If you are like most businesses, majority of your marketing efforts probably come from social media, and the largest social media platform out there is none other than Facebook.
But recently Facebook announced a new algorithm update that will be swinging into effect in early May 2017.
This new update is one of the most significant changes that Facebook has made in a while, and it is important to understand the ins and outs of it, especially if you frequently use the platform to market your products, services or blog posts.
The move by Facebook comes after Zuckerberg and his crew, came under flack for helping to spread fake news articles.
During the US election, Facebook also came under fire for helping to support the proliferation of fake and spammy news articles that spread misinformation and biased judgements.
While the US election brought these factors to the surface, Facebook has been battling this issue for quite some time and has been working hard to avoid companies from spreading click bait articles across people’s news feeds.
Because Facebook allows businesses and even users to upload links and share products and services, there is a certain level of due diligence that needs to be employed to avoid the site turning into a spam fest.
Facebook is now cracking down on pages that spread low quality content and “click bait” articles.
While this is a good thing, the problem arises however, when legit businesses are penalised and blocked from sharing their content. After all, how will Facebook really determine what is low quality and what is not?
According to sources at Facebook-
“The algorithm update will lower the reach of posts containing links to low quality web pages. The new update will penalise organic posts, Instagram ads and Facebook ads that create content that takes away from the user experience.”
The move by Facebook is to help win over users that have become increasingly disgruntled by spammy links and content that does not resonate with their likes and interests.
But how exactly is Facebook going to determine what is a low quality link and what is not?
A Low Quality Link According to Facebook is….
Facebook is going to be using machine learning technology to train its algorithm to identify posts that come from low quality sites.
This means that the technology may take some time to implement and be effective, and we may not really know how the algorithm is going to affect businesses for quite some time.
According to Greg Marra, a news feed product manager, Facebook has looked into patterns that are commonly found when someone clicks on a low quality link.
Facebook has then organised their findings to make a list of actions or red flags that help them to determine what is low quality and what is not.
Here are some of the red flags that Facebook has determined-
- A lack of original content or content that appears to be duplicated
- A webpage that is filled with ads or invasive pop ups
- Low quality images and images that do not coincide with the article content
- Low time spent on site
While there are probably more red flags, these are the ones that have been determined so far and are the ones that are going to most likely affect how articles are shared and viewed across Facebook.
It may even be possible to state that Facebook is creating an algorithm that is very similar to that of Googles. This means that it is fair to say that what passes on Google will also pass on Facebook.
In a nutshell, Facebook themselves have announced that a low quality link is any link “containing little substantive content and that is covered in disruptive, shocking or malicious ads.”
These links are most likely going to be buried somewhere deep in the world of Facebook and are not likely to gain much exposure.
Changes to the Facebook Algorithm that You Need to Know
New Algorithm Supports User Control
One of the other big changes of this update is that users are going to have more control about the type of content that they choose to see.
In the past, the more a user clicks on a certain type of content, the more Facebook showed them similar content in that same topic. For example, if a user clicked on a weight loss article, Facebook’s algorithm would continue to show them more weight loss topics.
While this is still going to be in play, Facebook is also going to give users more control over what they choose to see.
Users are going to be able to subscribe to topics that they are interested in, so Facebook knows exactly what to show them on their feeds.
Apparently, Facebook is also beta testing a carousel of topics that users can subscribe to. When a user subscribes to that topic, they will be exposed to more pages and content that is aligned with that topic.
Facebook is unrolling this feature in the hopes of gauging whether users are more likely to engage with posts that they have “subscribed” to and that they have an interest in reading.
Facebook Has Now Launched ‘Facebook Stories’
Instagram was first and now Facebook is following in its footsteps. Along with the new algorithm update, the social media giant is also offering a story feature.
In a very similar layout to Instagram, Facebook is now showing circular icons at the top of the news feed that allow users to upload a story.
These stories can be images, videos, drawings and even come with special camera effects. Just like Instagram, the stories also disappear after 24 hours.
The move by Facebook seems like an obvious one, especially after the success of Instagram’s stories. But insiders also claim that having stories on Facebook is part of a bigger strategy to get people talking about more personal feelings.
In recent years, there has been a rapid decline of people using Facebook to update their status and share how they are feeling or what they are doing. Instead it has become a popular place for sharing links, stating political views and uploading photos.
While people are no longer interested in writing status updates, Facebook is hoping that the stories feature makes for a good alternative.
Reactions are More Important than Likes
It is hard to believe that it has been nearly a year since Facebook unveiled different reactions to posts other than just “Like”.
The different reactions have remained the same though the year and have included “love”, “hate”, “angry”, “sad”, “wow” and so on.
These reactions are now here to stay and are now going to be given more weight than a regular “like.”
Posts that earn reactions are going to be given more attention and more exposure, which means that as a marketer, you definitely want to be encouraging users to use these reactions.
According to sources, when a user gives a post a reaction, more of the same content is going to be displayed on their feed. Even if they give an “angry” reaction, Facebook is still going to show them more of the same thing.
This means that if you have a post that gets a strong reaction, consider creating several of them on the same topic, for maximum exposure.
Video Content will Get More Credit
Videos that get watched all the way through will be given more exposure and preference with Facebook’s new algorithm.
