7 changes by Facebook that make it a real local search player
Columnist Wesley Young looks at recent improvements Facebook has made -- and functionality being tested -- that may position the social media giant to compete with Google in the area of local search.
The race to steal market share from Google in local search has been futile. Google dominates search with over 63 percent market share, and in mobile, where the growth is, Google almost holds a monopoly at 95 percent. The dark horse in the race is Facebook — the one who can match Google’s Goliath size, audience and resources.
Yet it has never seriously challenged Google in search, and both companies have seemed somewhat satisfied to retreat to their respective corners of strength — Facebook deferring in the area of search, and Google shelving its Google+ social network.
With its huge base of users and volume of personal data on them, Facebook has great potential for helping users in their search for local products/services and helping businesses get found. All the components are there: millions of business pages, location data, behavior data, demographic information, social networks and engagement.
Yet despite the potential, Facebook hadn’t in recent years been able to effectively compete with the likes of Google in local search. Facebook is a great place to engage with existing customers and reach targeted audiences with sponsored posts in news feeds. However, customers still largely left the platform to find local businesses and information.
The Local Search Association (disclosure: my employer) recently released a report about how consumers in 12 cities of varying populations look for local business information. Search engines still dominate local search at 80 percent usage, compared to 48 percent for social networks.
But Facebook seems to be steadily improving its search function, preferring to move at a deliberate pace in developing its own proprietary technology instead of contracting with others (as it did previously with Bing).
About 18 months ago, I looked at Facebook’s search capability and concluded that it lacked complete and accurate data, returned poor search results and generally offered a bad user experience. It just didn’t work.