Just this week Facebook started including external websites in its search search result listings. The websites displayed have installed the “open graph” code that allows Facebook users to like a given page. This latest development is nothing to worry about for Google at the moment, but in time with major improvements, it could become a real threat to the search giant.
Why Google should worry
- Habit forming
Asking Facebook what's the best website for a given topic is not a reflex the average web user has at the moment. But if it does, that would become an issue for Google, the default destination for search at the moment. And when a person changes changes habits, they don't change back.
- Facebook SEO
The fact that the term “Facebook SEO” didn't exist just last week proves this is a disruptive technology. Google has a love/hate relationship with search engine optimizers; they hate spam. but have to appreciate the fact that webmasters feed them data in the format they desire. Overall, this provides the search engine with better content and results. If webmasters spend their optimization efforts on Facebook over Google, quality will suffer in the long term.
- It's a direct threat
Fortunately web use continues to grow overall, and Google web properties remain the most visited. Although investors are a finicky bunch, their stock price will follow growth/profits and remain strong. But allowing Facebook to affect their numbers in any way is a threat they can't ignore.
Why they should not, for now
- Habits are hard to break
Speaking of habits, we shouldn't forget that it's Google's mind-share to lose at the moment.
- Search results are terrible
Let's face it: if Google wanted people to put “like” buttons on their websites, people would since search engine optimizers would jump at the opportunity. Google is smart enough to know that what people say and what they think are two completely different things. A vote button is is a very poor indicator of user sentiment. Google's analytic approach, through AdSense, Ajax Library hosting and Analytics itself gives it a much better (and honest) view of user behavior on the Internet at large; and provides a better user experience through superior search results.
- They have recognized the threat
It's the threat that you don't see coming or don't take seriously that kills you. It's hard to say if they caught this one in time, but despite the fact ther social network launch essentially bombed, they are making an effort.
Overall this must be seen as an over-hyped nuisance by the powers that be at Google. But at the same time, surely they can't forget how they were once dismissed as irrelevant. This has not passed unnoticed.