According to sources, Facebook is going to measure the “percentage of completion rate” for every video watched by users. If a higher percentage of users watch the video all the way to the end, Facebook to give preference to that video.
This means that as a marketer, it is going to become increasingly important that your videos are timed just right to ensure the maximum engagement rates.
If you find that your users are really only watching 2 minutes of your 5 minute videos, you may have to reconsider shortening the length of your video for the best effects.
Alternatively, if you do have long videos that are watched all the way through, it is very likely that your content is going to get far more exposure and will reach far more people.
How Your Business Can Protect Itself
Firstly, the best way to protect yourself from Facebook’s new update is to focus on creating quality content that is appealing to your audience. But here are some other suggestions as well-
1.) Don’t Share Too Many Links, Especially if Engagement is Low
Be mindful of sharing too many links and try to monitor how your audience is engaging with your site. If you have shared a few articles in a row that have not had much engagement, you may want to reconsider your approach.
With the new algorithm in play, articles that are not getting engagement may be push your entire page further into the black hole of Facebook.
To prevent this from happening, consider sharing a variety of content sources such as images, graphics, links and so on.
By having a variety of content types you are more likely to earn engagement from your audience and less likely to be black listed by Facebook.
2.) Make Sure Your Images Matches your Headline
Many spammy links tend to have a shocking or disturbing image that triggers people to click. Often the image has nothing to do with the content and is misleading to readers.
Facebook is cracking down on these click bait tactics which means that it is super important that your image reflects your article.
When it comes to choosing an image, try to match it perfectly with your headline and tagline and ensure that it has some relevancy.
Make sure your image is of high quality and try to use the same image on your Facebook link as in the article itself. This will prevent your article from potentially be flagged as spam.
3.) Keep your Content Original
One of the best ways to grow your blog quickly is to share and syndicate other people’s content. Some of the top sites in the world do this even though they are at the risk of being penalised by sites like Google.
While big sites can get away with syndicating a small percentage of their content, this technique is often not recommended for smaller websites and blogs.
Even though Google has cracked down on this type of content for a few years now, it seems that Facebook is now joining the show.
Facebook is apparently penalising websites that contain more duplicated content than original content. Content that is copied from other sites will also be penalised on Facebook and given less preference over original content.
It is tricky to say how this is really going to affect businesses that use duplicated content, however if you don’t already, it may be worth creating original content for your blog.
This will not only help to increase exposure on Google, but now it will also help on Facebook too.
And of course, it goes without saying, if you are going to use duplicated content, be sure to use the correct links and credits to the original site.
3.) Remove Intrusive Popups
If you use pop up ads you may want to reconsider now that Facebook has updated their algorithm.
Historically, pop up ads don’t tend to perform that well and can cause “banner blindness”, so you may even want to take this opportunity to reconsider your advertising strategy.
It is not clear exactly whether Facebook is going to block all pop ups on sites including opt-in boxes and your own pop up ads, but for now we do know that pop up ads to external sites are definitely going to be affected.
4.) Make Sure your Videos are Perfectly Timed
Now that Facebook is going to be measuring the percentage of completion rate of each video, it is important that your content is engaging right till the end.
If you have already been sharing video content, consider studying the perfect length of time that keeps your audience engaged. This should be the time frame that you aim for as it will help your videos to gain more exposure.
Video content is also being given preference by Facebook, so if you don’t use it already, you may want to consider adding it to your marketing strategy.
5.) Get in Early on Facebook Stories
Facebook stories is very new, which means that your business stands to benefit if they get in early.
Consider posting a story or sharing some content with your audience using the feature. The sooner you get in, the more likely you are going to gain exposure and reach your audience.
Over time and as the feature becomes more popular, it may be harder to stand out from the crowd and your story may get lost in the competition. But if you act now, you may just be able to reap all the benefits.
6.) Ask for Reactions Instead of Likes
It can be hard to share content that is going to earn you a “reaction” over a “like” but there is a way around this.
When you upload content on Facebook, ask your fans to give you a reaction rather than a like. Ask your fans to “Love” your post or to use the other reactions in order to help boost the exposure of your post.
It is not clear how much preference Facebook is going to give to reactions over likes, but it is definitely worth a shot. You may even want to test the theory out for yourself and with your own audience to see the impact that it has.
7.) Write Different Articles on the Same Topic
Now that Facebook is asking users what they want to read about, it is going to become increasingly important to have a strong and clear theme to your blog and the type of content that you share.
If you are sharing content from a variety of topics, you may find it hard to earn attention and increase engagement rates under this new algorithm.
To work around this, consider narrowing what you share on Facebook to one to three topics at the most.
If you are writing content about a particular topic, it may also help to include a few different posts on the same topic. This will help to increase your visibility and get more of your content seen by your audience.
Facebook is most likely going to be making tweaks and changes to their new algorithm in the coming weeks, but you can use this information to definitely get a head start.
Whether you like it or not, social media is one of the most effective platforms for marketing and promoting your products and services, so keeping up to date with the changes are always going to fall in your favour.
Of course, at the end of the day, there are no guarantees when it comes to how your content is going to do, but if you keep following the best practices and sharing valuable information with your audience, it is always going to pay off.