Facebook’s powerful new “Graph Search” feature is now being rolled out to users. To jump the queue you can join the waitlist at https://www.facebook.com/about/graphsearch.
I’ve written previously about the rich—and sometimes disturbing—insights that the tool search feature will bring, but a new study by Mediative sheds light on how new users are actually using the tool.
Using Tobii Eye Tracking technology, researchers were able to see exactly how people react to the new tool, where their gaze goes first and for longest, and how page scanning patterns may differ from the current search experience.
The findings showed very little horizontal scanning of the search results listing. This differs significantly to the behaviour typically seen on other search engines, perhaps due to the relative lack of snippet data that would be seen in a comparable Google search page. The vertical “stepping stone” viewing pattern shows up very clearly on the heatmap (right) where red spots show the most commonly viewed links running down the page.
The top two results were viewed by almost 95% of study participants and the percentage viewed fell quite uniformly as the viewers moved down the page.
Interestingly, and perhaps due to the generic nature of some of the images in the study, participants looked at the text links almost 50% more than the accompanying image, amounting to 138% more time being dedicated to reading text than deciphering images. Text listings also captured attention 1.74 seconds faster than the images on average—a finding that is contradictory to what we’d expect in general web UI design. It seems in Facebook Graph Search, at least for now, text is king.
Viewing of the content on the right hand side of the screen was particularly interesting. 77% of participants looked at this right rail, typically as the third eye fixation in the study. This suggests that most users are likely to check the first one or two search results on the left-hand side before considering whether to refine the search criteria in the right-hand panel. The filters in this panel proved highly engaging, probably because this is where the real power of graph search can be unleashed for the novice user. This suggests that the average user of graph search is likely to find the experience highly engaging and will refine their search results using filters, perhaps to an extent that other search engines have not yet achieved. The right panel also enjoyed the highest total viewing duration at 4.17 seconds across the study participants, which is 325% longer than the total view duration to the search results in the left-hand panel. How much of this is due to the novelty factor or the actual utility of the ‘refine search’ options will only be proven over time.
Here are my five tips to ensure your businesses listing shows up as prominently as possible in Facebook Graph Search:
Make sure your business information is complete and up-to-date as this is what Graph Search users will see in the left hand search results panel. In your Facebook Page, go to Edit Page, Update Info. There you will find You should complete your business name, address (so people can check-in when visiting), telephone numbers, website URL and opening times (if applicable).
As in any search results listing, being placed in the top two search results is highly valuable. However, keep in mind that Facebook Graph Search results are unique to each user, so don’t fall into the trap of imagining the results you see are seen by everyone.
To ensure your profile photo is working as hard as possible, try to use a distinctive image that complements the text of your page name. Aim for relevance first (be on brand) but also try to be different to key competing pages. For example, if you run a restaurant in Bristol, making sure your profile photo doesn’t look similar to that of neighbouring restaurants could be beneficial.
Your brand is more likely to appear in Graph Search results if it has been liked by users. Growing your reach and maximising engagement levels are likely to remain the key elements that determine your graph search ranking. Facebook has not disclosed how EdgeRank may influence Graph Search results but it would be wise to assume that the same factors will be at play. Optimise your page content for EdgeRank and your presence in Graph Search should improve in parallel.
If your company or brand has a physical location, encouraging check-ins through Facebook has never been more important. A search query for “Hairdressers my friend have been to” will only show your brand if some of the searcher’s friends have checked in while at your establishment. Invite your customers to check-in while with you, offering rewards if suitable.