10 Reasons Why Facebook Wont Challenge Google in Search

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10 Reasons Why Facebook Wont Challenge Google in Search

by Clint Boulton

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Too Much Google, Too Little Time

With Facebook's Open Graph protocol, TripAdvisor.com and other Websites are showing up in Facebook's search results, with links back to their Website. This symbiotic relationship means TripAdvisor is giving Facebook access to its site, while the travel site gets placement on Facebook's valuable real estate. That's not unlike Google's approach. But Google has 65 percent of the U.S. search market locked up, more overseas. That's too much power.

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If Bing Cant Do It, Who Can?

Microsoft's Bing has been in the market for a year. While it has grown from 8 percent to 10 percent, the growth seems to have come at Yahoo's expense and Bing is powering Yahoo's search now anyway. Google has remained untouched.

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People Arent Ready for Social Search

Despite a huge groundswell of hype about social search, where users leverage information provided from friends and acquaintances to find what they need online, this market hasn't taken off. Mahalo, Lijit, Google's Aardvark, Hunch and others believe they have the solution. But, they're not exactly rocketing to stardom the way Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Google itself once did.

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The Problem Is Search Type Perception

People search for other people on Facebook, but few people go to Facebook to search the Web and they certainly don't expect to see Web results in their searches. Consumers who aren't geeks don't see the intersection of search and social. They go to Google for search and Facebook for socialization.

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Lousy Search Experience

Some see Facebook's rise to power in search via the current Open Graph instantiation as impractical. Search Engine Land's sage Danny Sullivan noted that the search experience AllFacebook pointed out for TripAdvisor is weak: "In short, Facebook made me fight my way to its "Open Graph" results, where I got a less compelling experience than at Google and the same results you got. My social network isn't even influencing what I see. None of that is going to cause people to say "awesome, I'm going to do more searching at Facebook."

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Providing a Compelling Experience

Offering search that links to other Websites just isn't enough. There has to be a compelling user experience. Even Google goes astray here. For example, Google rose to power on the strength of its simple user interface. But its homepage and now its search results pages are getting more cluttered with refinements, sparking user protests. Pleasing people in the quest to improve the UI isn't easy.

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Not Enough Data

Facebook has been gaining share in queries, according to comScore and others. But it simply lacks the data sets necessary to challenge Bing or Yahoo let alone Google. What this means is that searching on Facebook is less likely to produce relevant results because the social network hasn't indexed them. Facebook would need to have millions of businesses latch on to its Open Graph initiative through Facebook Connect, which only has tens of thousands of businesses in the mix.

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Search Talent?

Facebook has poached myriad Google engineers and executives to build out its prodigious business ($800 million in 2009, wow!). But Google has cultivated some 700 engineers to work on search alone. Clearly, it's their sweet spot. The fact that Google has been able to roll out a new search index and UI within months of each other is no easy feat. Unless Facebook has been incredibly stealthy, which is impossible when Googlers leave for Facebook, the social network simply lacks the talent and resources to challenge Google, Bing, Yahoo or anyone in search.

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Facebook SEO? What SEO?

On the opposing side of good data sets and strong engineers are the squads of search engine optimization gurus who parse search sites to see how they can boost rankings. On Facebook, it's pretty darn hard, as aimClear's Marty Weintrab noted: "Facebook SEO, the art and science of attaining organic prominence in FB SERPs, will certainly mean something in the future. For now the engine is spotty, underused, and ... well ... silly. Sometimes we actually find it easier to find people (FB searches main strength) using Google. We hope these suggestions open a line of dialog amongst SEOs regarding Facebook ranking factors." In short, if people can't get good SEO, people won't work hard to be indexed there, which means Facebook search will be a non-starter.

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Facebook Isnt Trying to Challenge Google in Search

AllFacebook's representation of Facebook's Open Graph as a declaration of war against Google was stretching the reality. Facebook CTO Bret Taylor, who worked for Google, noted: "Only the pages your friends have liked appear in your personalized search results. While we plan on increasing the pages' distribution through search in the future, right now, search is not the focus of the team working on product. We are focused on discovery and enabling users to build out their profile by liking things around the Web." Facebook may be racking up more organic search queries, but it's not an indication the company is gunning for Google's search dynasty.

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