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How Facebook Search Results Work

February 8, 2019
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Facebook: It’s the social media platform that everybody is on, from your grandpa to your hair stylist to your 10-year-old cousin. Every month, 2.23 billion people log on to Facebook and of that, 80 million are small or medium-sized businesses Facebook users attempting to increase brand awareness through paid social media advertising. Whoa!

Each day, Facebook handles 1.5 billion searches against the 2 trillion posts in its index. As search functionality is one of the priorities within the tech industry, it makes sense that Facebook has put the time and money into developing and improving this feature.

Essentially, what Facebook is trying to execute is transparency within its searches. They broke it down in a recent video to help the platform’s users understand the fundamentals of how search works and search ads placement on Facebook. One of the most important aspects of this technology is that what you search for outside of Facebook has no bearing on searches you conduct inside the social platform. That’s a win in our book!

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What is Facebook Search?

Getting started with Facebook search is easy if you have an account. First, login to your Facebook profile and click or tap on the search bar in the upper left corner of Facebook. As you begin typing a name or a company, Facebook’s algorithm will begin suggesting content. These different categories of content will match the words that you typed and they will appear in a drop-down menu beneath the search field.

For example, if you start typing in “powe-” Power Digital Marketing might be one of the first suggestions in the drop-down menu. From there you can click or tap on whichever search result fits what you were searching for. In tech lingo, this is known as “predictive search.”

If you want to filter your search results, you can do this by typing something into the search bar and then clicking a filter below such as “People” or “Marketplace.” This will curate a targeted search that fits within those parameters.

Another way to use the Facebook search bar is to input keywords. If you are looking for a coffee shop in San Diego, your keyword search might look something like “San Diego coffee.” From there, filter your results to “Place,” and a plethora of businesses nearby would appear. They will likely also be shown on a map inside of Facebook, which is called “Facebook Graph Search” and is one of the newer features on the platform.

Phrases are another way to utilize Facebook Search. If you add a tagged location, specific holiday, likes, or other interests, you can get a number of more specific search results. For example, “coffee and pastries in Los Angeles” will bring up links, photos, and places in the return results.


At the highest level, the search bar segments all results into different categories. These include:

  • Top
  • Latest
  • People
  • Photos
  • Marketplace
  • Videos
  • Pages
  • Apps
  • Groups
  • Links
  • Events

Therefore, no matter what word or group of keywords you are searching, you can request them to be filtered so that irrelevant content is not shown to you.

All results that Facebook Search is able to curate are based on about 200 different factors which include what you like and engage with, your Facebook activity and what you’ve searched for, and information about your identity that you have posted to your Facebook profile.

If you ever want to clear your search history, Facebook gives you this capability. When you click into the search bar and don’t type anything, a list of your last eight searches will show in a drop-down list. To clear this list, you can click or tap “edit” in the top right of the search menu and then select “clear searches.”

Impacted by People’s Activity on Facebook

It’s worth reiterating that what you search outside of Facebook has no impact on search results within this particular social network. (For example, you might search for a product on Google, and later, when you are on Instagram, the product is being advertised to you.)

Results from a Facebook search query are ranked based on your Facebook activity as well as the activity of the overall community. If people searched for “San Diego coffee” and most often clicked on Coffee Hub and Café, that place of business would appear higher in the search results. If you previously had liked Coffee Hub and Café’s Facebook page, commented on some of their public posts, or entered a giveaway they were advertising, that would be another reason the business was higher in the results.

Perhaps you are a brand that wants to leverage Facebook ads to target users that are already searching for similar brands. You might ask yourself, “How much should I spend on Facebook ads?” or be wondering even where to start. Learning how to use Facebook’s search feature is vital to understanding these audiences in the first place.

Facebook activity that influences search results includes:

The results that are given to you are highly influenced by your Facebook friends, pages or groups you follow, events you’ve joined, places at which you have been tagged, and previous searches you have conducted. So, if those same people who searched “San Diego coffee” rarely use their Facebook account, they would have completely different search results from someone who is loyal to the Coffee Hub and Café and who posts about them regularly on their page. If you have interacted in your News Feed with a business, searched for it before, or if a number of people are searching for it at the same time, all of these actions have an effect on the results page.

One new feature that Facebook Search is showing is public posts. If you search for the word “party” in your search bar, you will see not only your posts and your Facebook friends’ posts that include the word party, but also any influencer posts who have used the word party. It makes sense that Facebook would make an update like this, as influencer marketing has become increasingly popular over the last few years.

While a lot of what Facebook Search returns as results are outside of a businesses’ control, they can control how often they post to their company page. This will sway the search engine to suggest your place of business over others in your area, especially if you posted content recently and are active on the platform.

More Personalized

One of the updates that Facebook promised to deliver on was timeliness and personalization. They committed to highlighting content that was occurring at the moment so that users could stay up to date as stories unfolded.

This is a huge win as trending content is most often found on Twitter, but this gives Facebook users another advantage. Timely stories and information relate back to the user’s wants, needs, and interests at any given moment so they can get all of the information they are looking for on one platform.

Many brands are taking this personalization to heart by using Facebook Messenger to connect with their audience. You may have heard the saying, “the proof is in the pudding.” Well, in Facebook’s case, this is totally true. People are more likely to trust content that has more eyes on it, comments, and likes as well. For authenticity and validation, Facebook now shows the number of people talking about a post, giving it the social proof that users desire.

Privacy and Guidelines

An aspect of Facebook Search that is particularly appealing is that the website and app can only search and give information about people who have agreed to it. Permissions are key and, if you choose to opt out, your experience will be different from someone who has given consent.

When signing up for the platform, you are taken through the privacy policy and can set your preferences. You can also adjust these preferences later on from the dropdown menu in the top right corner of the website. From there, you can adjust your Privacy Setting and Tools.

As there have been numerous incidents in the last few years around Facebook’s privacy, these updates are very important. They have now promised to safeguard Facebook user data and keep it out of the hands of the wrong people.

All content on Facebook is governed by the Facebook Community Standards, which we recommend that you read through. This collective of guidelines was developed by Facebook and a team of global experts, along with non-governmental organizations that center around the community. What this does is allow for users to report content that they feel violates these standards, acting as a “neighborhood watch” on behalf of Facebook. This helps motivate more users to take an active role and participate.

Now that you know more about the logic behind Facebook Search, we hope you have a better understanding of the improvements made to the platform. Get out there, stay connected, and join the community!


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