Why is Google better at searching Facebook than Facebook is?

Posted on October 12, 2018

 

Much as we continue to use and rely on it, Facebook is flawed and annoying – I think we can all agree on that by now. In my opinion, one particularly inexcusable thing it has never quite got right is its search function. It’s rubbish, and always has been.

The best example of this is how untidy it can be just to find the page of a person or organisation on the site. For instance, let’s say that you want to start following Liverpool FC on Facebook, so you go to Facebook’s search box and type in ‘Liverpool FC’. I did this, and here’s what I got:

I think this is a real mess. Surely the first thing it should bring up is the Liverpool FC Facebook page? Instead, we get a preview of the current Premier League table, headed ‘Rankings’, right at the top. If Facebook wanted to be clever and intuitive, it could turn the names of those teams into links to their official pages, but it doesn’t. That section does nothing – it’s just there, as one more thing to scroll past before you get what you need.

Then we get a gallery of random Liverpool FC-related pictures from the likes of ESPN and Fantasy Premier League. Again, is this really what we want to see straightaway? It’s not until the third item down that we actually get something we can click on to reach the club’s Facebook page, and that’s a post by Liverpool FC, so it’s still a convoluted way to get there when Facebook could just be giving us a nice easy link to the page right at the beginning.

Meanwhile, we could go to Google and search for ‘Liverpool FC Facebook’…

…oh, look! It’s Liverpool FC’s Facebook page. Just what we wanted, right at the top. Thanks Google! To be fair, Bing manages this too, as do DuckDuckGo and Ecosia. Yahoo! also lists it as its first result, but loses cred points for trying to flog me the Liverpool third kit at the very top of the page.

OK, so you might argue that I’m comparing search engines with social media sites, but the point is that nobody should be better than Facebook at indexing its own site. I could also compare it to Twitter, which is very much a news aggregator and a place to head to for an update on what’s happening, but the bods at Twitter still appear to understand that if you search for ‘Liverpool FC’ (without # or @), it’s likely that you’re looking for the club’s official page.

Facebook is also not very good at finding people. It’s not so bad if the person lives near you or is in a circle of your friends, but if you’re trying to make friends with Joe Bloggs from Anytown, there’s no particularly easy way to find him.

If you search for a person’s name and location, it doesn’t seem to connect the two together. It appears to think you’re looking for posts from that person about that location, or examples of people being tagged in the location. Most people add where they live to their Facebook profile, so you wouldn’t have thought it would be difficult to simply return an accurate ‘Person X from Location Y’ match.

Facebook apologists might argue that the awkwardness of finding strangers on Facebook helps to deter stalkers and identity thieves. If so, it would be a rare example of Facebook taking privacy concerns seriously. It seems more likely that this is just one of those many areas in which the site is loud, clumsy and ultimately not very helpful.

John Murray

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.

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