Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the Web.

From Search Engine Land:

Recent Headlines From Marketing Land, Our Sister Site Dedicated To Internet Marketing:

Search News From Around The Web:


SEM / Paid Search

Search Marketing

Google says a Panda refresh began this weekend but will take months to fully roll out.


Google tells Search Engine Land that it pushed out a Google Panda refresh this weekend.

Many of you may not have noticed because this rollout is happening incredibly slowly. In fact, Google says the update can take months to fully roll out. That means that although the Panda algorithm is still site-wide, some of your Web pages might not see a change immediately.

The last time we had an official Panda refresh was almost 10 months ago: Panda 4.1 happened on September 25, 2014. That was the 28th update, but I would coin this the 29th or 30th update, since we saw small fluctuations in October 2014.

As far as I know, very few webmasters noticed a Google update this weekend. That is how it should be, since this Panda refresh is rolling out very slowly.

Google said this affected about 2%–3% of English language queries.

New Chance For Some, New Penalty For Others

The rollout means anyone who was penalized by Panda in the last update has a chance to emerge if they made the right changes. So if you were hit by Panda, you unfortunately won’t notice the full impact immediately but you should see changes in your organic rankings gradually over time.

This is not how many of the past Panda updates rolled out, where typically you’d see a significant increase or decline in your Google traffic more quickly.

For the record, here’s the list of confirmed Panda Updates, with some of the major changes called out with their AKA (also known as) names:

  1. Panda Update 1, AKA Panda 1.0, Feb. 24, 2011 (11.8% of queries; announced; English in US only)
  2. Panda Update 2, AKA Panda 2.0, April 11, 2011 (2% of queries; announced; rolled out in English internationally)
  3. Panda Update 3, May 10, 2011 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
  4. Panda Update 4, June 16, 2011 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
  5. Panda Update 5, July 23, 2011 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
  6. Panda Update 6, Aug. 12, 2011 (6–9% of queries in many non-English languages; announced)
  7. Panda Update 7, Sept. 28, 2011 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
  8. Panda Update 8 AKA Panda 3.0, Oct. 19, 2011 (about 2% of queries; belatedly confirmed)
  9. Panda Update 9, Nov. 18, 2011: (less than 1% of queries; announced)
  10. Panda Update 10, Jan. 18, 2012 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
  11. Panda Update 11, Feb. 27, 2012 (no change given; announced)
  12. Panda Update 12, March 23, 2012 (about 1.6% of queries impacted; announced)
  13. Panda Update 13, April 19, 2012 (no change given; belatedly revealed)
  14. Panda Update 14, April 27, 2012: (no change given; confirmed; first update within days of another)
  15. Panda Update 15, June 9, 2012: (1% of queries; belatedly announced)
  16. Panda Update 16, June 25, 2012: (about 1% of queries; announced)
  17. Panda Update 17, July 24, 2012:(about 1% of queries; announced)
  18. Panda Update 18, Aug. 20, 2012: (about 1% of queries; belatedly announced)
  19. Panda Update 19, Sept. 18, 2012: (less than 0.7% of queries; announced)
  20. Panda Update 20 , Sept. 27, 2012 (2.4% English queries, impacted, belatedly announced
  21. Panda Update 21, Nov. 5, 2012 (1.1% of English-language queries in US; 0.4% worldwide; confirmed, not announced)
  22. Panda Update 22, Nov. 21, 2012 (0.8% of English queries were affected; confirmed, not announced)
  23. Panda Update 23, Dec. 21, 2012 (1.3% of English queries were affected; confirmed, announced)
  24. Panda Update 24, Jan. 22, 2013 (1.2% of English queries were affected; confirmed, announced)
  25. Panda Update 25, March 15, 2013 (confirmed as coming; not confirmed as having happened)
  26. Panda Update 26, July 18, 2013 (confirmed, announced)
  27. Panda Update 27 AKA Panda 4.0, May 20, 2014 (7.5% of English queries were affected; confirmed, announced)
  28. Panda Update 28 AKA Panda 4.1, Sept. 25, 2014 (3–5% of queries were affected; confirmed, announced)
  29. Panda Update 30 AKA Panda 4.2, July 18, 2015 (2–3% of queries were affected; confirmed, announced)

Everyone (including Google) says make quality content. In passing, this makes sense but when you really take the time to examine it, what the heck is good content anyway? Does that mean well written without errors? Or maybe a piece perfectly optimized for search? Or how about one with lots of images or video or other helpful features for readers? No wait, good content has to mean something written that is authoritative, informative, useful, shareable and (in general) a kick-butt piece of writing?

