Earlier this summer in Facebook SEO Ranking Factors, 2010 Study Results, we explored the mechanics of Facebook search and theorized about the different ranking factors that make X page climb above Y group, Z event, and Q person in the organic SERPs. We noted that one of the most influential spaces in Facebook Search is the Facebook Suggest Box. “It auto-fills, much like Google, populating as the user types first letters,” our own Marty Weintraub explained. “This mechanism seems to channel users away from the SERPs, probably with cause for lack SERP’s quality.”

… and channel users away from SERPs it does. Now it seems, in some cases it channels users away from Facebook in general.

A quest to locate “Busted Tees” on Facebook had me typing in the first group of letters of the brand name in the suggested search box. Without looking at the first result, I clicked enter, expecting to be whisked away to the Busted Tees branded Facebook page. Not so. The first organic result that populated the suggestion box was for a coupon & deals website.

Why was it #1? Not sure yet.  But two, count ’em two, people liked it.

As expected, by clicking enter, I was immediately directed to the source of the result: an external website.

I have no idea who those two (obviously very important people) are who “liked” this page. But apparently they weren’t technically my friends.

Still, Facebook must have deemed this website authoritative enough to rank above the Busted Tees Page, which, remember, did not even come up in the suggestions box.

Backtracking and intentionally going to the FB SERPs showed the Busted Tees page  in a more expected position– #1 for pages and organic in general.

But apparently, Mr. Deal Finder wasn’t cool enough to make the bing-fueled web results at the bottom of the SERP.

In the end, I made it to the Busted Tees page.

From then on, the branded page trumped the results in the suggestions box.

So what does this mean? Is Facebook looking to point you towards transactional-based external pages over their own social media pages? What’s a gal gotta do to actually stay ON Facebook now-a-days?

  • niceguyted

    Ok, so I definitely read this whole post, and I’m totally picking up what you’re putting down. My search for the same terms goes to the same (external) website. This same thing has happened to me before on several occasions, and I agree that it’s weird. WT* facebook?

    On a side note, it also appears that any woman named “Katie Spencer” is smokin’ hot. I’ve not yet been able to find the one in the image in this post, but almost all the eponymous women (with VERY few exceptions) in or around my network are duly qualified for “OMG WANT” status.

  • Lauren Litwinka

    @Ted – Right on, thanks for your colorful two cents! That’s curious about the trends in our results. I wonder, had you ever been to the Busted Tees FB page before? Curious, too, about the trends of Ms. Spencer. Doesn’t seem like an ostensibly foxy name, but there you have it.

  • Sean – Blogging Strategies

    I don’t remember exact but sometimes I come across such things and I think this is happening because facebook has a big database integrated with combined results. Also, the recent news on 100m Facebook users’ data listed‎ was the most irritating one and really getting into the huge list of its accounts to re-think about being on facebook!

  • JD Rucker

    At first I thought that it had something to do with Facebook advertising dollars spent. Then I recalled what you said about only 2 people liking it, so either they’re running the worst Facebook Ad campaign in history, it’s brand new, or (likely) that’s not the case.

    I’ll hope for a followup with the answer to this perplexing question. Facebook – so much potential being squandered.

  • Ankush

    For a site that provides much grief but much value – these optimizations are a minor nuisance. I find that my brain is able to adapt to this type of silent evolution after a few incursions. This benefits FB by taking advantage of existing user habits. And try will find new ways of doing the same thing over and over. If I were paying for the service I would discontinue. But as an advertiser I find their model to be finely tuned and intelligent.

  • niceguyted

    Sean, what program do you use to generate your spam comments? Did it actually do the math on the spam protection filter question, or did it simply generate enough entries that one got through? Either way, I’m reluctantly impressed.

  • Lauren Litwinka

    @Sean – Yes, the fact that SERPs now are heavily integrated with external pages surely has much to do with it. This ain’t your college kid’s FB anymore, eh? The face of Facebook is looking more like Google every day.

    @JD – We will be sure to keep you posted if we come to iron-clad conclusions. As for now, and as with most things Facebook does, seems pretty arbitrary…

    @Ankush – “…as an advertiser I find their model to be finely tuned and intelligent.” Well put, and you’re not alone with that mentality. As for the Facebookers who complain about every platform & algorithmic tweak, the trend of ranting, then relenting, and returning with more enthusiasm to share than ever seems recurrent.