Facebook Search Engine Gets a Face-Lift!

Facebook is revamping its search engine and grabbing a part of the $15 billion search advertising market!
About two-dozen Facebook engineers, led by a former Google engineer, are working on an improved search engine. “The goal is to help users better sift through the volume of content that members create on the site, such as status updates, and the articles, videos, and other information across the Web that people “like” using Facebook’s thumbs-up button,” according to Business Week.

Facebook has a gold mine of social data it can apply to search queries, or terms users typed into its search field. In February, Facebook fielded 336 million search queries, according to ComScore–only magnitudes fewer than Google and its closest competitors.

With a stronger search engine, Facebook would be like the Wal-Mart of the Internet: a one-stop shop! For example, if a user is on Facebook and wants to go out to dinner for Italian food, he can query the closet Italian restaurants that have been liked most often and maybe even find a coupon from the restaurant’s business page!

Instead of crawling and ranking the whole Web, as Google does, Facebook already allows users to avidly flag the most interesting content, such as the best articles, recipes, and shopping deals.

Facebook could also start selling relevant and profitable keyword ads alongside results. 

However, the golden road is never without bumps. Facebook’s search revamp will hit a few obstacles. Users see and rate only a fraction of the Web’s content [generally “new” content,] so Facebook may have a harder time including more obscure content in search results, such as an older restaurant. The site also has a strong working relationship with Bing and therefore needs to avoid stepping on their toes. In 2010, Bing began personalizing results based on what a user’s Facebook friends “like.”

Greg Sterling, a senior analyst at Opus Research, says Facebook could easily become the second-most popular search engine if it overcomes these small roadblocks. “There’s a huge amount of revenue waiting to be unlocked if they want to explore search-based pay-per-click advertising,” he says. “They can leverage the data and demographic information they already have.” Only then will that blurry photo of Facebook’s potential new search box come into focus.

Facebook already has a leg up on Google in terms of ad targeting by interest and demographic; finding users based on specific things they have “liked.” Add a great search engine and you also get users while they’re actively seeking something out.

Improving Facebook search in some ways simply means making more effective use of our data–which leads us to wonder..do they have something bigger brewing?

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