How Facebook is Gunning for Google (And Killing SEO)

How Facebook is Gunning for Google (And Killing SEO)

Reader Comments (130)

  1. I think there’s a lot of truth here, and it’s definitely true with all the link sharing that has moved from blogs to Twitter as well.

    One thing I will point out… it’s a common point of discussion amond SEO folk that if Perez Hilton applied some very basic SEO to his site, his Google traffic would skyrocket.

  2. This is a timely post for me as I get ready to launch a new site. As much as I’m not a fan of Facebook I gotta admit that’s where the people are right now.

    May have to rethink my approach and make it easier for Facebookers to participate. Makes Facebook Connect seem more attractive.

  3. OMG… is Google going to die soon? Anyway, thanks for sharing this great information, I think I had to use facebook more often then I use other social media website, what you had just written really is a scary thought for SEO user…

  4. All this may be accurate if you completely throw out any consideration for the current trends.
    As the mainstream mother-in-law is entering facebook, we’ve all already moved on to twitter, friendfeed, and whatever comes next.
    Facebook (and all sites) fail to mention that the number of sign-ups is not the number of active users.

    As far as SEO goes, don’t you think the link shortening services is what’s killing SEO? meanwhile, facebook is just killing time with pointless pyramid games. Facebook is headed to be another myspace… so, in turn, important people and important links won’t be there.

    by the way… perez hilton has more facebook hits, because no one is searching for him on google…. it shows Perez Hilton is dwindling even though it appears he’s still rising in popularity.

  5. I’m not ready to predict Facebook as a winner over Google until Facebook develops a viable revenue stream. Until then, it’s just a bottomless pit for investors.

  6. The interesting part of this was the amount of times ‘Facebook’ appeared in the article.

    Can we say keyword research?

  7. Excellent points!

    Not to disparage Facebook or its influence but so many sites have claimed to be Google killers that it’s becoming a bit like the boy who cried wolf. The same was said of Myspace, Squidoo, *gasp* Cuil (?!)… more recently Facebook and Twitter and let’s not forget Bing trying to get in there and make waves.

    Of course you should optimize your content for users – whether they’re from Facebook, Google or what have you. But I wonder if Google will (sooner than later) become more of a social search engine to try and collect some of Facebook’s momentum? It will be interesting to see what happens.

  8. Dave, um… the article is about Facebook.

    No one had to do any research to discover that “Facebook” was a relevant word for an article about Facebook.

  9. It is becoming far more important to protect your brand on Facebook, another one added to the already bloated list.

    The vanity URL fiasco is just another example of this. I hope the dinosaurs don’t make marketing a squatting exercise…

    I don’t think FB is going to detract from Google though, many people I talk to still consider FB a personal social tool. Twitter usually is more commonly used to promote their businesses. They set out to do completely different things, in fact I don’t see Google losing much share to anything anytime soon. Bing!

  10. I think that Google develops so many amazing tools (Google Docs, Gmail, Google Wave, etc.) that Google is not really in any dire position because of Facebook.

    I do however think that website owners need rethink their online promotion of the website. We’ve already seen that shift from submitting your site to tonnes of search engine to focusing on SEO and writing good content.

    I think we now need to shift from so much emphasis on writing content that is SEO to just writing good content so that it can become ‘viral’ and get sent around the social networks.

  11. I am really likely Twitter compared to Facebook. With Facebook you have your friends and you post to a wall that only your friends can read. With Twitter to post to your profile and the world can read it, search for it, and follow you. Much more worthwhile meeting and following new people.

  12. I always enjoyed reading your articles about _copywriting_, but I think that you’re way off base here.

    Search and email currently dominate – and will continue – as the most common daily tasks for Internet users. Even as people spend more time on Facebook (not Twitter, it’s already showing signs of greatly slowing down. Also, MySpace has begun a slow death spiral), it’s quite obvious that viewing content shared by friends does not take the place of a search engine. Facebook is not simply walled from search engines, it’s walled between users. I might have great notes on my FB profile about cars that I like but no one can see it except for my friends. Hardly a search engine killer.

