Facebook has recently, and very quietly, updated their Places directory and it’s looking pretty spiffy. Facebook wants the new and improved Places to help its users, as per the slogan on the page, “Discover great places in every city”.
So what do you need to know?
Facebook is focusing down on local search. They are ready to try again at giving Yelp, Tripadvisor and Foursquare a run for their money when it comes to discovery. With the amount of user data Facebook has available to them, they will be able to create a local discovery platform that is uniquely tailored to each individual searcher. A personalized local discovery experience powered by social proof.
Let’s take a look
Starting at the Places page, you are prompted to search for a city. The search only accepts queries for cities currently, so you’ll have to manually move through the individual city pages if you are looking for something specific. Hopefully this is a feature that will be coming soon with later updates.
Once you arrive at a city page, you’ll get a cover image for the individual city (some cities are still needing one) which is taken from user generated content, with the title of “Things to do in [City]”.
The first thing to grab your attention is the complete visual overhaul. You are presented with cover images displaying the cities and discovery sections for restaurants, hotels, attractions, and more. Cities have their own landing pages, allowing you to get more specific and refined with your searches. Compared to the old Pages directory, this is a far more visual and deeply refined experience for Facebook users.
The second thing you may begin to notice is that Facebook is generating all of the images and content found in the Places directory from it’s users and pages. The new directory is integrated with the Location API and Graph Search, so you get a good mix of information being presented to you.
From here you are presented with several categories, broken up into tiles. Each tile is populated with a business or location for that particular category (a restaurant for example) and features an image pulled from Facebook users, information from the business or location page, and ratings left by visitors.
The city page also has some review call outs for some of the categories, highlighting some comments and reviews left by patrons, which is a nice touch. It will try to pull from your friends list first, if possible, when getting these snippets. This type of social proof makes listings all that more engaging and meaningful for users.
If any of the categories are of interest to you and you want to dive a little deeper, you can click the see more option and get a full list and start a Graph Search query view for that city category. This is where you can start to be a bit more specific with what you are looking for, like chicken wings in New York.
The Local Search Benefits
With the improvement to Pages, Facebook is going to be able to do the one thing that Yelp and Google have not been able to crack yet: Social Proof
Being able to find the best restaurant for wings that your friends have been to is such a powerful option. You’ll get answers that are meaningful and relevant. Something that a review from strangers on Yelp just can’t do yet.
It’s not far fetched to anticipate that Facebook pages for your local business are going to be a huge part of your SEO optimization in the coming future. Getting reviews, check ins, and photos will be an essential part of appearing in the Pages directory.
Restaurants, hotels and bars seem to be the ones that will benefit the most from this as they are featured front and center on the city landing pages.
The update to the Facebook Pages directory is a great aesthetic change, but more importantly, if it’s successful it will bring a whole new layer to local search with the inclusion of social proof.
Improving your social media profiles would be the best step moving forward to take advantage of these changes.
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