Truth is, it’s all of the above. The proliferation of the internet has caused something unique to happen. Suddenly millions of people who had no business producing content for the masses were able to do just that. One challenge for the internet over the past decade (and for those like search engines trying to organize the internet) has been sorting out good content from bad. This means users, left to their own devices, having to differentiate among content that may be of the caliber seen in the Wall Street Journal, or that written by someone who doesn’t care what they are writing about and just trying to game a search engine. With that said, I’d like to offer a few tips on just how to make a quality piece of content.

1. Make it authoritative

People look for content that is real, truthful, accurate, useful and otherwise helpful for them and their network. Typically, content like that comes from sources that the user already trusts. It can also come from sources that the user’s network trusts. After all, users trust some sources and if they can’t, they look to their friends on who to trust. So when you go to write about something, if you aren’t already an authority on the topic, find someone who is. Say you go to write content for a local real estate company on their blog. You know that your audience will be local people that the real estate firm serves. So reach out to local authorities in this area. This may be real estate attorneys, other realtors, local chambers of commerce, etc. Find anyone you can that is a trusted resource on the topic you are writing about and reach out to them by phone or by email. Ask them for an interview or approach them about writing a short piece for you. You may even offer them something for their time although chances are if they are getting exposure out of the deal, you may not have to. You may be thinking “well gee Shawn that sounds like a lot of work” and if you are, you’re right. Making good content is a lot of work and if your goal is to do something like this professionally and successfully, you will have to put the hours in and think outside the box. An example of a website that does this extremely well is Mashable. They have great contributing authors, well researched content and the setup of the site is focused on sharing,

2. Make it useful

By useful I mean interesting, insightful, helpful, something your audience will stop and say “man, I’m glad I took the time to read this”. Of course this is much easier said than done and not everything you write (no matter how hard you try) will end up being this way but that shouldn’t stop you from trying. Optimizing for search should always be at the back of your mind however you should first strive to write something that will have meaning for your audience. For instance if you run a website that specializes in selling financial planning, you might write posts that offers tips on how to do the same. Give tangible advice that people can use right away. Content like this keeps people coming back and it also cements you in their mind as an entity that is helpful which increases the chance down the road that they will actually buy from you. A great example of site that does this well is They have all sorts of posts with helpful images on how to do a variety of things from changing an alternator to reviving an old transistor radio.

3. Use other content besides text

Something that goes along with making content interesting is using elements that make a piece of writing more interesting to read. These are things like video and images. It is a known fact that people tend to scan content on the web until they find what it is they are looking for. Large blocks of text give people anxiety and with so many other choices readily at hand, you don’t have long to make a good first impression. Break up the beginning of your content with an image. People are more likely to keep reading what you have wrote (assuming its well written) if the first few lines are short. Use video and images to supplement or compliment the content you have written. For example if you are offering advice about something, having a video from another source or one of your own to help illustrate what you are talking about is very helpful.
The Biggest Apple blog does a great job of using imagery and video,

4. Do secondary research

The first point I made about being authoritative entails doing a lot of primary research. Sometimes this isn’t always feasible because of time constraints or perhaps the availability of resources. That shouldn’t stop you from doing any research at all. Even if you already know a lot about a subject, look up information that offers differing viewpoints. Perhaps there is something you thought you knew but didn’t. Look for studies, whitepapers, thesis papers, or other higher-ed related resources to bolster what it is you are writing about. This is especially important if you are just starting out and are not yet an authority on a topic. Don’t be afraid (and you should make it a rule of thumb) to cite these sources of information. This will not only show your audience that you probably know what you are talking about but it will make the content that much better in terms of reliability. You just might generate a few backlinks out of the deal in the process if you are creating do-follow links to authoritative sources.

5. Be passionate

This last one isn’t something that can really be learned. You either have passion about something or you don’t. If you don’t (even if you try to) it will show. Its ok if you still need to write about something you don’t care about. That’s where doing primary and secondary research comes into play the most. People who do web marketing, writing, and development activities for a living often have to assume the role of a person who may be more passionate about the subject matter than they are. If you aren’t working for others and you want to drive traffic to a blog or website using content, it’s important to pick something you like anyway. Not only will you be able to come up with loads of content about it, your passion will show through, you will be able to work at it for longer than others who aren’t passionate about the subject and you will be able to offer more helpful advice for people.

Hopefully these tips help you to make that elusive “quality content” that everyone is always talking about. What tips do you have for making good content? What does good content mean to you?