    SEO continues to be vital to website success. And making your site’s content compelling and easily shareable on Facebook, etc. is also important. But they’re really complementary.

    P.S. Link shortening services aren’t killing SEO. The popular link shortening services are SEO friendly. I won’t explain beyond since that’s outside the scope of this discussion.

  13. With google, it was all about word relevancy and content . With fb, its all about the humanistic aspect of the stuff that websites are made from… a different taste indeed for traffic in the coming days!

  14. Facebook has a lot of users and sure, it’s been going up. But have you ever considered the fact that Google, too, has tons of users: they’re just not “registered”.

    I believe that Facebook is making a big mistake but not allowing crawlers to index most of the site. They would actually grow in size if they allowed the bots in. (Or at least allowed people to specify whether or not they wanted their stuff indexed or not).

  15. Rather than getting caught up in whether Google is dying or Facebook will be around in 20 years or whatever, I think it makes sense to always keep an eye open for new tools that will suit our businesses.

    If Google is the only tool in your tool box, you’ve put yourself in a tremendously vulnerable position. If you keep using the best new tools that present themselves, you’ll create a much more stable and secure business. Even the scorned MySpace can be a tremendous tool if you have the right product and message.

    Or, as my friend Steve likes to say, “or is for wimps.” Except his term is much ruder than “wimps.”

  16. The key to this article is definetely content. I just listened to a seminar on social media and nobody mentioned content. The whole talk was about being active on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. However, if you don’t have a great website and/or a blog with lots of well-written content designed to convert visitors into customers, most businesses won’t get much out of social media posts.

  17. AOL tought us that walled gardens and SEO don’t mix. I know. I spent a year helping AOL optimize its content for existence outside the walled garden. I can see how some site owners may look for organic traffic strategies on sites such as Facebook but a walled garden of any kind will never displace the Internet search engines as the primary mode by which people find products, services and information.

  18. Brian, I agree that Perez might be able to do better SEO, but I was looking at the trend, which is that his Facebook traffic is increasing faster than his Google traffic.

    Doubledown, its not really the input (sign-ups) that matter, it’s the output (outgoing traffic) that matters. For some bloggers, there is a measurable increase in Facebook output that seems to have some relationship to the input.

    To everyone else, the main point is not necessarily whether FB will kill Google. Even I said that’s a long way off, if ever. But the point is that we have to address the growing segment of the web that Google doesn’t see, and develop strategies to attract traffic from them.

    Thanks for all the feedback, and thanks to Brian, Jon, and Sonia for giving me the chance to write for Copyblogger!

  19. Facebook is only taking down SOME SE traffic. It’s a very, very relative thing. Not all SEO or blogging models are the same.

  20. What the author says (that FB could be more important than Google for traffic) may be true for his example person, Perez Hilton, but is it true for Myrtle Beach Resorts? That’s a more realistic question for a typical business in a random vertical that might use FB…

    We’ll watch our Omniture traffic referrals (FB vs Google) and see if our clients ever get more from FB than Google. The author’s argument about invisible links is irrelevant if FB doesn’t bring our clients more traffic than Google does. But can you really imagine more vacation planning people going to FB than to a search engine? People have the Googling habit, and FB doesn’t have anything comprehensive enough to overshadow the benefits of Google or to change the Googling behavior.

    We have a client we’ve done SEO and FB for… 195,513 search referrals since 4/1 vs. 223 referrals from Facebook. So search is almost 1000x more important right now.

    One of our clients shows a 94% bounce rate from FB traffic vs. a 42% bounce rate from search- which begs the question: is traffic from FB as good for business as traffic from search?

    I’m still very skeptical about how effective FB is for business. I have yet to hear any compelling case studies where FB got clients something they couldn’t get from their website or some other source. And I love social media- I’m just not sure FB is going to get results for businesses.

    Business marketing with FB is all theoretical right now. Without at least a detailed strategy about how FB people will do something you need them to do for a client, it’s a shot in the dark. I can see how we’d use Twitter to achieve results, but FB is murkier.

