Facebook is tinkering around with its News Feed algorithm, and rarely is that a good sign for Facebook Pages and organic reach. I'm afraid this announcement doesn't sound particularly great for them either.
Has your business been hurt by Facebook's algorithm changes in the past? Let us know in the comments.
There are three updates. We'll get right to the one that will have Page owners worried first.
With this particular update, Facebook is basically going to show some people more content from their friends and less from Pages. The good news is that this won't be the case for all users. Facebook is taking into account the behavior of each user, and deciding which way to turn the dial based on that. If John Doe interacts with friends' content much more than Page content, he's going to get more friend content and less Page content. If Jane Doe interacts more with Pages and less with friends, she'll continue to get roughly the same amount of Page content.
As Facebook explains, the "update tries to ensure that content posted directly by the friends you care about, such as photos, videos, status updates or links, will be higher up in News Feed so you are less likely to miss it. If you like to read news or interact with posts from pages you care about, you will still see that content in News Feed. This update tries to make the balance of content the right one for each individual person."
"The goal of News Feed is to show you the content that matters to you," it says. "This means we need to give you the right mix of updates from friends and public figures, publishers, businesses and local organizations you are connected to. This balance is different for everyone depending on what people are most interested in learning about every day. As more people and pages are sharing more content, we need to keep improving News Feed to get this balance right."
One of the other updates will make it so that people who don't have a lot of content available to see may start seeing multiple posts from the same source in a row. The third one demotes posts that show when a friend has liked or commented on someone else's post.
Facebook says the impact of the changes on Pages' distribution will vary "considerably" depending on any given Page's audience.
"In some cases, post reach and referral traffic could potentially decline," It says. "Overall, pages should continue to post things that people find meaningful."
It also points to a document for best practices for driving referral traffic. It's definitely a good time to take a closer look at that.
What Facebook says to do to drive referrals to your site
Facebook gives you 12 "best practices" to drive referrals to your site.
First off, "post frequently" to your Facebook Page. A while back, we looked at research Facebook shared that found that publishers increasing post volume by an average of 45% over a week resulted in a 76% increase in outbound clicks, 10% increase in likes per post, and 47% increase in fans. Facebook points to this research in its document.
Facebook also considers posting a variety of content to be an important way to drive referrals. This means using different formats including links, photos, videos, and other content. It says to use text prompts and calls-to-action in your posts to inspire engagement.
As you may know, video has absolutely exploded on Facebook over the past year. We're just talking about native Facebook video though. Facebook says to upload videos to Facebook with a call to action to get Facebook users to go to your site.
Another idea is to create content with social context in mind. Again, that's straight from Facebook.
"What would make someone more likely to share your content? Think about identity and emotion — key drivers of sharing — when writing headlines and choosing images," it says.
You should be tagging other pages in your Facebook posts when applicable. this makes your posts eligible to appear in the News Feed of people who are fans of those pages, which Facebook explicitly says can potentially increase your distribution.
Facebook lists hosting a Q&A on your page as a best practice. While this can certainly be great for engagement and possibly News Feed reach, I'm not sure it will directly be great for referrals, but either way, it can't hurt.
Another interesting best practice Facebook suggests is to "build around your stars" referring to the most well-known people associated with your brand.
It recommends using the Trending section to find popular topics and post about them.
It says to embed Facebook or Instagram posts in your website, which seems better for driving referrals to Facebook, but whatever.
It says to add the like and share buttons to your site and mobile apps (obviously), to add Open Graph and App links tags, and finally, to add Facebook Comments to your site.
Last month, Facebook launched a new version of its Comments plugin, which comes with some new benefits. We delved into that here.
As far as the News Feed update goes, we'll see if Pages notice a dramatic effect from the changes. Either way, it's not what a lot of businesses want to hear right while they're already dealing with a major Google algorithm update.
Have you seen positive results from any of the best practices Facebook suggests? Let us know in the comments.
Image via Facebook