While Facebook’s “viral channels” – the News Feed, invitations, and messages – play a central role in the spread of content through Facebook, employing important SEO tactics within your Facebook Page can help your Page reach more and more Facebook fans. While viral distribution can help you reach people your fans are directly connected to, search engine optimization exposes your Facebook Page to Facebook’s entire userbase. In fact, Facebook itself has taken major steps to improve its own SEO during recent weeks and months, creating opportunities for Page owners to benefit directly while creating value for Facebook at the same time.
So, without further ado, here are 10 SEO strategies and tactics every Facebook Page owner should know:
1. Choose the best name for your Facebook Page – and don’t change it
Choosing the right name for your Facebook Page is vital. Despite the temptation to stuff your Page title with high value generic keywords – like “Mike’s Travel Agency: Las Vegas, Hawaii, Cancun – Hotels, Flights, & More” – this approach will actually harm your Page’s viral growth rate inside Facebook more than it will help through better SEO. For example, if your page’s title appears too spammy, fans will be less likely to share it with their friends on their profile and more likely to hide your updates from their News Feed.
Second, don’t give into the temptation to choose a fully generic page name like “Travel” or “Hawaii.” Because Facebook’s intention for Pages is that they authentically represent businesses, brands, or celebrities, Facebook has recently been disabling updates for generically named Pages – effectively neutering their ability to reach their Facebook fans.
The bottom line: use your business’s real name as the name of your page. And once you pick your Page’s name, don’t change it. Facebook uses your Page name in the title of the Page, and since Google dings pages when their titles change, modifying your Facebook Page’s name will cost you SEO points.
2. Select the best URL (Facebook username) for your Facebook Page
Facebook recently launched the ability to choose a vanity URL (Facebook calls it a “username”) for your Facebook Page, one of the most important SEO opportunities on Facebook to date. When you choose a Facebook username for your Page, your Page’s URL becomes www.facebook.com/YourUsernameHere. Usernames can be selected at www.facebook.com/username.
Facebook usernames present a better opportunity for businesses to consider incorporating generic keywords for SEO purposes than the Page name itself. While Facebook has created a black list of generic usernames that Pages (and users) are prevented from registering, there are still opportunities for businesses to obtain relatively generic usernames, or usernames that combine their actual name with additional generic keywords.
However, we do offer a word of caution when incorporating generic keywords in your Facebook Page URL: Facebook intends for Pages to authentically represent the identities of businesses, and brands and has revoked privileges from Pages with generic titles in the past, so it’s not unfathomable that Facebook might somehow punish Pages with generic usernames by similarly revoking status publishing rights (or at least the username itself) at some point in the future.
The safest option – and wisest long term bet in our view – is to choose a username that authentically represents your business or brand. Once you pick a Facebook username/URL for your Page, it cannot be changed – ever. So pick a username you’re going to be comfortable with and confident in for the long term.
One important note: in order to mitigate Facebook username squatting, Facebook requires that your Page have at least 100 fans before it becomes eligible to select a username. If your Page has less than 100 fans, you’ll need to recruit more fans before being able to take advantage of this important SEO strategy.
3. Use the “About” text box to place keyword-dense prose near the top of your Page
One important SEO strategy that should be employed on your Facebook Page whenever feasible is placing keyword-dense prose as close to the top of the Page as possible. Because Facebook limits where Page owners can place large chunks of text on the default Wall tab of Facebook Pages, the “About” box actually represents the highest place in the CSS structure of the page to add custom text.
In order to add text to your Page’s “About” box, click the “Write something about [YourPage]” in the box underneath your Page’s profile picture. You’ll then be able to enter custom text in the input box – there is a 250 character limit, so choose your words wisely.
4. Use the “Info” tab to include more important keywords, text, and high priority links on your Page
Facebook creates an “Info” tab for every Facebook Page that has fields containing important descriptive metadata about the Page. It’s important to fill out these fields, because they provide the opportunity to include keywords, prose, and links that will increase the content score of your Facebook Page for many types of Google searches. For example:
- Address, City, State, and Zip code are important fields for local searches
- Company Overview, Mission, and Products are important fields for product searches
- Websites is a valuable opportunity to add direct links to your own websites or other relevant websites in your space
The specific fields present will vary according to the category you choose for your Page when you create it (business, brand, or public figure), so choose the category that best fits your needs.
5. Create “Static FBML” boxes and tabs to place lengthy content and more static links on your Page
While opportunities to place large blocks of static text on the default tab of your Facebook Page are quite limited (see the “About” box section above), Facebook allows Page owners to create additional boxes or tabs that can hold any kind of static content, including text, images, and links. Adding content boxes or tabs to your Page can be a great way to boost the content density score of your Page (note, however, that each tab lives at a separate URL in Google’s eyes).
In order to add a custom content box or tab to your Page, follow these steps:
- Go to the “Static FBML” application on Facebook.
- Click “Add to my Page” on the top left side, and choose the page you’d like to add a custom content box or tab to.
- Once you’ve chosen one, close the dialog box, go to your Page, and click “Edit page” under your Page’s profile picture.
- In the applications list on the resulting page, you should see an application called “FBML 1″. Click the pencil icon on the right, and choose “Edit.”