I get called frequently by local companies wanting a quick fix for local rankings. In many cases, they discover that local SEO doesn’t equate with a cheap shortcut to high rankings. Increasingly, local SEO is about ongoing, consistent online promotion activities. That’s where blogging comes in.

Good blogging doesn’t have to be a back-breaking enterprise. It will require some effort and/or some cost, depending upon if you outsource it or if you do it completely yourself.

Why Blogging Is Your Secret Weapon

The cool thing is, a great many local businesses still are not blogging, so use of it as a search engine optimization tactic is still something of a secret weapon. Here’s how.

Many local businesses in highly competitive categories have already done the straightforward things for optimizing their businesses to rank for local. They may have optimized their sites,obtained local citations and links, optimized their business profiles, finessed their Google+ Local (a.k.a. Google Places) listings, encouraged customer reviews, and more.

Since all these businesses are doing essentially the same activities, they end up barely trumping the listings just below them in Google Local search results, and they may be frequently jostling, month after month, for the same slots.

But, if one of them begins blogging consistently, that business may rapidly become top dog, accruing advantages that the non-blogging businesses lose out on. It gives some distinct advantages, and can become a secret weapon that may allow the first company using it to develop a lead that the others might not quickly imitate.

Advantages Of Blogging For Local SEOBlogging for Local SEO

  • Lends your site some ongoing, timely stuff to seduce parts of Google’s algorithms that feature content based on freshness.
  • Attracts an audience that may interact with you. User interaction signals can give your site a higher prominence score in Google local algorithms. Blogs can develop subscribers and frequent readers, and generally make a site/business appear more friendly and open to humans.
  • Provides your site with an often unique link profile!
  • Enables you to rank in Blog Search as well as in regular keyword search results and Local (Maps) search result which equal more exposure and greater distribution of your promotional efforts.
  • Enables you to engage with other bloggers by posting commentary pieces and opinions on your blog.
  • Enables you to have a forum for jumping on media feeding frenzies when there’s something related to your industry in the news.
  • Provides you with a voice that is your own if anyone ever attacks your company online. Blogging is a linchpin of proactive online reputation management.
  • Provides a solid bedrock for developing your social media presence! A blog is a perfect tool for feeding content out onto Twitter, Facebook and Google+ as well as other social media sites. As a feed source, you can use it to actually reduce your workload by simply adding content in one place and having it show up in your various social media pages if that’s what you want. (Although, there are things that work more effectively on some social media platforms better than others, so it’s good to still customize these things for different places/audiences. And, you’ll still need to respond to people who engage with each of your social media accounts, too.)

There are a great many details to configuring a blog to be optimal for you, but here are a few suggestions.

How To Set Up An Optimal Blog For Local SEO & Social Media

  • Use WordPress. It already has a lot of search engine optimization basics baked-in. Although, it’s still helpful to get a pro to help you make decisions about the various installation options.
  • Avoid themes that you can’t customize to remove or nofollow links to the the designer’s site.
  • Integrate your blog as part of your existing site. It could be in a dedicated subdirectory or it could be set as a subdomain.
  • Avoid menu navigation systems that do not use SEO-friendly links.
  • Incorporate author pages. I’ve written previously about benefits to incorporating employee pages on your business site. You could use our staff pages to double as author pages, or set them up especially for the blog. Having author pages can work hand-in-hand with authorship markup.
  • Incorporate authorship markup. Setting up real, human authors to acknowledge with by-lines on the blog posts will make them reassuring and more trustworthy for readers, and this is one reason why Google treats such blog posts a bit more preferentially. Using the author tag markup can help your pages’ listings have greater visibility in the search results — and more eye-catching listings typically equate with higher clickthrough rates.
  • Perform your SEO research and target future blog posts to your ideal keyword combinations over time. Engineer your page titles and matching keyworded URLs to help highlight these terms.
  • Include tag pages and related post links. These help enhance the topical keyword associations with your pages and also can provide readers with navigation features which help them find more similar content on your blog.
  • Post frequently. Once a day is fantastic, if you can keep it up! However, once a week might be best, depending on your industry and comfort/familiarity with blogging.
  • Mix it up! If you’re a plumbing site, it’s going to grow terribly dull to write (and for your readers to read) article after article on types of pipe fittings you do, or how fast you drive to their place. Instead, mix it up by mentioning interesting and outrageous things that happen in the news which are related to your business type — when some giant water main has blasted open in a city somewhere, or an amazing story of a wedding ring found in a drain ten years after being lost and then reunited with its owner. Get the idea?
  • Start a conversation with the blogosphere. Write a blog piece giving your thoughts on another person’s blog from your industry. Link to their piece if you do this, of course — often they’ll link back to you to respond so their readers can follow the thread, or their blog may automatically post trackback links. Engaging with other blogs can help you enter into the overall conversation, get your blog/business more interest, and further reassure search engine algorithms that your company is on-the-level as more humans interact with you online.
  • Make it part of the local community. Even when trying to mix it up and engaging with other blogs, if you only post on topics about your industry, it may still be pretty dry for the average reader. Consider also posting on things of particular interest to the people in your community — local happenings, local economic news, recommendations for other partner businesses in the area, etc. By doing this you can make yours a hyper-local blog, and the additional buzz around local topics will help improve your site for locational relevancy with the local search engines.
  • Plan a content calendar. Consider posting seasonal items related to your business and area: seasonal tips, special offers, how the changing season or holidays affect your business or products, and more.
  • Keep posts brief! It’s not necessary to write a lengthy essay with each post, and Internet users typically prefer succinct content that’s easily-digestible. Also, if you write too long, you’ll burn yourself out and be unable to blog consistently enough to sustain ongoing publishing.

