A Facebook patent may be cause for concern for leading search engines that offer social search data in results, and it may also be a sign that the social giant is preparing to make an aggressive move into the search market.

A patent awarded to Facebook more than a month ago is suddenly catching the interest of search marketers, as the recently surfaced document may indicate that Facebook owns social search results. This may be cause for concern for leading search engines that offer social search data in results, and it may also be a sign that the social giant is preparing to make an aggressive move into the search market.

“Visual tags for search results generated from social network information,” as the document is named, indicates that Facebook holds the patent for methods affiliated with producing search results that include information from the social network in the ranking process.

Overall, the implications of the patent are broad and a bit unclear. But it's worth noting that the patent was originally filed in October of 2004 – several months after the social giant was founded. This makes clear that the site has been thinking about entering the search market from the beginning – and marketers should be on the lookout for Facebook search developments.

Last month, Brafton reported that Facebook redesigned its search results to better organize answers to queries. With this in mind, brands will want to optimize the content they distribute via Mark Zuckerberg's social site to maximize social clicks.

Katherine Griwert is Brafton's Marketing Director. She's practiced content marketing, SEO and social marketing for over five years, and her enthusiasm for new media has even deeper roots. Katherine holds a degree in American Studies from Boston College, and her writing is featured in a number of web publications.