Create a Facebook Page and watch the Likes rolls in. Not to mention an avalanche of clicks to your website.
What a fantastic, super easy and above all, FREE way of generating traffic.
Well, yes and no. Maybe back in 2010 before every brand, granny and their Labrador had jumped on the Facebook bandwagon. That Facebook News Feed is now an exceedingly busy place with thousands of pieces of content vying for position in the average user’s daily stream. As a result Facebook heavily filters what it shows users. The mechanism by which it chooses what to show and what to ignore is the Facebook News Feed Algorithm.
And Pages (rather than Profiles) are the first to be clobbered.
Comprised of over 100,000 factors, that algorithm is the reason why on average of only 12% of a Page’s posts are seen by its fans. For large pages this percentage can be as little as 2%.
Under a “Friends and Family” first agenda, the algorithm will push updates from your nearest and dearest into your News Feed. Something like one or two in every 10 posts will be an ad (after all – Facebook is a veritable money making machine for its shareholders) and a small handful will be from Pages you have Liked. BUT you’re unlikely to see content from Pages you haven’t interacted with recently, and unless Facebook decides that a Page’s recent post is particularly fabulous, you are still unlikely to see it unless the Page puts its hand in its virtual pocket to boost (pay to promote) the content.
So what criteria does the algorithm utilise and how can Page Admins understand it to ensure that they get the maximum visibility possible for their content?
Through research and experiment as well as combing multiple articles Facebook itself and the tech industry have put out on the algorithm, I wrote a book, developed an online course and created a visual representation of the key factors that drive the way it works.
The key elements of Facebook’s News Feed algorithm
What we are all interested in as Page owners is getting our content seen. We call this News Feed Visibility (previously described “EdgeRank”) but also known as organic reach – defined as the number of people you can reach for free on Facebook by posting to your Page.
The algorithm that determines reach takes into account an immense number of factors, is machine learning-based and highly individualised to each user and their personal preferences and click history.
Reach considers how relevant the content (also known as a “story”) is to the user. Content can be a status update, photo, video, comment, like, tag, event, offer, relationship status change or any of the other pieces of content that you see in News Feed.
Here are the five broad areas that feed into the algorithm’s calculations:
- Interest– this is concerned with how interested you are in the creator of the story. Is it a best friend you engage with all the time on Facebook, a mere acquaintance you barely interact with, a brand you love and share content from regularly or a brand you’ve lost interest in and ignored in recent times. Interest is also gauged by how long you spent in the past on stories that person/Page has posted, how you reacted to those stories (clicked, liked, commented, shared etc).
- Post Performance– this considers how well this story is performing with other users and the kind of reactions is it getting. If your friends have liked the post you are more likely to see it pop into your own News Feed.
- Past Page Performance– is the Page verified? What type of Page is it? Does it have complete profile information? How old is the Page? How many fans does it have? How engaged are those fans with the Page and its recent content? Have your fans elected to see your content first? On the other hand it may not even be a Page, posts from Facebook Groups enjoy a lot more visibility due to a different algorithm at work.
- Type of content– there are two overarching factors at play here. Facebook itself weights some types of post more highly than others (right now it prefers natively uploaded Facebook video above anything else). It also factors in the type of content a user prefers – do they look at lots of photos on Facebook, click a lot of links, watch videos regularly? So some content types are given a higher score and promoted, and less popular types of content will get a lower reach and either sit lower in the news feed or barely be shown at all. Then the content itself will be hugely influential. Does it tag other Pages? Does it use any of Facebook’s negative trigger words that will see instant throttling? Will Facebook deem the post to be spammy or promotional and therefore squash its reach? Does the headline or user behaviour indicate clickbait? Is the image used new to Facebook or is it a stock photo that’s been seen a million times before? If it’s a link how many other users have shared it already? What’s the quality of the landing page the link leads to and how many ads are sitting on the landing page?
The best type of content is original and “sticky” – meaning that people click on it, read what they find then like, share or comment on it.
- Recency – this is to do with the age of a post. Generally the longer a story has been live the less likely it is to be seen. There will be exceptions: with personal posts, announcements of, for example, engagements, tend to stick around News Feed for longer. And for Page posts, “Story Bumping” kicks in when an older story suddenly starts to get a lot of interactions. Recency also raises the question of when the best time is to post. When are your fans on Facebook? How busy is the timeline with other content when you are posting?
Understanding the basic underpinning principles of the algorithm is the first step on a journey to better performing content for brand Pages. Content that gets visibility without having to pay to promote it.
In reality, however, understanding the algorithm and taking every opportunity to use that knowledge will only take you so far. Sure you’ll push that 12% average reach figure up a bit but the wisest marketers will also allocate some budget to cleverly boosting the right content. And that’s a whole new artform in its own right!
Recent algorithm update
One recent update to the News Feed algorithm that is of particular interest to organisations who use Facebook to drive traffic to their websites is a throttling of reach to both organic posts and ads that link to web pages with too little original content and lots of annoying or offensive ads. Ads which disrupt the user experience such as pop-ups and interstitials are particularly being targeted. You can see the detail here.
Be aware too that Facebook likes to keep users on Facebook. So link posts that lure them elsewhere will not be favoured as highly as natively uploaded Facebook video, photos and other content where engagement all happens within the Facebook app itself.
Marie Page is one of the UK’s leading Facebook marketing experts and a founding partner of digital marketing consultancy The Digiterati. Her recent Amazon 5-star book, and online course is “Winning at Facebook marketing with Zero Budget”. You can grab a free copy of Marie’s Ultimate Guide to Facebook Marketing at www.getultimateguide.com