Installing a blog and writing on it consistently are not going to be shortcuts to achieving higher rankings fast — these things take some work. However, this investment in engaging with online consumers will give you an advantage that won’t disappear overnight. And, if you do it right, it could help you get ahead of your competitors in terms of SEO and social media

Fasten your seat belt, if you ever’ve been spamming Google. The anti-spam “Penguin Update” will have extra jolts in the coming months, as Google continues to adjust it. In contrast, updates to the Panda algorithm aimed at low-good quality pages are at this time so minor as not to be seen, once they roll out monthly.

Speaking yesterday in the SES San Francisco conference, the head of Google’s spam fighting team Matt Cutts talked around how Google is having said that adjusting the Penguin Update algorithm that’s designed to penalize websites that spam Google.

Technically, Google’s saying that Penguin isn’t a penalty then again instead an “adjustment” that quickly doesn’t let internet sites locate rewarded for spam as much as at the past. In certain, a number of linking activities that generated credit at the past seem to have been taken out.

Updatequakes & Aftershocks

Last year, Google rolled out its Panda Update produced to penalize (or adjust) pages that had poor high quality content. Each further update producedtwo alterations at the search outcomes, producing “winners and losers” that had been felt across a wide-range of publishers.

But type of including an large earthquake, each Panda update was extra like an aftershock towards the key quake, where the effects had been much less dramatic. Now Panda’s updated on a approximately monthly basis, Cutts said, along with the adjustments are so subtle that couple of notice.

Indeed, Google itself hasn’t announced any massive adjustments to discover us from Panda 0 to Panda 0 and beyond. The most recent, in late July, we dubbed Panda It appears likely we’re going to have Panda 91 follow, rather than going to Panda

Penguin Is Still Shaking Out

Penguin is unique. Cutts said that because the Penguin algorithm is newer, it will face larger alterations and hence be a great deal more “jolting” for individuals it hits, until it smooths out over time similar to Panda. He as well merely additional much more to his statement yesterday in a comment at Search Engine Roundtable:

I was giving context on the reality that lots of individuals were asking me once the subsequent Penguin update would take place, as if they expected Penguin updates to take place on a monthly basis and as if Penguin would only involve data refreshes.

If you bear in mind, in the early days of Panda, it took a number of months for us to iterate on the algorithm, as well as the Panda impact tended to be just a little bigger (e.g. the April 211 update incorporated new signals which include internet sites that users block). Later on, the Panda updates had less impact more than time as we stabilized the signals/algorithm and Panda moved closer to near-monthly updates.

Likewise, we’re having said that in the early stages of Penguin exactly where the engineers are incorporating new signals and iterating to boost the algorithm. Because of that, anticipate that the next couple of Penguin updates will take longer, include further signals, and consequently will have much more noticeable impact. It’s not the case that people need to just anticipate data refreshes for Penguin fairly nevertheless.

So far, Google’s only announced 1 further alter to Penguin, which we dubbed Penguin That came last May, about a month immediately after the initial Penguin Update. We created it Penguin one rather than Penguin 0 given that, as Google said it impacted much less than 1% of all search results, it seemed a minor alter.