    It’s too easy for FB people to ignore the business’ fan page and emails, even if they’re a fan of that business, right?

    How are you getting them into your fan page once you create it?

    What are you doing with fans of your page? …getting them to your site or email list? Are you doing that by mailing them? Are they ignoring your FB emails?

    How does the overall cost and ROI of using FB compare to get those people to your site or email list via some other strategy like PPC or SEO?

    Are those people you found on FB really not findable via other channels?

    We should definitely try FB marketing to find out for sure if it might be effective, but from here, it looks like a costly experiment and highly speculative investment… which of our clients will try an experimental new marketing service?

    I believe every time FB is used, it should be part of a larger strategy and you should have clear goals for what the client’s going to get out of FB- how does FB presence translate into measurable business or measurable customer engagement?

    So much of this is not well-mapped out in the social media industry, and we will be experimenting and creating strategies and processes on the cutting edge- but for clients who might be better served by PPC, SEO, and website conversion-optimization.

    It’s one thing for Coke to use FB, but a regional or local hospitality client… I just think we should think the strategy through and be confident that the value is there for the clients to whom we have to justify costs and marketing budget allocation.

  21. Hi Mike,

    I think that generating quality content is mandatory regardless of whatever else you do or you don’t do – whether its SEO or being popular on Facebook or Twitter. The popularity of Facebook and Twitter does make you think how it will affect the traffic at search engines in the future.

    At this point I think we can’t afford to neglect either one of the traffic sources, whether its the search engines or social networking sites. We need to be dominant on both of them, to be successful.

    Thanks for the great post.

    Mani Raj
    Havoc Marketing

  22. I wonder if Google will ever be able to scan those links within Facebook and use it towards your pagerank. Hmm…

    And Brian, your comment was awesome. I hope it does develop into a blog post.

  23. There will always be a new kid on the block…who runs faster, better, stronger, at least for awhile – until the apprearance of the mother-in-law on the scene makes the whole game passe. I’d love a look at the future in this sphere.

  24. Killing Google isn’t the same as killing SEO. The goal for SEOs remains the same no matter which Google-killer du jour we’re talking about (are we over Twitter already?)… get your ducks in a row, make link-worthy content, and get it in front of people.

  25. never been to perez hiltons website, nor would i ever search for him.

    having 50+ seo clients, b2b and b2C… the b2c do get a bit of traffic from facebook, because people aren’t searching for things that people click thru, they have been engaged by social media on the clients facebook page.

    the people see a “special offer” for facebook friends and click… it’s not something they would have searched for otherwise..

    i think your methodology is flawed and your assumptions are incorrect.

    I have records of both traffic numbers, the REASONS for the visit are apples and oranges..

    are u searching FB for directions?
    are you searching FB for movie times?
    are you searching FB for furniture?
    are you searching FB for a cat tower for kitty?
    are you searching FB for real estate?
    are you searching FB for medical information?
    are you searching FB for the latest fashion lines?
    are you searching FB for recipes?
    are you searching FB for drink recipes?
    are you searching for music videos?

    What are the last 10 things you searched for, mine are above, and i don’t get any of those things from Facebook…

    the “SEO is dead” linkbait crap is old, tired and worn out.. sure it stil works for the n00bs.. but to the people who know.. your credibility just took a hit.. just like perez hilton..

  26. kapow! everything has beed said well here. the growing fad from bloggers as far as my experience is concerned is not anymore on employing much of seo techniques, rather building a solid wide base on social networking sites, most especially that of twitter and facebook. as has been well-discussed here, there is a changing landscape therefore for bloggers when it comes to traffic generation for their blogs.

    and i think FB is here to stay.

  27. Hi,
    Great post, thank you. Quick question? You say: “Perhaps you’ve got a widget on your page that allows readers to post your link directly on Facebook.” Where does one find that widget in order to post on ones page?” Thanks!

