Facebook Local Search Is Now A Credible Threat to Google

What if we told you that Google might not be as important a resource for local search as you think it is?

You might think I was crazy. Surely nobody can challenge Google when it comes to search supremacy.
Right?

When it comes to local search, that might not be true.

We’re not talking about Bing or Yahoo or any traditional or new up and coming search engine like Duck Duck Go, Dogpile or Yippy (yes the last two are real search engines!). Instead, the search option that might overtake Google in local search isn’t a search engine at all.

It’s Facebook Local Search

The social media behemoth is undeniably a powerhouse when it comes to marketing small businesses with its Pay To Play, Facebook Ads platform.

And given how likely buyers are to connect with local businesses on social media, it should come as no surprise that Facebook local searches are making inroads against Google.

Here’s a quick rundown on what you need to know to take advantage of Facebook local search for your business.

  1. Facebook Is Using Location in New Ways

    Even as recently as 2015, Facebook’s search function was rubbish for local search. People who searched for businesses near them got incomplete (and often inaccurate) results.

    Today, in mid-2017, Facebook highlights the locations of businesses at the top of their home pages and on the “About” tab.

    Facebook’s search function now defaults to local search. Whereas previously, if a user searched for a type of local business, they might get results from their hometown – or from the other side of the world. I remember getting frustrated when looking for a business in Birmingham UK only to keep getting Birmingham, Alabama, USA, not helpful!

    Now, the search shows you only businesses located within a couple of miles of the searcher’s location. That’s much more helpful.

    Another major change is that Facebook local search now recognises when to use a geographic search – and when not to.

    Eg, a search for a type of business or an attraction – such as a restaurant or a park – returns relevant local results showing Places first, and then the local businesses as appropriate.  Remember though there is still a large number of businesses and attractions that haven’t claimed and updated their Facebook pages so you may still get some very strange results showing.

    If you interested you can help Facebook by taking part in their Suggest An Edit programme,  once in, Facebook shows you a place or business and ask a question, you simply answer Yes or No and move on.

    Facebook goes away and verifies your answers and awards you points to make you feel all warm and fuzzy.  I’m currently level 15, the second highest amongst my couple of thousand Facebook friends!

    When a user searches for something else, such as a celebrity or book, Facebook disregards locations and returns other results that are relevant to the search.

  2. Facebook Local Searches Return Helpful Information

    One of Google’s big advantages in local search is their ability to show relevant information – such as hours, distances, and maps – in their search results. They do this by extracting data given to them when a user sets up a Google My Business listing.

    And now Facebook does that too.  Again, taking the information from a business that has updated their business page or by the Suggest and Edit programme mentioned earlier.

    In fact, when you search for a business on Facebook, you’ll see loads of relevant data in your list of search results, including:
    Profile picture and other photos
    Business address
    How far it is from you
    If the business is open or closed
    Star ratings from Facebook reviews

    That’s a large amount of useful information – and it can be tremendously helpful when it comes to attracting Facebook users to your business.

    Everything a searcher needs to know is at their fingertips, usually right there on their phone and that means that you’ll get more clicks, calls, and visits as a result of a search on Facebook.

  3. Facebook Is Crowdsourcing Its Databases

    One of Facebook’s value propositions for businesses is that it’s a social media giant with a huge number of users. As of June 2017, that number has topped two billion!

    Remember though that recently the news feed algorithm changed, dramatically reducing the number Facebook users a business could reach when posting on their Facebook business page.

    The heyday of free Facebook traffic has pretty much gone.  Boost Your Post and local engagement ads are here to stay!

    Two billion people have a good deal of collective knowledge, and Facebook is now putting that knowledge to work for local businesses.
    When a user checks in at a local business on Facebook, they get a series of questions about the business – questions designed to help other users learn about it.

    Eg, they might ask:
    Does this business have parking?
    Does our map show the correct location for this business?

    The benefit of this crowdsourcing is clear. It ensures that anybody who searches your business on Facebook will have access to accurate and detailed data about your business to help them decide whether to buy from you.

    BUT… some people will think its funny to add incorrect data, hence the reason for the Suggest an Edit programme mentioned earlier, a neat way of double checking the accuracy – for free!

  4. Friend Posts and Facebook Local Search Are Integrated

    Would you be more likely to frequent a local business if you knew your friends liked it?  More than probably!

    That’s because social proof is a huge driver of business in digital marketing.
    Even reviews from strangers on sites like Yelp & Trip Advisor carry a lot of weight, a recent survey reported 88% of people saying they read reviews at least some of the time.

    Facebook now uses Friend check-ins and posts in combination with local search.
    So when you search for a local business, you might see an announcement that the business was “visited by friends.”

    You can click to see which friends have visited. And when you search for a business, you will also get Friend Posts in your search results so you can see what your friends have to say.

    One of the most recent updates to local business search in Facebook is the ‘Ask For A Recommendation’ a business’ post type.  Select this and a location and your question will magically turn into a really noticeable post on your friends newsfeeds.

  5. Facebook City Guides

    Which would you rather do when you visit a new city: go to a business that caters to tourists or visit one that the locals love?

    A lot of people choose the latter option. Facebook knows this and local search makes it easy for people to find out what the locals say about your business – and for locals to get to know about your business in a new way.

    In addition to displaying business information such as location, hours, and reviews, the city guides also show which friends have visited each business listed.

    Make the Most of Your Facebook Profile To Maximise The Number Of Sales Leads You Get From Facebook Local Search

    Want people to be able to find you or your business on Facebook? Here are some top tips to make your profile easy to find.

    1. Fill out your profile fully. Make sure that your name, address, phone number and website (NAPW) are listed properly and the same as your other online profiles. Take a look here at my recent post on the importance of NAPW consistency.

    2. Check to make sure that Facebook displays a map with a pin at the top of your profile. (It should show up automatically, but doesn’t always!).  Make certain the pin is in the right place!

    3. To make sure profile contains correct data answer as many questions as you can yourself, even if it means simply answering “no” to questions that don’t apply to you. If you don’t someone else might and the crowdsourced answer might not be the correct.  Sometimes the public can’t be trusted, remember the Boaty McBoatface poll

    4. Turn on Facebook buttons like “Call” and “Make an Appointment”. ‘Click to call’ buttons like these are especially useful for mobile Facebook users.

    5. Make sure you add all the business categories that apply to you. You only need to provide one, but adding extra ones can broaden the chances that people will find you. Bonus points if you can find the business category that matches your Google My Business profile.

    Giving Facebook all the information it needs to help searchers find you is easy – and can have a big impact on the number of calls your business gets and the amount of referral (traffic from another website, this data shows up in Google Search Console) traffic your website gets.

    I believe Google still matters the most because it is still true that the vast majority of people still use Google to look for products and services…

    But Facebook matters as well when it comes to local search, especially as people start to use Facebook to ask their friends for recommendations instead of calling or texting them.

    SEM To do:

    Put aside 15 minutes to work on optimising your Facebook business description and page.  Find some really nice photos and videos and take the time to fully fill out your business details.

    Pro tip: Turn on Facebook messages and respond to questions as quickly as you can, Facebook will reward you with a cool badge if you consistently answer user questions quickly.  You can even use a bot to turn your Facebook messenger into an automated salesperson!


Simon Kensington-Fellows
Simon Kensington-Fellows

Simon Kensington-Fellows is an experienced veteran of search engine optimisation having been successfully ranking websites in Google and Bing for over a decade.  Simon's speciality is local SEO.  He is passionate about helping businesses grow their calls, customers and cash by improving their visibility in the search engines.