Facebook Gets Its Own Panda Update

    December 8, 2013
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

As reported earlier this week, Facebook has made some changes to how it ranks content in the news feed, putting a greater emphasis on content quality. The update may have a significant impact on how visible your site’s content will be on the social network. Comparisons to Google’s Panda update have emerged.

Do you think Facebook’s News Feed update will have a positive or negative impact on your site? On the Facebook experience in general? Share your thoughts in the comments.

As a WebProNews reader, you probably know how big Google’s Panda update was. If you don’t, you can learn all about it here. Long story short, Google launched a major algorithm update a couple years ago aimed at returning higher quality content in its search results. The move gave so-called “content farms” less incentive to flood the web with mediocre to poor content to serve ads on. It’s been a controversial move to say the least, and the update has been refreshed numerous times, and continues to plague some webmasters to this day.

Google is obviously one of the primary ways Internet users find content. Another is Facebook. Like Google, it’s one of the main gateways to information on the web. If you produce web content, you want people on Facebook to be able to find it, just as you want Google searchers to find it. While perhaps not to the extent of a Google update, a Facebook News Feed update can have a major impact on a website’s ability to attract pageviews and customers. Facebook updates have already been detrimental to companies in the past.

Facebook says the new changes may not be on the scale of the Google Panda update, but are “a step in that direction.”

In its announcement, the company said it is paying closer attention to what makes for high quality content, and how often articles are clicked on from the News Feed on mobile. There’s good news for publishers in that they’re going to start showing more links to articles, especially on mobile, where nearly half of Facebook users are accessing the social network exclusively.

“Why are we doing this? Our surveys show that on average people prefer links to high quality articles about current events, their favorite sports team or shared interests, to the latest meme,” says Facebook software engineer Varun Kacholia in a blog post. “Starting soon, we’ll be doing a better job of distinguishing between a high quality article on a website versus a meme photo hosted somewhere other than Facebook when people click on those stories on mobile. This means that high quality articles you or others read may show up a bit more prominently in your News Feed, and meme photos may show up a bit less prominently.”

“To complement people’s interest in articles, we recently began looking at ways to show people additional articles similar to ones they had just read,” Kacholia adds. “Soon, after you click on a link to an article, you may see up to three related articles directly below the News Feed post to help you discover more content you may find interesting.”

Here’s what that looks like:

Facebook articles

Earlier this year, Facebook introduced the concept of “story bumping” to the News Feed algorithm. This is when Facebook “bumps” up a story in the News Feed because it’s getting a lot of likes and comments.

Facebook is now updating bumping to highlight stories with new comments. So now, you’re more likely to revisit a story that you saw before if your friends have commented on it.

“Our testing has shown that doing this in moderation for just a small number of stories can lead to more conversations between people and their friends on all types of content,” says Kacholia.

So there’s more to what Facebook is doing than the Pandaesque update, but that’s a major part of things, and Facebook News Feed manager Lars Backstrom opened up a bit more about it in an interview with All Things D’s Peter Kafka.

He says they’re not really looking to promote/demote types of content, but rather do a better job of “identifying value”.

“In the past, there were a lot of things that all fell into one bucket, and we would treat them all the same, even though they clearly weren’t,” Backstrom told Kafka. “If you see a funny meme photo in your feed — sure, you get some value from that. But if you compare that to reading 1,000 words on AllThingsD, you would presumably get more value from that experience than the first one. And, in the past, we were treating them as the same.”

Umm, with all due respect to All Things D, isn’t that a matter of preference – something illustrated by social interaction? Kafka basically suggested as much back to him. According to Backstrom, the surveys indicate people want the quality articles more than the cat photos. But in the end, doesn’t it really depend on the article and on the cat photo? And what happened to Facebook being about what people are sharing? People like to share cat photos. People like when other people share cat photos. If there’s one thing the Internet has proven it’s that. Also, I wonder how many of Facebook’s over a billion users were actually surveyed. I don’t remember being asked about this. Do you?

I’m not saying I personally don’t prefer a good article to a cat photo, but that’s beside the point.

Backstrom says Facebook is not trying to “impose its will” on people. He also admits that surveys “are not necessarily the truth,” but that treating “every single click as having the same value,” as in cat photo clicks vs. in-depth article clicks, would be “as naive”.

So the new way of doing things is naive too?

