Mention the phrase “search engine optimization” to bank or credit union marketing executives and they reflexively think of Google. However, Facebook’s vast universe of user data presents tantalizing opportunities for financial institutions. Facebook can deliver targeted ads and search referrals based on users’ ‘Likes,’ friends and personal preferences. But none of this can happen if you aren’t likeable on Facebook first.
By John Siracusa, President & CEO at mOSa eBank Marketing Services
Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page once described the perfect search engine as something that “understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want.” Google has been the #1 search engine for decades because of their website indexing abilities. People say “Google it,” and within a few keystrokes, they find the information they are looking for.
The weakness of this model is Google’s search algorithms. They alone determine what results people see, but how on earth can a formula possibly know what real human beings — with all their complexities and subtleties of language — are actually looking for?
The new prize every major search engine is scrambling to develop hinges on the “people aspect” of search. Google created Google+ in an attempt to incorporate personal profiles, preferences and past behaviors into their search model to give users content with personal relevance from sources they deem highly influential and/or credible.
Then on the other hand, there’s Facebook. They started on a fresh slate, since Google already dominates the search engine market with a staggering 500 million searches per day. But Facebook is an online behemoth in its own right, with an incredible 665 million active users per day worldwide. While Google tries to personalize search results based on multiple factors — geographic location, keyword, Google+ (when users are logged in), search history, and a few other factors — Facebook on the other hand can completely tailor its search results based on users expressed personal preference: ‘Likes,’ posts, interactions and friends.
Facebook Graph Search doesn’t search the web, it searches Facebook. Although Facebook hasn’t perfected its search engine quite yet, Facebook nevertheless enjoys a large advantage over Google: people engage with content that they like. That means Facebook can monitor more than just click through rates. What kind of content does User X like reading? What kind of content does User X like sharing with others? With whom does User X like to interact, and what are their friends’ likes and preferences.
Using this knowledge, Facebook is able to determine within a large margin of certainty what is important to each individual Facebook user. It’s obvious: people log into Facebook to read and share what’s important to them.
Why should financial marketers care? Here are 3 reasons
1) You have to be active, engaged and likeable on Facebook. Optimizing your online presence for Google involves things like increasing the number of inbound and outbound links to your site, improving the usability of your website, and fine-tuning titles and meta-content. But to get results in Facebook’s search model, you can’t do it alone. You need to build a community and get them engaged around your content. Facebook users will have to either interact with content created by your brand, or create content about your brand themselves.
Website SEO is content and links and how it gets indexed. Facebook SEO is content and people, and how they get indexed. Major difference. No Facebook page, no Facebook SEO or opportunities.
2) Richer user data on Facebook gives financial marketers pinpoint accuracy. Ads in Facebook Graph Search can be targeted much more accurately than Google Adwords. Facebook has more data to work with, and better quality information, enabling them to deliver ads based on what people in each user’s social sphere of influence follow and like.
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3) Facebook referrals are gold. There is nothing better than a genuine referral from a real person. But the next best thing is a search referral. A user can post a question on Facebook like, “Does anybody know a good place to get a mortgage?” and that can trigger an entire wave of information — including answers from friends — that Facebook is indexing. In Facebook Graph Search, a user can also search friends who either recommended or forewarned about a great or terrible past experience with a financial institution. Furthermore, users can see an advertisement from a financial institution in Facebook Graph Search that 13 of my friends already like and checked-in at. That enables users to make decisions based on multiple personalized research points.
By comparison, Google will have to cobble various different technologies together — like Yelp! and MyBankTracker.com — if they even want to come close to approximating the relevancy of Facebook’s search model.
Personalized results based on “people indexing” is the future of search, and right now Facebook is in the driver’s seat. If social media is on the back burner of your financial institution, then this is your wake up call: fall behind in the world’s #1 social network and your institution will also be struggling in the future social world of search.
( Read More: 12 Common SEO Mistakes Financial Marketers Make )