- You’ll be taken to a page with 2 fields: “Box Title” and “FBML.” Enter the name you’d like to give the box or tab in the “Box Title” field. Enter the HTML you’d like to use in the “FBML” field (FBML stands for Facebook Markup Language, and is a subset of HTML.), and then click the Save Changes button.
- Once changes are saved, click the “Edit” link at the top of your Page to return to your Page’s application settings page. Click the pencil icon next to the name of the FBML application you just created, and choose “Application Settings.”
- If you want to add the FBML you just entered as a box, choose “Add” next to the Box option. The custom FBML box will by default appear on the Boxes tab, so if you want to move it to the left side of your Wall tab, you’ll need to then go to the Boxes tab, click the pencil icon on your FBML box, and choose “Move to Wall tab.”
- Or, if you want to add the FBML you just entered as a tab, choose “Add” next to the Tab option. The custom content should then automatically appear on its own tab on your Page. Note, however, that Facebook truncates tab titles after 10 characters, so you’ll need to choose a short title.
And voila! After that somewhat arduous process, your custom content should appear. Be sure to write good copy.
6. Post direct links to your website (or other relevant websites) in your Page’s stream
Status updates offer a powerful way to place direct links near the top of your Page’s CSS structure. Because Google boosts pages that link to relevant websites – and dings pages that link to unrelated websites or add too many links too suddenly – posting links in status updates can be a powerful and authentic way to boost your Facebook Page’s link score.
There are two ways to post links into your Page’s stream:
- Including the raw URL in the text of the status update itself
- Using the “attach link” feature in the Facebook publisher
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each approach from an SEO perspective:
1. Raw URL
When you include the raw URL in the text of the status update itself, Facebook auto-links the text directly to the URL. While you can’t control the anchor text of the link (it is always just the URL itself), the link does go directly to the destination page – and not through a Facebook.com URL that adds the Facebook menu bar at the top when you click through to the destination page.
2. Attach Link
When you use the “attach link” feature of the Facebook publisher, Facebook pulls in the title, body, and images from your Page, and suggests a thumbnail image and text snippet which it places adjacent to your Page’s link. The automatic inclusion of this text further boosts the keyword density of the CSS region near the link, and the thumbnail also links to the destination URL – both nice perks of using the “attach link” feature.
Power tip: You can also change the anchor text while clicking the page’s title before clicking “Share” in the Facebook publisher.
However, importantly, the link itself does not go directly to the destination URL – rather, it goes through a Facebook.com share URL that includes the destination URL as an iframe on the resulting page, with the Facebook menu bar at the top which includes commenting and sharing features. While there is still some debate in the SEO community as to the impact of the specific implementation details of such toolbars, the lack of a direct link when using Facebook’s “attach link” feature does partially mitigate the SEO benefits of posting links on Facebook Pages.
7. Add photos with captions, events with descriptions, and a discussion forum
It almost goes without saying, but it’s important to always be sharing interesting content on your Facebook Page, and always using all available descriptive fields on each type of content shared. When posting photos, use verbose and keyword-dense descriptions. When posting events, take the extra minute to include text and keywords in the event description field that you want to rank for. Add a discussion forum to your Page.
Facebook makes all of the content shared on Facebook Pages indexable by search engines, so use the tools Facebook provides to your full advantage.
8. Get more inbound links to your Facebook Page from the web by posting links to your Page on all your websites
Just as a variety of inbound links from authoritative websites help boost PageRank for traditional websites, getting more inbound links to your Facebook Page will boost its PageRank as well. You can do this with text links, but Facebook has also created a “Find Us On Facebook” badge which it encourages Page owners to use. The new Fan Box widget for Facebook Pages also includes links back to your Facebook Page.
Facebook has created promotional guidelines for promoting your Facebook Page that are worth a read. Basically, Facebook doesn’t want Page owners to claim you have officially partnered with Facebook by virtue of having a Facebook Page. However, Facebook does want as many links as possible pointing to Facebook.com.
9. Get more intra-Facebook inbound links by getting more Facebook fans
Because Facebook places links to Facebook Pages on the default version of Facebook users’ profile pages which are visible to search engines, the more fans you get, the more links you’ll have to your Page within Facebook. For Pages with thousands (or even millions) of fans, the number of links can really add up.
10. Strengthen intra-Facebook reciprocal linking by getting fans to comment and like content in your stream
When fans comment or like content in your Facebook Page’s stream, Facebook links their name back to their Facebook profile page. As a result, when the profile stubs of those fans who have posted comments and likes on your Page are indexed, Google will see more reciprocal links between your Page and your Page’s fans (in a way that grows organically over time), which it will see as a stronger bond. This creates a virtuous cycle of improved link weight from the indexed profile page stubs to your Page, and vice versa.
Conclusion & Next Steps
While building and expanding your Facebook Page presence requires creative planning and consistent execution, SEO can play a vital role in boosting your Page’s growth rate. While viral distribution limits you to the people your fans are connected to, search engine optimization exposes your Facebook Page to Facebook’s entire userbase – and as we’ve discussed above, there’s a lot that Page owners can do to maximize their exposure through Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask, and other popular search engines.