Facebook and hotels: Here comes Graph Search Optimization
At first, everyone will use the the tool to check up on whatever happened to their teenage sweethearts. But eventually they may use it to research travel plans.
Hotels are likely to be immediately affected by Graph Search, which pulls personalized results to natural-language (or semantic) queries from content that has been shared on Facebook.
The reason: Graph Search debuts with many limitations, and hotels are one of the few travel products that will be easily searchable today, despite those limitations.
Enough users have “liked” hotels to produce meaningful results in the typical user’s social network. Plus, Facebook’s default introduction to Graph Search singles out hotel recommendations as one of the functions it performs well.
If someone types in “hotels in Paris my friends have liked,” Graph Search will trace all of the hotels that have been liked by users in that person’s social network, retrieving relevant results.
If you have a broad network of active Facebook users, you’ll also be able to search for “hotels in Paris liked by … [my married friends, my gay friends, my friends from my hometown, or similar specialty categories].”
Marketers of online travel agencies, tours and activities, and other travel products and services can breathe a sigh of relief. For the next year at least, Graph Search will be comparatively useless at suggesting recommendations for these categories.
Travel marketers hoping to game Graph Search and make sure that their brand ranks high in search results may start looking to hire people with technical expertise in Graph Search Optimization (GSO).
An expert in GSO may turn out to be someone who can do the following things:
- Think visually. Graph Search will mainly be image-driven.
- Tag content properly. Every photo, video, and other piece of content should have its own descriptive name and be tagged by location. (See examples of this in an article from Olery, a hospitality reputation management firm, and get photo-sizing tips from Hypebot.)
- Create calls to action. Encourage guests to post high-resolution photos and videos routinely, because Graph Search uses photos as videos as a signal for relevance. For more tips, see Tnooz’s earlier post “Exploring the new Graph Search on Facebook.”
- Hire professional photographers. Have them take pictures of guests and invite the guests to receive the high-quality images for free in exchange for permission to use the images on your brand’s Facebook page.
- Optimize your brands Facebook page(s). For instance, you can “feed the Graph” more easily if your brand’s page on Facebook has properly worded “About” sections. (Get more tips on GSO from Search Engine Land.)
- Claim local pages. For every individual property location, verify that geo-location data and categorization (‘hotels”, etc.) is accurate. Test that each property appears as a result when a user searches for a specific location, correcting the address information until that happens.
- Create promotions. Use contests and quizzes to nudge customers into posting images on your brand’s page. For example, you might place a photo album with professionally shot images of your property on your main website and then encourage travelers to share those professionally shot images.
- Encourage guests to share content while they’re still at your property. Real-time content will typically be geo-tagged automatically and spotlight the name of your property in the post because the vital metadata will automatically be added correctly if this information is posted on site. (Find additional advice at Search Engine Journal.)
- Perfect your Facebook Exchange advertisements. These can be used to maximum effect, once the social network starts to systematically place those ads on the right-hand side of Graph Search results.
- Ask for customer reviews across any of your customers’ favorite platforms. Graph Search pulls five-star ratings from third-party sources, such as TripAdvisor and Yelp, to help it describe relevant hotels and similar venues and destination activities. So encouraging customers to rate your property on TripAdvisor (gasp!) may indirectly benefit your brand’s search ranking on Facebook.
Unfortunately, Graph Search does not yet recognize words written in status updates. So a person who didn’t like the Facebook brand page of the Four Seasons Maui but did post a status update saying “I love the view of Maui from the Four Season” would not be indexed properly. But by December, status updates will begin to be indexed, says the company.
Similarly, if a traveler posted a photo via Facebook or Facebook-owned Instagram, any geo-location information or tag information that the user added is also ignored by Graph Search, as of today. That identifying metadata will soon be added, according to the company.
The new search function doesn’t yet accept sponsored results and it doesn’t yet show up on mobile versions of Facebook — two changes that are said to be in the works.
Eventually, Facebook would like to offer predictions, such as a hotel that a user may like based on his or her past likes, interests, and the recommendations of their friends.
TripAdvisor integration is likely
TripAdvisor has consistently been the first travel company to embrace every new change introduced by Facebook. Later this year, Facebook plans to incorporate into Graph Search data from third-party applications, according to the New York Times. It seems highly likely that TripAdvisor data will be included.
Sean O’Neill is a New Jersey-based reporter for Tnooz. He is also a daily contributor of consumer news to LonelyPlanet.com.
He used to work for BBC Travel, BudgetTravel.com, and Kiplinger's, and used to live in London, New York City, and Washington, DC.