Facebook’s New Graph Search to Replace Google

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Today Facebook announced the launch of a new search tool called “ Graph Search”.  This tool is expected to take a nice bite out of Google’s search engine traffic, but it probably poses the biggest threat to sites like Yelp and Trip Adviser. Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook,  announced the release of the new tool this morning at a press conference in California.

I immediately went to Facebook to try it out when I saw the news about it.  I’m an SEO gal and this thing is rumored to rival Google for goodness sake!  On the Facebook homepage there is a link to try it out, which I clicked on.  Unfortunately, I was not able to try out Graph Search because it is not available to me yet.  I got a message saying that I would be notified when the tool was available for use on my account.  This explains the  “very early beta” caveat. There is a waiting list, sigh.

According to Zuckerberg, Graph Search is completely different than a regular search engine like Google or Bing.   With Graph Search,  users are searching for answers to specific questions based on their Facebook friends’ likes, opinions, and relationships.  Unlike conventional search engines where you type in a word and get a list of websites related to that term, when you search on Facebook’s Graph Search you get an answer to your question.   Because the searches are so customized users will never get the same answer for a search term even if they have exactly the same friends.  This is because although friends might be the same, each individual’s relationships with those people are different.

Statistically speaking, most people turn to Google to search for everything.  And in Google’s search results are a lot of reviews and recommendations websites.  Sites like Yelp and Trip Adviser might be in trouble because people visit those sites to see reviews and opinions.  Yelp is one of the most popular sites to visit for restaurant reviews, pictures, and suggestions. 

Trip Advisor is to the travel industry what Yelp is to the restaurant industry. People visit Trip Advisor for advice on vacation ideas, travel brokers, and hotels.  Graph Search has the potential to steal much of these popular review websites’ traffic.

Users on graph search can do drill down searches by asking specific questions or giving commands.  Then they can refine the results with other subsidiary commands and questions.  For example, a user could search “best restaurants” and get a set of results based on their likes and their friends’ experiences. Then they can refine the search to a specific location by adding “Houston”.  Then the results will filter down to just restaurants in Houston.  Then the user can put in another term to further filter it like “healthy” or “romantic”, and Graph Search will filter them even more.  These filters can also be applied to searches for recruiting employees and finding photos.

Although I do visit my Facebook page a few times a week, I am not a daily Facebook user.  So for me, this tool is valuable, but not as valuable as it is to heavy users.  I don’t see Graph Search replacing Google for most of my searches any time soon.  For heavy Facebook users (you know who you are I just saw your latest status update), Graph Search will likely replace most of their Google searches.  According to this article there are now over 1 billion active Facebook users in the world.  Even if only a quarter of them replace Google with Graph Search, Google is sure to feel the blow.  If you didn’t consider Facebook important for search marketing before, you have to now.

by Jennifer Long

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