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Facebook is Poised to Conquer Local Search… Are You Ready?

Posted by Dakota Sheetz on Apr 7, 2017 5:16:28 PM
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With almost 2 billion active users Facebook is in a prime position to dominate the world of local search.

Due to some recent changes, Facebook has seen a substantial increase to the number of search queries made on their site. In 2016 the number of searches rose 33.3% from around 1.5 billion in 2015 to 2 billion by the end of 2016. This might seem like no surprise considering that they have around 1.86 billion active users. However, when you compare this to Google, Facebook is rapidly on their heels. Google receives around 3.5 billion searches every day and 46% of those searches are performed with local intent. This number represents an enormously lucrative opportunity for Facebook to capitalize around local search. If you consider that 82% of local searches result in a purchase that translates to 1.32 billion paying customers looking to make a purchase EVERY DAY! Facebook has already established itself as the top social platform for user engagement and it is now setting it’s sights on local search with the release of their most recent test.

According to TechCrunch, Facebook’s newest test is an enhancement of their previous renditions of test within local search. They have been flirting with space for a long time, from the purchase of Gowalla, to the Facebook Services website, and now this implementation. The new feature integrates the current software used in “Nearby” into search and allows Facebook users to complete nearby search queries through the Facebook search bar on both web and mobile platforms. For example, if you were interested in finding restaurants in your area you could simply type “restaurants nearby” into the search box and Facebook provides a list of relevant businesses along with their ratings, a location on a map, and even which of your friends have visited and liked the location in the past.

Desktop View:

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One of the biggest advantages that Facebook has is the inclusion of “friend data.” Facebook will actually display reviews from your friends that have been to the establishment. This represents an excellent example of social proof for consumers. Social proof is a key factor in influencing purchase decisions and since 92% of consumers trust a recommendation from a peer, the addition of social proof to the search results is an added benefit for businesses as it contributes to the likelihood that users will visit their store.

Facebook officials have also confirmed the latest test stating that the introduction of the feature is supposed to help users find “where to go and what to do around you”, which is impeccable timing considering Google recently reported that their overall ‘near me’ search queries have DOUBLED within the past year.

Mobile View:

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The feature provides users with basic location information (name, address, phone number), the hours of operation, its pricing, and whether the location is currently open or closed. In addition to this, Facebook seems to have begun implementing software which analyses user reviews in an attempt to determine what the business is known for based on the language used in said reviews. For example, according to Facebook’s analytical software those who visit Kevin at the W are talking about “chicken & waffles, quesadilla, and best soup”. The technology is far from perfected but it is an interesting step in the right direction for the social media titan as it aims to compete in the local search space.

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Above: Sorting filters for new search feature

Users are also given the ability to filter search results to be sorted by relevance, rating, or popularity, with the added ability to filter by price, places which are currently open and other units of measurement including “visited by friends” or “good for groups”. This added customization of results is meant to expand upon the range of capabilities that the site currently offers for search.

Based on our tests of the new feature, we believe the top ranking spots are given to businesses that have highly active Facebook pages with accurate and complete location information about the business along with reviews, comments, and likes from Facebook users. Facebook has not released an official statement describing what factors affect the rankings of their search results yet this was a reoccurring theme throughout our tests. This makes it more important than ever to be consistently managing your listing pages and updating with unique content such as user-generated photos, and interacting with customers by responding to reviewers.

Looking back at their debut into the local search sector with their 2012 release of “Nearby” (AKA “Local Search” AKA “Nearby Places”), the most recent tool doesn’t seem all that different. As you dive into it further the subtle improvements to overall functionality begin to reveal themselves in the form of the improved call-to-action buttons next to each search result and syntactically analysed user reviews, something that wasn’t seen in the previous iterations of their local search features.

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Above: Facebook ‘Nearby’ and ‘Nearby Places’, circa 2012

Despite their previous setbacks Facebook is poised to see the newest feature succeed. However, much is still up in the air as to when they plan to roll out the full version and not just the current test. According to Business Insider, Zuckerberg has confirmed that he sees search and search advertising as a future for Facebook and that this newest test is currently undergoing their three stage implementation process. The first stage involves introducing the product, the second stage develops the product’s organic usage, and the third stage monetises the product to be sold to businesses for use.

The test is currently in the second stage of development.

As it is right now, the test is still in its beta testing phase but as time goes on Facebook will be continually making enhancements to the feature. This is a major step in the right direction for the future of the business. The overall potential of the feature is massive when considering the avenues that it could open for Facebook. By utilizing the immense amount of data in their system, Facebook could have enormous leg up in the local search space because they potentially have the capability to tailor results to the preferences of their users and recommendations from your inner circle of friends that often have similar tastes, which could provide  far better accuracy than sites like Google or Bing.

As Facebook dives headfirst into local search, it is becoming increasingly more important that your business has accurate information across its Facebook pages and is staying on top of the reviews you are receiving. In Chatmeter's review management platform that measures online reputation across over 1 million storefronts, we find that almost all of these business listings are receiving the highest number of reviews on Facebook.

Schedule your FREE brand audit with Chatmeter today and we will help you to monitor your reviews, ensure the accuracy of your page information and get you to the top of Facebook search!

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