And here’s something that a lot of smaller sites aren’t going to like very much. Right now, the changes are “mostly oriented around the source,” according to Backstrom. So apparently brand is going to make a big difference right off the bat, regardless of how in-depth your content is.

Talk about the “filter bubble“.

People have been calling for an unfiltered Facebook news feed for years, and they kind of got one, when Facebook launched the Ticker. Earlier this year, Facebook launched the “new” News Feed. That was in March, and a lot of people still don’t have the design. Some variations of the design don’t include the ticker, and others have it down in the corner in a less noticeable part of the interface. The future of the feature is uncertain. A lot of content is going to only be visible via the Ticker, Graph Search or on actual Timelines. The News Feed is what everyone pays attention to.

Backstrom does say that Facebook will start “distinguishing more and more” between different types of content as it refines its approaches, so it might not all be based upon source in the future, even if it starts off that way. But who knows how long that will take? When does Facebook ever roll out things quickly?
Google did after the Panda update. That certainly didn’t appease everyone, but at least it was something. It’s a hell of a lot more to go on than what Facebook is giving people so far. Google’s list also included twenty-three bullet points. That’s a lot more consideration than just the source of the content.

It’s going to be harder to build a brand if Facebook – the biggest social service in the world – won’t acknowledge it to begin with.

While meme photos are mentioned specifically by Facebook as things that will be less visible, Backstrom told Kafka that this was just an example, and that it’s not targeting one category or another.

Apparently the kinds of posts that have a call to action (Backstrom gave Kafka the example of “one like = one respect“) that are designed to simply get likes, will not be doing so well with the update.

Asked if the update is targeting sites like Buzzfeed or Upworthy, he said that there are no specific targets, and that he doesn’t know how the changes will impact those sites. At the very least, it may affect those sites’ sharing tactics.

According to Backstrom, the changes aren’t going to eliminate funny Imgur photos and the like from your News Feed entirely. You just may see less of that kind of thing. I know some of us are at least hoping for less Bitstrips.

You have to wonder how all of this will affect Facebook’s teen problem non-problem.

Oh, did we mention that Facebook is also spreading the message that marketers are going to have to pay them if they want more visibility? AdAge reported this week:

If they haven’t already, many marketers will soon see the organic reach of their posts on the social network drop off, and this time Facebook is acknowledging it. In a sales deck obtained by Ad Age that was sent out to partners last month, the company states plainly: “We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site.”


Image: Wikimedia Commons

  • http://www.canadawebservices.com/ renu

    The other day, I was thinking the thinking the same, when does Facebook will release its news feed algorithm update,

    I have also noticed that sharing same link on two or three pages shown up quickly in the newsfeed recently, however I don’t see it now.

    But in the past the post which have more likes and comments always stays on top. But also new posts as well.

  • http://www.nakshaat.com/xf nakshaat

    I think that Facebook will make a search engine competitor to Google

    • http://www.dabsindia.com Rakhi Arya

      I think so Nakshaat.

  • http://www.vkool.com/14-steps-on-how-to-increase-blog-traffic/ Tony Nguyen

    I love this post. The article is informative and useful. I think facebook will become better. Thanks for sharing this post. Hope to read more interesting information from you. Great job!

  • http://www.mher.de mher

    From what I’ve observed over the last year or so, the thinnest, most irrelevant posts often get a lot of comments – just because they are so thin,
    i.e. “I’ve got a mouse in my house” => 20 comments about getting a cat and other silly, supposed to be funny, comments.

    But the post about Nelson Mandelas death going uncommented and – of course – without any likes…

    Who dares to call that an improvement when those real relevant posts get washed under even more under those “I’ve got a headache from yesterday’s too much drinking, and where are my undies” posts…

    sorry, but real quality isn’t measured by counting “likes” and “comments”…

    thank goodness I still can switch my timeline to “lastest” and away from so-called “most relevant” – unfortunately I can’t make that a standard

    just my 2ct

  • william snyder on facebook

    it is a nightmare. They blocked me. Administrators of pages are not able to override it. They told me I am a danger to the President. My Facebook page documents the behavior of the program to people it decides are “radicalize-rs,a’ as it could be the only possible reason I a blocked from my own page at times. I cannot access anything I had linked to facebook, and they contacted my bank somehow with a fraud alert. I have gotten messages telling me I am lying about family members.