Will the next update be Penguin two or Penguin 0, and will it be soon? Certainly, it feels overdue, and given what Cutts stated, it seems most likely to be a major revision. Keep in mind, on the other hand, that for all of the “losers” in any update that could scream, there can be winners — maybe even a couple of of the internet sites that lost initial.

Confused by the latest link warnings that Google has been sending out? As we covered before, it’s all been pretty confusing. That’s why Google has posted more information meant to calm some worries, though it’s still likely that even after this, some are going to panic.
The “Old” Link Warnings: Entire Site Impacted
Google’s post starts with some history, explaining just as we’ve done how earlier this year, it began sending out link warnings:

Let’s talk about the original link messagesthat we’ve been sending out for months.When we see unnatural links pointing to a site, there are different ways we can respond. In many severe cases, we reduce our trust in the entire site. For example, that can happen when we believe a site has been engaging in a pretty widespread pattern of link spam over a long period of time.

If your site is notified for these unnatural links, we recommend removing as many of the spammy or low-quality links as you possibly can and then submitting a reconsideration request for your site.

Sometimes, Links Ignored
As you can see, if you got one of these messages in the past, it was a sign that your entire site might be distrusted. But Google’s post went on to say:

In a few situations, we have heard about directories or blog networks that won’t take links down. If a website tries to charge you to put links up and to take links down, feel free to let us know about that, either in your reconsideration request or by mentioning it on our webmaster forum or in a separate spam report. We have taken action on several such sites, because they often turn out to be doing link spamming themselves.

This is a slightly new twist to concerns some have had that if they can’t get links removed, what can they do? Google’s saying that in some cases, it might decide a directory or link network is spam, so it will block those sites — and in turn, those links should no longer count as harmful to the sites they point at.

I’ve covered this before, in terms of negative SEO. There are those who received notices from being in link networks, then assumed that this meant anyone could link to anyone from these networks as a means of harming them. That only works assuming that the networks were allowed to continue passing harmful link credit.

The New Warnings
Now on to the new warnings:

In less severe cases, we sometimes target specific spammy or artificial links created as part of a link scheme and distrust only those links, rather than taking action on a site’s overall ranking.The new messages make it clear that we are taking “targeted action on the unnatural links instead of your site as a whole.”

The new messages also lack the yellow exclamation mark that other messages have, which tries to convey that we’re addressing a situation that is not as severe as the previous “we are losing trust in your entire site” messages.

To be clear, there were some people who recently got these “new” warnings that looked exactly the same as the old ones. The concern these raised prompted Google to make the changes above, as we covered previously, along with examples of how to tell what’s more severe due to a yellow warning symbol like this:

New Warnings May Ignore Links, Not Harm Entire Site
As for those who get one of the new warnings, apparently they mean that Google’s not penalizing your site. Rather, it’s going to “take action” against the link pointing at your site, meaning it won’t trust it. Google goes on to explain this more:

These new messages are worth your attention.Fundamentally, it means we’re distrusting some links to your site.We often take this action when we see a site that is mostly good but might be might have some spammy or artificial links pointing to it (widgetbait, paid links, blog spam, guestbook spam, excessive article directory submissions, excessive link exchanges, other types of linkspam, etc.).

So while the site’s overall rankings might not drop directly, likewise the site might not be able to rank for some phrases.

I wouldn’t classify these messages as purely advisory or something to be ignored, or only for innocent sites.

You Won’t Rank For Some Terms But Don’t Panic?
I think Google sees the explanation above as reassuring, since it says that the site overall won’t drop in rankings. But saying the site may drop for some rankings, combined with advice that anyone who gets one of these new notices should take action, is still going to cause concern.

That’s why the next part of Google’s post immediately after the paragraph above isn’t at all calming:

On the other hand, I don’t want site owners to panic. We do use this message some of the time for innocent sites where people are pointing hacked anchor text to their site to try to make them rank for queries like [buy viagra].

Here’s a thought. If you don’t want sites to panic, then send those “innocent sites” messages that clearly explain they are innocent and don’t have to worry about taking any action. Otherwise, there’s no way for them to know they really are innocent. It’s like giving a driver something that looks like a ticket with no indication that it’s just an advisory they can ignore.
Examples Of Those Who Did Panic & Didn’t Need To
The post goes on with examples of things to avoid, such as widget links and paid links. Then a third example says this:

In some cases we’re ignoring links to a site where the site itself didn’t violate our guidelines. A good example of that is reputation management.We had two groups write in; one was a large news website, while the other was a not-for-profit publisher. Both had gotten the new link message.

In one case, it appeared that a “reputation management” firm was using spammy links to try to push up positive articles on the news site, and we were ignoring those links to the news site.

