Facebook’s Algorithm Invites Marketers to Step It Up: Here’s Why

Facebook recently threw yet another curveball at marketers, but this time, it’s a challenge worthy of embracing.

Facebook recently threw yet another curveball at marketers, but this time, it’s a challenge worthy of embracing.

Aiming to improve News Feed, Facebook’s recent algorithm update has nothing to do with relevance, reach or relationship settings. This time, it’s after clickbait.

The social media giant is cracking down on headlines that distort, mislead or altogether withhold information–in other words, stories that bait readers with sensational headlines and then fail to deliver on their promises will appear less frequently in News Feed.

The change follows on the heels of a June update that ranked publisher content less favorably than posts from friends and families. So it’s understandable that some marketers–especially those that rely heavily on Facebook for generating a large volume of website traffic–would be worried.

An opportunity to improve

In reality, the update is an invitation to improve your content and step up your marketing efforts. Manipulating readers with anger, anxiety, surprise or other punchy emotions was never a good strategy to begin with. After all, clickbait is essentially a form of bait and switch (hence the name).

So what’s a marketer to do? Focus on posting quality content that people actually care about.

Of course, some clickbait will still make its way onto Facebook. The new algorithm only penalizes publishers with a high ratio of posts with misleading headlines.

But consider this: 80 percent of readers prefer genuine content to clickbait. If Facebook wants to keep people scrolling, it has to keep improving the quality of News Feed. And if brands want to build a trusting, authentic relationship with consumers, they have to step it up, too.

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Make yourself useful: Remember Google’s Panda update? Facebook’s algorithm improvement is an awful lot like Google’s search filter, designed to prevent spammy sites from ranking highly–both are designed to improve user experience. Rather than trying to trick the system, just write high-quality, useful content. It’s that simple. Make it relevant to your target audience, and it’s more likely to be shared. When brainstorming topics, consider your audience’s pain points and what information they might find helpful or compelling.
  2. Don’t try to trick readers–deliver what your headlines promise: Sure, clickbait can drive traffic to a site, but it doesn’t accomplish anything in the way of engagement or attracting loyal customers. Show consumers you care about them by crafting transparent headlines that don’t withhold information or mislead readers. Not only will this help you avoid being penalized by Facebook, but it will also improve your long-term results. The most effective headlines incorporate two elements: They directly address specific readers (after all, you’re not interested in just anyone landing on your site), and they let readers know exactly what to expect when they click. To ensure that your headlines are high-quality, be sure to routinely test and measure them using Google Analytics UTM codes or a similar tool.
  3. Write authentically: Today’s consumers crave authenticity, so steer clear of common clickbait lingo in your content. Strive to talk to readers on a genuine, human level. Readers won’t be fooled if you’re trying too hard to go viral, so avoid phrases like, “You won’t believe,” “This’ll change your life” and, of course, “X secrets so-and-so doesn’t want you to know.”

As a publisher, driving traffic to your site is always going to be a top goal. But clickbait is not the answer. It only offers one-and-done visits and doesn’t cultivate a loyal following. But if you focus on useful content–with clear, compelling and honest headlines to match–you’ll see major returns. So thanks, Facebook, for the little push to improve our content.

Tony Tie is a numbers-obsessed marketer, life hacker and public speaker who has helped various Fortune 500 companies grow their online presence. Located in Toronto, he is currently the senior search marketer at Expedia Canada. Connect with Tony on Twitter: @tonytie.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.