Will Facebook’s new #hashtag affect SEO?

Facebook is getting in on Twitter’s action. Up until now, Twitter and Facebook were polar opposites in the social media world. Facebook has always been for sharing with a select group of friends, whereas Twitter is great if you need to make a short public announcement or outburst. Facebook has been tinkering and is finally moving into Twitter’s personal space – enter #hash-tags for Facebook.

The humble hash-tag or ‘#’ was given a new lease of life by Twitter, previously it was only really used when needing to get back to the main menu after spending an unreasonable amount of time navigating through corporate phone systems . Thank’s to Twitter, it is no used to group similar interests together so those that want to can information easily.

#Facebook HashtagThe hash-tag has since been adopted by many platforms and has also entered into everyday language. Google+, Instagram and Vine all use hash-tags, whereas Facebook has only now caught up. Facebook did try to promote its own trend discovery symbol, but even the mighty Facebook just couldn’t get their ‘@’ tag to stick. Albeit reluctantly, Facebook has followed suite. Socialites pushing their Twitter or Instagram updates through Facebook, previously did so with loss of the # functionality. This will also herald the birth of Facebook moving away from closed conversations into the general social population and may be the ‘gentle’ nudge needed to get Facebook users engaging more publicly. It is likely that the Facebook’s privacy settings will be updated and made even more complex however it is almost certain that status updates will become searchable not just within Facebook but also by major search engines too.

If there is one group in particular that will be embracing the hash-tag on Facebook it will be brands. Hash-tags will simplify the process for customers and loyal fans to talk about and engage with their favourite brands. Now, if anyone wants to lookup just who else is talking about us, typing #fivegeckos will reveal all Facebook conversations whereas it wouldn’t have any affect whatsoever in the original search bar.

So what does this mean for SEO? Good SEO has always been about relevance and context for web users ensuring that the overall experience is a positive one for both the website and its visitors. Instead of just forcing irrelevant ads to Facebook users, hash-tags will allow brands/companies to include their messages to a relevant audience who are already engaging with the brand, its products or services. All of a sudden, recent Facebook changes are making sense. The cutting of some ad programs such as sponsored stories which were originally marketed to brands as a way to get their posts in-front of a larger audience is no more. Could this be the birth of sponsored #hashtags?

Facebook hashtags are still being rolled out and not all accounts have access to them yet but you can bet that it will be swiftly followed by ‘trending hashtags’ & ‘ insights’. Google is not currently able to retrieve information from Facebook at a similar level to the likes of Twitter and Google+ so the direct impact on Google SEO will be fairly minimal however there are many indirect methods that will prove useful and engaging with potential customers alongside existing fans can only be a positive step from a user experience perspective.

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