In the other case, someone was trying to manipulate the search results for a person’s name by buying links on a well-known paid text link ad network. Likewise, we were just ignoring those specific links, and the not-for-profit publisher didn’t need to take any action.

In summary, both sites got one of these new messages that Google has said shouldn’t be ignored. At the same time, the publishers — clearly concerned enough about them to write in — were apparently told they could ignore these messages, because the links themselves were ignored. Bottom line: a lot of time wasted by all parties.
If You Get A Message, Investigate, Says Google
What to do if you got one of these new warnings? The latest advice from Google:

We recently launched the ability to download backlinks to your site sorted by date. If you get this new link message, you may want to check your most recent links to spot anything unusual going on.If you discover that someone in your company has been doing widgetbait, paid links, or serious linkspam, it’s worth cleaning that up and submitting a reconsideration request.

We’re also looking at some ways to provide more concrete examples to make these messages more actionable and to help narrow down where to look when you get one.

Google also said less than 20,000 domains have received these messages and going forward, only about 10 sites per day can expect to receive them. It also offered some final reassurance:

If you get one of these new messages, it’s not a cause for panic, but neither should you completely ignore it. The message says that the current incident isn’t affecting our opinion of the entire website, but it is affecting our opinion of some links to the website, and the site might not rank as well for some phrases as a result.

Google Needs Better Messages
I just don’t see how any of these new messages aren’t going to cause panic by those who get them. Saying a site might not rank well for some terms is self-evidently a panic-inducing statement. Worse, it induces panic when, in some cases, the site doesn’t need to actually do anything at all.

Last time I wrote about this, I said Google should just stop sending warnings until it could clear things up better. Nothing in today’s post has changed that view. This entire situation just seems to go from bad to worse.

During last week’s Facebook earnings call COO Sheryl Sandberg argued that the company could and would compete for marketing dollars “throughout the entire marketing funnel.” That is, from branding and awareness at the “top” of the so-called funnel to “demand fulfillment” at the “bottom.”

Below is the quote in broader context:

We believe we are very well positioned to compete for advertising dollars throughout the entire marketing funnel, from the very top where companies focus on generating demand, to the bottom where the focus is on fulfilling demand. The majority of the advertising spend that is migrated online to date has been for demand fulfillment, which happens when a customer already has intent to purchase. Search advertising has been the primary driver of this migration. Facebook is also effective at the bottom of the funnel, with gaming being a primary example. But we believe that Facebook also helps marketers build brands and generate demand. This is important because the majority of the $600 billion global advertising market is spent on demand generation.
(Emphasis added.)

Right now Facebook doesn’t truly compete for ad dollars in the “demand fulfillment” category. As Sandberg implies this is where Google reigns. But Facebook doesn’t need to directly compete with Google in web search to participate in search revenue or bring the site more fully into the demand fulfillment arena. (Sandberg & Co may be thinking of novel alternatives to search but search is the most direct way in.)

A couple of weeks ago Director of Facebook Engineering Lars Rasmussen, a former Google employee, told the Sydney Morning Herald that it made no sense for Facebook to get into web search. I agree; the company probably wouldn’t compete effectively against Google and it would create problems for Facebook’s relationship with Microsoft.

However search on and within Facebook can continue to improve to the point where it becomes a valuable utility and search revenues start flowing. As Greg Finn pointed out recently, Facebook is already testing sponsored results in site search.

Last week on my personal blog I wrote about Facebook’s Massive, Still-Untapped Local Opportunity. One of the comments to that post was the following: “The problem FB faces is that none of us use it to find local businesses when we need one. So unless FB finds a way to change that, no SMB will ever derive any value from advertising with FB.”

Exactly. One way to change that is to make search within Facebook a real honest-to-goodness tool that people actually use to find things. Once that happens, you’ll see local businesses and brands respond with more content and with search-like ad campaigns. We would also likely see products and product catalogs showing up.

The combination of social signals (Likes) and other content could make Facebook search a compelling tool that people would start to use for all kinds of queries. But that’s all contingent on the degree to which Facebook invests in and develops its own search capability.

It’s not just about revenue. Better site search would make the overall Facebook experience much better. It would lend a kind of “coherence” to the site that’s currently lacking.

In a way it doesn’t matter if Facebook ever does anything with “web search” if it dramatically improves search on Facebook. It will achieve the same result: getting people to use the site when they have “intent to purchase.” Then, and only then, will Facebook truly be in the “demand fulfillment” business.