Confession: Back when Facebook first rolled out Graph Search in 2013, I was a little disappointed.
The conversion path for someone to actually go from Facebook Graph Search to my business page to my website was so long it was improbable many would complete it.
Turns out I wasn’t the only one who was disappointed. Facebook Graph Search had some limitations.
So when Facebook solved the mobile problem and added keyword functionality in 2014, marketers (and investigators) were elated, using Facebook Graph Search extensively.
However, amidst privacy concerns in 2019, Facebook quietly removed much of the functionality around its Graph Search, explaining in a statement they were pausing “some aspects of graph search [to] focus more on improving keyword search.”
The good news for consumers is that only the content they want to be public is actually public.
The good news for marketers is that with improved keyword search, any public content can be easily found, including content from Pages (which are always public), public groups, public profiles, and posts marked “public.”
Best of all, understanding how to use Facebook’s search means you can optimize your content on Facebook to be more easily found by your ideal audience, which can be a valuable Facebook marketing strategy. Let’s dive in.
Understanding How Facebook’s Graph Search Lives On Through Keyword Search
Although Facebook’s Graph Search technically is no more, part of what made it so beloved by marketers was its ability to call up past posts from friends and pages, no matter how old.
The good news for marketers is that if your posts are relevant to your audience, they can still easily find your content when searching for related topics.
Just as importantly, you can start to look for people who are asking about the problem(s) you solve.
How Facebook Search Now Works
Facebook’s latest update now lets you search for people, posts, photos, places, pages, groups, apps, and events using any keywords you’d like.
So, if you wanted to check out pictures from your cousin Shirley’s wedding, you could search for “Shirley wedding” and get results for those terms.
You’ll likely get results for people you know first and other public best-fit results, including those geographically near you.
Note: Shirley’s wedding photos may be more difficult to find than that, so you may need to try “Shirley’s wedding pictures” or some other variation to find the specific content you want.
However, with images performing well on Facebook, those pictures might just be the first to come up.
Unless you’re in the wedding business, you might not be searching for a specific wedding when you wear your marketer hat, so let’s use HubSpot’s blog as an example. Type it into the search bar on either the desktop or mobile version.
On a desktop, it appears at the top left of your screen.
On your mobile device, you find the search bar on the top right by clicking on the magnifying glass.
While there are a variety of ways Facebook might return your results, they’re typically grouped according to which items (or types of items) have the closest connection to you. But those results may or may not be recent.
If you know what you’re looking for, you can use the menu at the left to filter by most post types:
Additionally, you can use those primary categories to get even more granular with your filters. And while the mobile version looks a bit different, with the filters across the top, you’ll see that the results are the same.
Why does this matter for marketers? When you understand how search works, you can use it to your advantage, either optimizing your content to be found or finding specific types of posts or posts with specific phrasing.
Using Additional Facebook Search Filters
On both the desktop and mobile versions of the Facebook app, if you select the posts filter, additional filters will pop up beneath it.
These allow you to dive even deeper, directing Facebook search to pull up recent posts, posts you’ve seen, or posts from a specific year or location. You can also pull up content based on the source, choosing from:
Your groups and pages.
On mobile, you have the same options, but you pull them up using the graphic at the top right of the search results page.
What may be surprising is that not a lot of results pop up from the HubSpot blog. However, when you think about it, most of our posts don’t feature the words “HubSpot blog.”
Currently, we’re sharing a lot of videos, humor, and infographic-style content, but when we do share content from the blog, we don’t always say it’s from the “HubSpot blog.”
So let’s test this on another set of terms, like “help with hubspot.” In this case, you might find a list of people who are looking for help with HubSpot or getting HubSpot experience.
Sure enough, in addition to the HubSpot public group, Facebook search pulls up a group for people looking for HubSpot advice.
Who can use Facebook search?
Like Facebook Graph Search, Facebook search is primarily available to people who are logged into their Facebook accounts through either the desktop or mobile apps.
While you can find some Facebook pages using your favorite search engine, and may be able to pull up some pages, typically to get the most out of Facebook (and its search functionality), you need to be logged in.
This makes a lot of sense since your search results are based on how you interact with Facebook and the people on it.
Who can see what’s on your personal page?
One of the biggest sources of uproar when Facebook Graph Search launched was the ability for people to search anything. That is no longer the case, as we mentioned above.
However, to be completely clear, with Facebook’s renewed focus on privacy, if you mark your page private or ensure that only your friends see your personal content, no one outside of that audience should be able to see your posts.
While it is possible that old (pre-privacy settings) posts may have slipped through and become public without you meaning them to, nothing from the past several years will appear.
With that said, regardless of your current privacy settings, now is probably a great time to review them to be sure only the content you want to be public appears in the public eye.
5 Ways to Use Facebook Search as a Marketer
Early on, we mentioned that even though using Facebook Graph Search is no longer feasible, in many ways, its functionality lives on through the latest iterations of search. With that in mind, here are five things you can do to take advantage of Facebook search to reach your target audience.
