By now, most everyone has heard about Facebook and Microsoft’s new “Search More Social” partnership. If you missed the news, here’s a quick summary:
- Bing is a new “Instant Personalization” partner. When a logged-in Facebook user visits Bing.com, Bing will immediately know (1) who the user is, (2) who the user’s friends are, and (3) what the user and his/her friends have LIKEd on Facebook and around the internet.
- Bing is now featuring Facebook profiles in searches for names. These profiles include mutual friends and the ability to open a message window, both directly from the Bing.com search results page.
- Bing will also feature Facebook “open graph objects” that a user’s friends have LIKEd in search results. An open graph object is similar to a Facebook page, but they can be created by other websites. For example, OpenTable creates objects for restaurants, IMDB creates objects for movies, and ESPN.com creates objects for sports teams. These results are featured in their own section of the results, which can be anywhere on the page (or skipped altogether), depending on Bing’s assessment of their relevance.
(Bing says this will take a few weeks to roll out to everyone. If you are not seeing the social features in your Bing results, you can check out pictures on the Bing blog.)
This is clearly an important step forward for the social / semantic web, but what are the near-term practical consequences for Stik and the internet in general? We see several important changes on the horizon.
- Social search will give rise to an explosion in social commerce. Social commerce has stumbled out of the gate due to a lack of discovery mechanisms. Facebook has done a great job of cataloging what people like, but has not (until now) provided many good ways to engage people when they are looking to buy. This is why Facebook ads remain relatively cheap on a PPC basis – since almost nobody on Facebook is looking to buy, direct response ads are ineffective. We’ve played around with a bunch of different ads at Stik.com, and the results are generally pretty poor — in fact, we would bet that the majority of clicks on our Facebook ads are accidental. Searchers, on the other hand, are looking for something specific. When a person searches for “new car” on Bing, it’s a good bet that he or she is or will soon be in the market for a car. And if he/she clicks on an ad, it’s an especially good bet. As LIKEs begin to influence which pages appear in search results, they will begin to attract high-intent traffic and drive real commerce.
- Traditional SEO was like Chess; Social SEO will be like Go. Chess and traditional SEO each have a single objective: in chess, to capture the king, and in SEO, to earn the highest possible ranking for particular keywords of interest. All strategy and effort must be considered in relation to these goals. Unfortunately, traditional SEO has reached something like a stalemate. In most big-ticket verticals, a few companies dominate the most valuable keywords and reap out-sized rewards, while niche players are marginalized. Social SEO, on the other hand, will be like Go, in which players deploy static pieces in an effort to control the board as a whole. In this game, each section of the board is valuable, and often different players control different areas. Here’s the key point: Facebook LIKEs (and perhaps Google Likes, if Google ever gets around to releasing its social layer) will be the Go stones of social SEO. Every potential customer who searches for a product online will receive personalized results, and the value of SEO efforts will scale roughly linearly with the number of searchers reached. Small companies will have a chance to claim valuable territory if they act quickly and place their stones wisely.
- Facebook LIKEs will be increasingly valuable and expensive. Facebook LIKEs now have several valuable functions – not only do they appear in Bing search results, but they can be used for ad targeting and direct-to-user communications. With early reports of a Facebook content network recently surfacing, we expect that LIKEs will appreciate in value. This will mean more advertising dollars chasing LIKEs and eventually some LIKE fatigue among users. Thus, it will be harder for most businesses to gather big numbers of LIKEs in the future than it is today.
If you are a sales professional or work at a company in the mortgage, insurance, or financial planning space, contact us to learn how your business can get a jump start on the new era of SEO.