We all want organic reach on Facebook. Let’s face it: the dream is for our posts to spread like wildfire and appear to our target audience in news feeds across the world.
Sounds great, right? But as with most things online, there’s both a right – and a wrong – way to get there.
On 25th August 2014 Facebook released a new blog post detailing some improvements they plan to make to the news feed.
The main point of this update is to stop the click baiting, which I’m sure all of us have been a victim to. This update will likely affect many brands and marketers who used this common tactic to gain viral traffic on Facebook.
And these important changes don’t just apply to click baiters. They apply to anyone who posts a link on Facebook. You may be posting links incorrectly without even knowing it, and as a result be seeing lower organic reach numbers.
Find out below why Facebook ranks what we post, what click baiting is, how we can change the way we post a link to rank better in Facebook, and what new metrics Facebook are using to determine whether a shared link is high quality.
The Facebook News Feed Is a Crowded Place
Facebook’s news feed would be like the Wild West if it did not provide some way of deciding what posts are relevant and important to us.
Lars Backstrom, a Facebook engineer wrote in his blog: “Every time someone visits news feed there are on average 1,500 potential stories from friends, people they follow and pages for them to see, and most people don’t have enough time to see them all”.
To combat this huge stream of updates (most of which probably detail your friends love for their cat or what they ate for dinner last night), Facebook employs a computer algorithm, which they call EdgeRank.
This algorithm manages to cut down those 1500 updates into roughly 300 updates that it will show you throughout the day. Every time you post an update on Facebook, the EdgeRank algorithm crunches some numbers and determines how relevant and important your post is to your followers and friends.
To cheat this algorithm, some Facebook of deploy click-baiting techniques to make one post appear more relevant and important than others.
This resulted in a post being shown in more of our news feeds, and before you know it, a post which is of low quality and mostly irrelevance has gone viral and gained 100,000s of clicks.
Facebook is now trying to stop this click bait tactic in an effort to provide a better news feed experience to its users. But what exactly is a click-bait tactic?
What Is Click-Baiting on Facebook?
Click-baiting is posting a snippet of the information and asking users to click on the link to find out the whole story. Facebook provides a good example on their blog post, which I’ve included here. Notice how you have to click on a link to read the full story about two celebrities who got in a fight on the red carpet.
Before Facebook’s August 2014 update, these type of posts often became very popular and appeared in everyone’s news feed, purely because a lot of people were clicking on them. This large amount of clicks didn’t necessarily mean that it was important or relevant information.
This is the click-baiting Facebook wants to stop.
New Metrics Facebook Will Analyze
For some time, Google has used a website’s visitor engagement metrics in their ranking algorithm. Now, Facebook is following the search engine in this regard for ranking posts in their news feed.
Once the updates are completely rolled out, Facebook will take into account how much time people spend on an external page before coming back to their Facebook news feed. So, for instance, if someone clicks on a link and spends 5-10 minutes on that page, it’s obvious to Facebook that the link is relevant and of high quality.
Whereas if someone clicks on a link bait article and then comes straight back to the news feed, it’s obvious to Facebook that the link, more than likely, did not offer that much value to the user.
The other factor that Facebook will start to use is the ratio between people clicking on the post and people commenting, sharing and liking the post. The idea behind this new ranking factor is the same as above:
Good content should make people want to comment, like and share it on Facebook.
I’m not too sure about whether this is a good idea or not. For example, I have a music Facebook page where I post music. I get a lot of clicks because people want to go and listen to music. But I don’t necessarily receive that many likes or comments.
My fans just want to listen to the music – they don’t really want talk about it. It will be interesting to see how using the ratio of clicks to comments, shares, and likes affects the whole Facebook experience.
How Should We Be Sharing Links on Facebook?
The whole reason Facebook is rolling out these new features is because it wants users to stick to the normal way of sharing a link. By normal, I mean that when a user enters a link into the status box, a snippet is automatically created. Some publishers are gaming Facebook because they create a photo post and add the link in the box ignoring the automatic snippet.
They do this because the picture which will then appear larger in the post (and therefore be more visible in the news feed, thus increasing interaction).
However, Facebook found that people prefer to click on links that are displayed in the standard link format with a snippet. Facebook will prioritize these types of posts with the snippet and show fewer posts with links that are placed with an image.
No, Facebook Isn’t Trying to Destroy Your Business
A lot of people will probably be talking about these updates and claiming that Facebook is shutting the doors to all organic reach (getting people to see your posts without paying for it.) But really, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Facebook, like Google, is leaning towards quality content more than ever before.
It’s a good thing, because let’s be honest: we all hate spam and being cheated. Facebook has always preferred links to be shared in the way that they have programmed them to be shown, so it’s obvious they will not look favorably on users not using their method.
If anything, it’s easier this way because all you have to do is paste the link and the snippet will be automatically created with the image and post preview.
This new update from Facebook is a clear indication of how they want users to behave when sharing content. It should be seen as a reminder that quality content is now more important than ever.
In order to build our audience, we need to understand what they like to share and see on their news feed. Planning your social media content around this will greatly improve your engagement.
The amount of effort you put into creating good content for your website should be the amount of effort you put into creating a post on Facebook. Don’t get complacent, otherwise Facebook will penalize you. Remember, creating an engaging dialogue with your audience is the key to success on Facebook.
Are you struggling with your organic reach since these latest updates? Have you found a particular format of post works best for your audience? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments below.