Facebook’s next steps to improve the content users see in their News Feeds include taking aim at click-baiting headlines in posts from pages and emphasizing links that are shared via the social network’s link format over those shared in photo captions and status updates.
The social network said the move against click-baiting headlines should only affect the pages of “a small set of publishers” that repeatedly deploy the tactic, and Research Scientist Khalid El-Arini and Product Specialist Joyce Tang explained the reasons behind the move in a Newsroom post:
“Click-baiting” is when a publisher posts a link with a headline that encourages people to click to see more, without telling them much information about what they will see. Posts like these tend to get a lot of clicks, which means that these posts get shown to more people, and get shown higher up in News Feed.
However, when we asked people in an initial survey what type of content they preferred to see in their News Feeds, 80 percent of the time, people preferred headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the full article before they had to click through.
Over time, stories with “click-bait” headlines can drown out content from friends and pages that people really care about.
El-Arini and Tang also described how Facebook determines which headlines are click-bait:
One way is to look at how long people spend reading an article away from Facebook. If people click on an article and spend time reading it, it suggests that they clicked through to something valuable. If they click through to a link and then come straight back to Facebook, it suggests that they didn’t find something that they wanted. With this update, we will start taking into account whether people tend to spend time away from Facebook after clicking a link, or whether they tend to come straight back to News Feed when we rank stories with links in them.
Another factor we will use to try and show fewer of these types of stories is to look at the ratio of people clicking on the content compared to people discussing and sharing it with their friends. If a lot of people click on the link, but relatively few people click like or comment on the story when they return to Facebook, this also suggests that people didn’t click through to something that was valuable to them.
A small set of publishers who are frequently posting links with click-bait headlines that many people don’t spend time reading after they click through may see their distribution decrease in the next few months. We’re making these changes to ensure that click-bait content does not drown out the things that people really want to see on Facebook.
They also explained the emphasis on links in the link format, compared with those in photo captions or status updates:
We’ve found that people often prefer to click on links that are displayed in the link format (which appears when you paste a link while drafting a post), rather than links that are buried in photo captions. The link format shows some additional information associated with the link, such as the beginning of the article, which makes it easier for someone to decide if they want to click through. This format also makes it easier for someone to click through on mobile devices, which have smaller screens.
With this update, we will prioritize showing links in the link format, and show fewer links shared in captions or status updates.
The best way to share a link after these updates will be to use the link format. In our studies, these posts have received twice as many clicks compared to links embedded in photo captions. In general, we recommend that you use the story type that best fits the message that you want to tell — whether that’s a status, photo, link or video.
Readers: What do you think of the latest changes to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm?