super Walls and Best Friend requests.

I’m also wondering if a next step by Facebook is to open up its tagged photos to search engines, as Facebook image tagging is one thing that has me revisiting friend profiles on Facebook, as images are constantly being uploaded and edited by people within my network.

Will the search engines be ironically contributing to the rise of Facebook, a direct competitor to Flickr, Picasa, MySpace and other search invested interests, by indexing Facebook pages? Possibly so. But the flipside to this may also be more application marketing, advertising and partnership opportunities for those same companies.

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker
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  • Rhea Drysdale

    Uh oh….

    I need to do some clean up. =)

  • Rhea Drysdale

    btw, to comment on the irony of Facebook competing with the SEs, I’m more on the side of mutual benefit. There are Flickr apps and news feeds and all sorts of ways that the SEs are now benefiting from Facebook where there wasn’t a possibility before.

  • David

    People are treating this as if it’s new, it’s not.


  • Pablo Palatnik

    I’m sure a privacy option will soon come for facebook users like on Myspace where users profile privacy is optional.

    On another note…more traffic for facebook once profiles are indexed.

  • Pablo Palatnik

    Funny enough after reading this and commenting, I logged in Facebook and there it was…privacy options for search.

  • Mike Geeks.com

    Wasn’t the ‘walled’ garden a nice feature??

    Like the Vegas mantra….what happens in Facebook, stays in Facebook!!

  • mark

    Well, I blocked it. 🙂

  • robert

    This is awesome – those that are trying to optimize sites, like myself with my seo website ranking services, are just continue to expand the arsenal of authoritative links.

  • Nate Moller

    One of my favorite things about facebook so far are the groups you can join and also create. What a perfect way to connect with your target audience indirectly, become friends, share ideas, etc. I run a website about Door County, Wisconsin that has seen tons of new visitors strictly because of facebook. Look forward to see what the indexing will do to traffic and page views.

  • ready4unow

    It may cause many complaints due to users’ concern about their privacy. Last
    year we opened our members’ profiles and within one or two days, we got lots of
    complaints. We have to close them immediately. As a
    millionaire dating site, you know, our
    site need to pay much attention to this

  • Rose

    What I find funny is that Facebook prides itself on being a safe haven for college students to socialize online. No one has mentions all the ‘teens’ on the site or the adult photos that are updated to strippers profiles than any teen has access too. Safe haven my butt.

  • Matt Keegan

    Well, that stinks. Anyway, I dugg, sphunn, and stumbled this article. Yes, I left a comment too.

    Can’t say I am happy with Facebook’s decision, but at least I can opt-out if I want.

  • Dan

    How is this done? We run log-in social sites of a sort, but how would we give searchbots access? Don’t they just point blank ignore anything behind a password? Or can you ask them to crawl each page but amend the meta data to default to the ‘description’ text and not a sample of the (protected) text content?

  • brad hocutt