  28. Can’t say I see what the big “news” is. SEO is constantly changing and adapting. Facebook is just another example of a Social Website that is growing… you could also look at twitter which is growing by leaps and bounds. It’s all growing in relation to how the entire internet is growing.

    I bet for every new person on facebook, there are 1000 more that started using google to perform searches. Facebook is very far from making SEO and google irrelevant.

  29. Quote

    ” 9 Sherice June 22, 2009 at 11:47 am
    Excellent points!

    Not to disparage Facebook or its influence but so many sites have claimed to be Google killers that it’s becoming a bit like the boy who cried wolf. The same was said of Myspace, Squidoo, *gasp* Cuil (?!)… more recently Facebook and Twitter and let’s not forget Bing trying to get in there and make waves.

    Of course you should optimize your content for users – whether they’re from Facebook, Google or what have you. But I wonder if Google will (sooner than later) become more of a social search engine to try and collect some of Facebook’s momentum? It will be interesting to see what happens.”

    Quote End

    I would like to say that I have noticed bing on some of my sites actually sending more traffic then google and I have a site that gets about 100k traffic from search engines a month about 80% was from google but now with bing I am getting more and on this particular site bing is already sending about 75% of what google is sending so if google sends me 80,000 visitors this month bing will send me 60,000 just so you guys know they have already on this particular site already sent over 45,000 so although I seriously doubt it will ever be a google killer with the amount of traffic it must already be getting I will say it is probably going to give google a run for it’s money it has completly surpassed yahoo’s traffic to my sites in most case’s and MSN which never sent much in most sites anyway

    on this Note I get 0 traffic on must my sites from facebook but then I have not marketed to social networks I know many have but I have always kept my marketing in the SEO realm I would say it is not dead and won’t be for a long time

  30. It will be interesting to see what other massive online companies come on the scene in the next few years, like Twitter just did. Google and Facebook’s market share will begin to erode at some point I think.

    That’s really interesting that ‘Perez Hilton now gets more traffic from Facebook than from Google’.

  31. I think that comparing Google to Facebook is really comparing apples to oranges. Google is search, Facebook referral. You ask Google for an answer to a question but you are offered a service by Facebook (if you know of someone that might be able to offer the service or know someone that knows someone…)

    I don’t see Facebook as competition for the almighty Google just yet, but rather just another avenue to possibly generate traffic.

  32. Facebook is not made to search and Google is not made to socialize.

    The rules of engagement are different and so audience engagement models should be different. However I think there is a wealth of insight to be capilized on by analysing online user behaviour whether on Facebook or Google or any other site in order to serve up exactly what each user wants in terms of product/services/information.

    Google has already started to do this with their targetted advertising however it is not exactly targetted is it? It is more ‘related’ advertising.

    The application/site that is able to ‘almost’ read minds is the application that is going to be the most valuable to businesses/advertisers/content publishers.

    Who will it be?

  33. On a partially related note, I’ve been buying advertising using facebook ads and it’s so much more effective than GoogleAds. The cost of Google ads have become inflated – I can get much more exposures and clickthroughs on facebook advertising, at 1/3 the cost. Plus facebook ads let me put an image too.

  34. Riveting stuff, Mike! I’ve just had my new website optimised for Google and I’m not on Facebook (as it gives me the creeps). Next you’ll be telling us overhead projectors and acetate transparencies are on the way out! Struth! P. 🙁

  35. @ Celes I’ve seen that Facebook ads do seem to have a better clickthrough rate than Google Ads, I’ve also noticed that the bounce rate is much higher. I’d generally conclude that Google Ads are still better at bringing quality traffic. Which one is best value at this time, now that’s the real question.

    @ Paul: overhead projectors… will never die!! 🙂

  36. fb is opening up with their “everyone” option. Which will be accessible easily by search engines.

  37. There are some crucial caveats here. Firstly, the example used, Perez Hilton, isn’t representative. Hilton runs a celebrity blogger, and is a minor celebrity himself.

