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May 18, 2015

Facebook’s Own In-App Search Engine a Threat to Google


It’s no secret that the internet is experiencing a shift away from desktop searches and towards a more mobile-friendly future as consumers adapt to increasingly busy lifestyles.

But how will the evolving digital landscape impact the future of search, and what will this mean for the established system of information online? If Facebook succeeds with its recently unveiled “add a link” query option, users may be able to bypass Google entirely.

Though it’s difficult to imagine a company ever rivalling the reigning champion and undisputed king of the internet, all that may be about to change.

Paving the Way for Competition

Google’s “Mobilegeddon” algorithm change that went ahead on April 21st created more than a few opportunities for its social media counterparts and Facebook was more than happy to take advantage of the situation.

The platform has been developing an in-app keyword search engine specifically for use with mobile devices. It allows users to add content to nested Facebook status updates, infinitely simplifying a process that was once cumbersome at the best of times.

Search returns via the option seem to be sorted by relevancy, though recently published and popular articles that have attracted a high degree of audience engagement or have gone viral are given preference in the index of over 1 trillion posts.

Mobile Ad Revenue Tops Expectations

While the technology is still in beta and limited to a small U.S. test group, the past 12 months have indicated that such a change was bound to occur. According to Bloomberg, Facebook posted profit topping estimates — $2.91 billion and a 61 percent increase over the previous year — in the second quarter of 2014.

These gains were largely the by-product of a surge in mobile advertising and while Google reported a 6 percent decrease in the average price of its ads, Facebook was able to charge more for less.

This is indicative of the power that advertising via social networking sites has had over traditional avenues and Facebook seems well positioned to capitalize on its momentum over the short to medium term.

Now that the two giants have taken significant market share away from their competition, they stand as conquerors and almost as equals considering the fact that Google pulled in $4.76 billion in net revenue during the last quarter of 2014.
Referral Traffic Edges Out Search Returns

There is a marked difference in the way that each company chooses to operate. Google’s efforts have always been geared towards allowing individual users access to the information they want while Facebook has prioritized the practice and proliferation of social sharing.

Interestingly, the word “Facebook” has been the most searched for term via the Google search engine for some time. If the company didn’t have plans for leveraging its sizable audience and quite literally “become the internet,” it wouldn’t be where it is today.

Facebook is now enjoying the status it has worked so tirelessly towards and has, as of 2014, officially taken pole position in the race to acquire referral traffic.

According to AdWeek, the social media platform delivered almost 25 percent of all social clicks and this has galvanized the online publishing industry as more and more content creators push their work into the channel.

Features of Facebook’s “Add a Link”

As Facebook derives a large part of its revenue from mobile advertising, the new search tool has been tailored to display news items and popular stories natively. If one report from the Wall Street Journal is to be believed, Facebook could offer 100 percent of ad revenue to creators if they sell the items advertised in this way.

This creates a number of significant advantages for advertisers using the platform and eliminates the need for users to navigate away from their News Feed and wait for pages to load.

It’s a win-win for all concerned and Google must be sweating bullets.

The fact that this is happening only weeks after the rollout of Mobilegeddon shows that Facebook may be outthinking and outpacing its biggest rival. But with no public release date in sight, it’s difficult to see what actual impact this will have.

Facebook’s Projected Direction

There’s no doubt that Facebook has become a spectacular platform for businesses, advertisers and users and so the question is, “Will Facebook become more like Google in the very near future?”

Most experts would venture to say that Facebook won’t come to resemble the successful tech giant, but will be trialing a variety of innovative ways to make the conventional search engine virtually obsolete.

Facebook already attracts 1.44 billion active users on a monthly basis worldwide and 29 percent of these users are classed as millennials – the generation that came of age when the company was still in its infancy.

With that kind of demographic, Facebook needs to keep the information circulating its network of pages both relevant and interesting. When 75 percent of engagement occurs within the first five hours, timing is everything and Facebook’s new strategy seems to be well aware of that fact.

A New Paradigm in SEO

In all likelihood the most dramatic changes people are going to see are fundamental alterations to the way SEO works. As something that has been inextricably tied to Google and a first page ranking, the company would do well to run a few damage control protocols.

Whatever those measures might be are anyone’s guess. Suffice it to say that Google won’t go down without a fight and we’ll just have to wait and see how it all plays out.


Adrienne Erin writes frequently for SiteProNews about online marketing strategies that help businesses succeed. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter to get in touch, or visit Design Roast to see more of her work.