Ever wonder what the purpose of Nearby is?  Maybe you had an idea but had some misconceptions or didn’t fully understand what Nearby was specifically made for. Before Facebook’s recent name change from “Nearby” to “Local Search”, Nearby meant to inform you of where your friends have checked in on Facebook – possibly inciting interest in somewhere new to check out in the near future.

In December, Facebook announced an update to Nearby that shows nearby businesses you may be interested in visiting based on your friends’ activity, your location, and other various criteria. However, many users thought Nearby was primarily a “friend-finder tool,” as Greg Sterling writes. So it seems that users weren’t exactly clear on Nearby’s purpose.

In order to address Nearby’s ambiguity, Facebook has changed the name of the location-based feature from “Nearby” to “Local Search”. InsideFacebook has reported the change has only been made for iOS devices and has yet to make an appearance on the mobile site or on the Android app.

Why “Local Search”?

It seems that the intention of Nearby was to compete directly with Yelp. Unfortunately, that message didn’t come across as clearly as Facebook had hoped. Now that Facebook has made it clear that they would like to compete with Yelp, users may have a clearer understanding of Local Search’s purpose.  Similar to Yelp, Local Search gives users the same options to search businesses nearby, check in, rate, call, and review businesses.

Check out a few side-by-side comparisons of Local Search and Yelp:

search yelp facebook

facebook yelp local search

yelp facebook local search

Though Local Search may lack some features Yelp users love to use – pictures, more robust search functionality – Facebook is hoping users will better understand the purpose of Local Search and prefer the location-based feature to Yelp.

Big potential for advertisers

When Facebook applies the update across all devices, the feature may become more widely understood and, as a result, more widely utilized. It is important that advertisers key in on the benefits they can gain from including location-based incentives within their campaigns. Advertisers can run promotional ads for those who like, check-in, and have reviewed their businesses. Imagine the outcome of running campaigns focused on generating reviews and check-ins to your business. There is a lot of potential for advertisers to key in on reaching a more targeted audience once Local Search becomes a more widely used feature.

Large advertisers with multiple store locations can capitalize on the dual effects of local ads and local search. For example, with SearchForce’s Facebook Campaign Wizard, large advertisers can quickly create multiple segmented ad campaigns, each with its own locally targeted ads. Once these campaigns have been created, advertisers will gain visibility with local ads and promotions, and Local Search will allow the business to be found and researched quickly. This tandem may prove to be a powerful marketing tool.

Given mobile’s rise, it’s important that advertisers remember to optimize and adapt to changes, especially with any local-based search, so that they remain ahead of the game.

Audrey Cueto

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Audrey Cueto
Audrey Cueto is a marketing specialist at SearchForce, a leading provider of online search and social media technology. She writes about the fundamentals of Facebook PPC.