    FaceBook and the culture of celebrity are closely aligned. Sure, your mother-in-law is on FaceBook, but its biggest user group by far is the under 35s – the same as those interested in celebrities. Ask someone running a blog on auto-spares or chess moves whether they see any significant traffic from FaceBook.

    Secondly, and more importantly from a commercial point of view, the key point about Google traffic is that it converts. This because, very often, people searching on Google are close to a buying decision. They are ‘warmed up’, if you like. While people referred from FaceBook may be referred by a friend, there is no evidence *yet* that they click on ads, buy product, or follow affiliate links with anything like the frequency that search engine users do.
    FaceBook may be able to drive large numbers of users to a site, but search traffic will always be king (particularly where long tail keywords are used) as far as conversion is concerned.

  38. Thanks for the enlightening article. It does indeed place an emphasis on an important aspect of increasing web visibility.

    However, our view is – nothing’s going to kill google or SEO.

    Facebook still is ONLY a social web, even if huge.

    People on the net are becoming increasingly lazy.
    Today, they use google for just about anything.
    We know of people who use google even for locating their _very_own_material_ instead of searching.
    People use google instead of, or on top of saved bookmarks, instead of typing URL’s the remember by heart.
    google is being used as a quick spelling tool, dictionary, what not.

    Facebook will not be able to really challenge google as they are established on a totally different basic concept.

    Our modest 2€ ☺

  39. I think Facebook is fairly new and new tends to fade into the distance when something newer and more exciting comes along. We live in a world of constant change and adventure and because so many are not going outside or out of their state (for that matter) to find it, the web is the best bet. I was on Facebook for about 4 months and got so many invitations from strangers and people who knew people who knew people, I was constantly cleaning out my emails. I lost interest quickly and cancelled. Cyber friends are nice, but ‘aint nothin like the real thing, baby’.

  40. @Kenny..

    just left a meeting..

    For a client:
    This month social media engagement is up 330%
    this month we have had and increase of 1500 email address opt in to store newsletter (across 5 stores)

    FaceBook is the main conversion point, yet SEO is the main driver of traffic.

  41. I have to agree with the previous comment. I got so tired of all the junk piling up from people I never even heard of, I stopped logging in. Maybe the over 35 crowd did double, but going from 1 to 2 isn’t going to cut it. Most people in that age range don’t spend all day on the internet looking for a hook up. Like a previous comment said, just because they join, doesn’t mean they are using.

  42. For all your talk about Facebook, I don’t see any Facebook Connect functionality on your blog. Am I missing it? You’ve Twitter, Delicious, Digg, etc…

  43. I always feel a bit skeptical when I hear stories like this which use one example and expand upon it as if it should be the model for everyone else. Most people are not operating sites like Perez Hilton. FaceBook won’t necessarily be a solution that is a good idea, and a wise investment in time. If it really is the be all end all, then we’d see more examples and more case studies for different types of sites. Use Mahalo. Use FaceBook. Use MySpace. Until I begin to see it work for sites my size that operate in similar spaces, I’m not sure I see the value.

    Because my model works like this: Build quality content. Improve SEO on that content. People search for it and then organically link on Twitter and FaceBook. Gets a few visits there. No time needed to invest in Twitter and FaceBook myself because our own time doesn’t pay off the same way SEO does. Would others that spend hours a day working on FaceBook get the same pay off as I do with SEO? Doubtful. That’s why the model isn’t going to chance.

  44. I think this post is prescient and dead on. Take Steve Plunkett’s comment about using facebook to search for directions or furniture. Well I believe we’re heading that route. Wouldn’t you rather get directions or a recommendation for furniture that your close friends can vouch for? Facebook’s business model is built around the fact that you care more about what your friends and family say and recommend than what an algorithm can ever recommend. I think that’s a fair bet.

    Once facebook marries your friends’ input with your searches, to me, its game over. We’ll all be talking about how to optimize your ‘Page’ for search within facebook instead.