1. Know your audience and what they’re searching for.
Before you dive into the world of Facebook search and start optimizing your posts, you need to know more about who your audience is, where they hang out, and what they’re searching for.
With that in mind, it’s a good idea to create a detailed persona so you can poke around and learn more about their questions and needs. Need some tips?
Join some groups that your target audience is in.
Pay attention to the types of questions they’re asking.
Pay close attention to their wording to identify key phrases.
Make a list of the content you have that answers those questions.
Keep a running list of content you don’t have but can speak to for future blogs or videos.
Feel free to engage with their posts and share your articles (if that’s allowed in the rules of the group).
Outside of the group, optimize any existing posts or reshare content and make sure to use those keywords.
Remember, Facebook search is a two-way street. Sure, it shows you content from people in your groups, but it’s also more likely to show them content from you!
If you’re engaging in groups your audience is in, they’re more likely to find your content when they use Facebook search, and Facebook’s algorithm will also be more likely to push your content forward.
Test it out by sharing content from your personal page and your business page. Or share your business page content to your personal page. Above all, make sure that any personal posts are public so people can find them.
2. Beef up your evergreen creation and promotion.
Just like in the old Facebook Graph Search, old posts can still show up in today’s Facebook search if they’re relevant.
So, if you want to increase your Facebook CTR in the long term, try creating more blog posts and videos around evergreen topics and including links to those posts on Facebook.
How do you know what to create? It goes back to the audience research we did above. That way, when someone’s using Facebook search to look for a post on that evergreen topic two years from now, your posts can still be relevant.
Plus, that type of content will also be great for building sustainable traffic from Google — a great way to cover all of your organic traffic bases.
3. Optimize your posts with keywords, titles, and short summaries.
Remember what we said about HubSpot’s blog above? Because we don’t typically include the words “HubSpot blog” in our posts, those individual posts don’t always show up in a Facebook search.
Because today’s posts tend to remove the URL link and replace it with a display photo that auto-populates with the page title, if you want to include specific language, you need to do so in the post.
This post from Shutterstock demonstrates how Facebook absorbs link text into the URL preview. In addition to the link content, their post has keywords that are relevant to stock photos:
Looking for best practices on Facebook post character counts? This article has you covered.
4. Add in more engagement-driven content.
On Facebook, the more people engage with your posts, the more the algorithm will show your posts. Try changing up your content with videos, reels, images, memes, and other fun posts that drive engagement.
Your engaging content needs to be geared towards two different groups: existing followers and new followers. Each will involve slightly different tactics.
Reaching Existing Followers
Facebook search is more likely to display results from pages, groups, and people that you’ve interacted with before.
So, as a marketer, you might need to devote more calories to increasing Facebook engagement — sometimes at the expense of getting clicks.
How? Instead of posting link after link to your blog, consider some of the above posts types or drop a post designed to get responses like the one below.
It’s not just about self-promotion, after all. It’s about getting people to interact with you and delivering valuable and helpful content.
With that in mind, test out different types of posts that are helpful to your audience and make them want to like and comment on your post.
Regardless of how you do it, the key to getting your current audience to find you via Facebook search at a later date is to engage them now — so play with it and see what happens.
Acquiring New Followers
Getting more likes and comments on your posts isn’t just a great way to nurture existing followers; it can also be a Facebook search acquisition strategy.
Because Facebook search — and the algorithm in general — displays content from your friends, including posts they’ve liked or commented on, it has the potential to help you reach their friends.
Again, you’re going to need to test out different “friend of follower” acquisition tactics.
How you actually go about doing that will be very different for each page and audience, but one idea might involve creating a blog post on a super shareable and searchable topic.
The algorithm is always changing the best ways of getting engagement on Facebook posts. So, Facebook search may become an important part of your marketing strategy.
My best advice here? Just start testing.
5. Make sure your website is completely mobile-optimized.
This last tip isn’t specific to Facebook’s mostly defunct Graph Search or the current iteration of Facebook search. With 98.5% of Facebook’s users accessing the platform via mobile device, any links they click will also be seen on mobile.
And it’s not just Facebook users that are mobile. As of October 2023, 56% of global web visits were mobile, so your site has to create a similar experience on mobile and on desktop.
So, if your site is not mobile-friendly or responsive, your audience won’t stick around. They’ll click out of there faster than the blink of an eye.
In addition to creating a less-than-optimal user experience, your bounce rate will go up and possibly decrease your reputation with Google.
(If you’re a HubSpot customer on the COS, your website should already be responsive, making this one less thing you need to check off your Facebook search optimization checklist.)
Facebook search is a viable inbound marketing strategy (even if Graph Search is officially gone).
Using Facebook Graph Search may not technically be an option anymore, but as Facebook continues to beef up its search functionalities, optimizing your content for Facebook search is more than a viable inbound marketing strategy.
It’s a great opportunity to stand out from the crowd.
Have you played around with Graph Search yet? Let us know what you think in the comments below.