Facebook goes local search with updated app

It's finally happened. Local search marketing pundits had declared it was only a matter of time, but that time is now: Facebook is making a serious push in local search. The big search engines including Google, Bing and Yahoo have long held a monopoly in the local search arena, but as more recent social media startups - Twitter, Yelp, Foursquare - have revamped their strategy to cater to local search, the more dominant search engines have feared a fight for local search. And really, only one tech giant had the capability to give it to them: Facebook.

Now, Facebook has announced a big update to its "Facebook Nearby" offering, demonstrating a clear focus on local search and discovery, possibly paving the way for the social networking behemoth to transition into a bona fide search engine.

'Nearby' goes from check-in to local search
Previously, Facebook Nearby had allowed users to see where their friends had checked-in, a rudimentary local discovery function. However, with the updated app for iOS and Android, Facebook builds on that offering by displaying nearby businesses and establishments ranked by various criteria, including check-ins, likes and recommendations.

Users can search to find a local business by name or by category, as well as browse similar businesses that were visited or ranked by friends, which all goes into a five-star rating system for Facebook users' reference.

Want to get displayed? Better have a Facebook page
Many local businesses have incorporated social media into their local SEO strategy, but many other are still in the dark when it comes to the immense benefits of social platforms in local marketing. That sentiment is further reinforced by Facebook only enabling businesses with a Facebook page to be displayed as part of its revamped Nearby tool. Facebook also issued a couple techniques to local businesses to ensure they're part of the new local search/discovery app: update pages to include recent information, address and contact details, select a category and encourage their own Facebook friends to rate them.

Nearby highlights power of mobile
As of now, the Nearby app is only ready for use on mobile devices. Some analysts have said that if all goes well with the launch, a desktop version could be on its way. For now though, Facebook's insistence to debut its new local search and local discovery capabilities on mobile further underscore the increasing influence local search is getting on searches derived from smartphones and tablets.