  45. What is it with Mom’s and Mafia Wars? You feel bad when you want to BLOCK MOM on Facebook because you don’t want your stream filled up with requests like.. I need explosives…. I wish Facebook would allow you to have two profiles.. a business one that’s open to the public and then your personal one that you can post pics of your precious grandkids and not worry about Mr. Google finding them… #Facebook #Request Great thoughts and I’ll be linking to this article from a facebook for business post I did a few days ago. Thanks!

  46. What’s interesting is that very few websites, if any, have a Tweet This button @ the bottom like they do for Share This on Facebook. If quality of tweets and quality of posts on Facebook are important, then having these buttons @ the bottom becomes very important if you are to make it easy for people to link to your blog posts.

  47. When Genghis Zuckerberg trounces over his users sensibilities one to many times or sells their data down the river to line his pockets and further his vision of grandeur, his transience will be exposed and Google will once again be in good graces. I doubt the potential of the early glimpses we have of Wave and the swell of igoogle popularity will be met by facebook. They are just not brilliant enough or inspired enough and way to heavy handed. When Facebook starts tapping its users before hand to find out what they want and deliver it is when I will believe they are fated for bigger things. Not until then.

  48. Before Facebook becomes a search and seizure engine they will have to work on being a lot more user friendly. After a while the user will become overwhelmed by all the choices. You can definitely add too much to a Website. If you’ve ever worked for a company that grew too quickly, you’ll know exactly what I mean. If they’re smart they’ll work on simplifying the site and then spin off. KISS is still the way to grow a Website. Let’s face it, Google is tried and true and already has all the bugs worked out.

  49. I don’t think Facebook is here to replace Google, but to complement each other to enhance the experiences of online users. Something like how the internet has not replaced books or tv, but worked together to benefit us.

    Nani Kamal made a great point in saying “Facebook is not made to search and Google is not made to socialize”. They are both here to complement each other.

  50. Your points are well taken. While I believe smart SEO will remain an important component of Internet marketing, it is foolish to ignore the potential of increasingly popular social platforms like Facebook and Twitter. I like your suggested strategies on how to use them to spread great content, and in the end, generate qualified leads and loyal customers.

  51. Points from Charles and Laurie Dunlop well taken. I see your point. As long as Facebook stays in its own genre as does Google, it’s all Apples and Oranges.
    Maybe I should create a site just for my on line business. I’ll bet I’d change my mind pretty quickly if it created more contacts and more revenue, wouldn’t I?
    Thank you for your feedback.
    This is why networking is so great. It’s like having a round table meeting with all the brain power without having to suit up for it. … so to speak.

  52. Facebook traffic is unresponsive for business use at best. I have been trying to leverage the traffic over there for some time and nothing works.

    The reason is simple: People on Facebook are just not “interested” in products and services yet.

    Nothing comes close to Google for a good clickthrough rate and targeted traffic.

    I would say that the assumptions in this article are a little flawed.

    I would be shocked if Facebook comes even a little closer to take over Google’s position

  53. I use facebook for biz, I even recommend setting up facebook fan pages for my clients. Unless the company is a large one, I do not see much traffic coming from them. As for my own sites an traffic from facebook, I get decent traffic but the traffic has never produced a sale, they are mostly local friends and family checking out my latest blog posts.

  54. Google will never die. Sure facebook will bring you lots of users but people will always use search engines. Just concentrate on the two.

  55. Question:

    Is there a way to see how the pages that have been indexed are ranked without having to type it in at Google and then start searching.

  56. Currently it seems like Expression Engine is the preferred blogging platform available right now. (from what I’ve read) Is that what you are using on your blog?

  57. Technology is rapidly developing and we should invest wisely in these technological advancements.I think it is a great idea for Facebook to have optimized their SEO results. However, there are also drawbacks that come to my mind. Since Facebook is evolving at such a fast pace, I would think that they’d be developing the website in such a way that it somehow mirrors the likes of Multiply, Friendster etc., that users are a little bit overwhelmed of changes in just a short span of time. Wouldn’t be Facebook be somehow overrated, and wouldn’t the website be too complicated especially for those who are not ‘techy’?

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