  • https://twitter.com/islamsyariah Konsultasi Syariah

    I don’t think people will write article seriously in Facebook like they do in their website. So, Panda style Facebook algo seem irrelevant to me.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/author/chris-crum Chris Crum

      We’re talking about links shared from websites, not just content written on Facebook itself.

  • http://kutyaszallitas.com Dogs for sale UK

    Quality content is all great, but just like quality needs, the meaning differ from person to person. What quality to you, might not be quality to me.

    I think all this quality content is shutting beginners out of the stream. After getting rid of most of traditional SEO now they are getting rid of content that was useful, but perhaps not quality enough for someone who has a masters degree, but he is in a position where he can voice his opinion to make changes happen, versus a person who does not have but basic education and don’t know where or how to voice his opinion to make changes happen.

    With the so called qulity content all the established large sites are just fine, because they have the financial backing to stay afloat and to knock everyone else out of the game. What about someone who just starts out. They don’t have a chance to raise their new site to the front page and will give up because of frustration or loose interest for lack of success, or simply run out of money. We all know how hard it is to take a new website to the front pages of the search engines. What about the small sites without thousands of pages of content?

    I’d say quality content is crap for business. With ask(dot)com, Yahoo answers, and alikes coming up on the first 10 pages.

    Quality content was there before all these animals, we just had wider selections to choose from.

    What do you think?

  • http://Wredlich.com Warren Redlich

    I paid for FB ads to build up likes for my page. And now FB is reducing the reach of my page unless I buy more ads to promote my content.

    Do I have this right?

    • http://www.singaporefoodie.com Victoria

      I completely agree with this. I write a food blog in Singapore and I paid a few small amounts to get my likes up originally. I was doing ok (and for some link posts getting 300 click throughs per day through to my site – that’s big for a beginger like me) and now on some posts only 25 (of 500+ likers) see my posts. I know they want me to pay but surely it should be the bigger cats that should pay?? Give the little guys a go.

  • http://www.rendabr.com.br/?idparceiro1397 RonaldoRosaDosSantos

    tenha seu proprio negocio online 100% dos lucros direto na sua conta corrente ou poupanca=http//www.rendabr.com.br/?idparceiro1397

  • http://www.techsoham.com daksh

    Huh Now we have to bear facebook update too. :(

  • Frederick A Mills

    when new rules hit the board, of course, it change something, and it depend on how they promoto themselved on their site, how dramatic that would be.

  • http://www.intesols.com.au Moin Shaikh

    It seems that Facebook is walking on Google’s path. They are realising updates over updates and pushing ads content more upwards and pulling organic content more downwards to increase their ads revenue, just like Google did for ogranic SERP results vs adwords result.
    Anyone agree?

  • http://asianetpakistan.com izyan

    One after another every sites will make their algorithms & then it will be very hectic for marketeers to remember all of the sites structure.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    I get why Facebook is trying to cull the NewsFeed to create better engagement, but I’d prefer to control who I interact with and how often I see their updates. I know there I pages I would happily interact with frequently but their posts aren’t showing up as often as they actually post new things.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/author/chris-crum Chris Crum

      Yeah, I would think they could at least have a better idea of the stuff I’m likely to want to see.

  • http://www.amp-limited.com/ Anna McNally

    Every business has a website, and you want it to rank as high as possible but the update has effect on how much traffic you are getting for it. The main purpose of your website is update progress value, giving less rank to low-quality or only marginally useful web pages for you.
    Thank you for interesting article.

  • http://phuketscene.com Phuket Scene

    Facebook still isn’t a search engine but the tweak seems a good thing to a certain degree however FB is a social media platform and things can change by a sudden viral spin. So what is not relevant still may be on top because of that reason. Ultimately, it’s hard to do a panda like algorithm change on FB overnight

  • http://www.lawyernrtheastphiladelphia.com max

    Facebook in rapidly on the decline, with users moving to Google +

  • bobdebilder

    All this is nonsense, the bottom line for both companies is that they want you to spend money via advertising. If you show activity on Facebook with your Facebook Fan Page, they allow you to grow, and then when their 'algorithm' considers they have you hooked, they then begin to throttle traffic so that you consider paying for their 'boost' .. of course this is an opinion and it could be as accurate as saying the Pope is Catholic or not

  • David M Champion

    Well, this is more “shitting on the little guy” I pride myself on producing quality articles for the blog I work with. Our traffic has seen an almost unrecoverable decline since the “improvement”, and I am now unempoyed once more. Thanks a lot, facebook