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How to Beat Facebook’s News Feed Algorithm
If a tree falls in a deserted forest, does it make a sound?
Yes, of course it does, but who cares if no one’s there to hear it?
The same goes for your social media marketing efforts. You can make the most compelling piece of content on the web—but if it’s shoved down to the bottom of a user’s news feed you’ve just wasted a lot of time and money.
One main indicator of social media marketing success is the loyalty loop, where social media fans form a loyalty to the company and become repeat customers. To get there, the people that matter have to actually see your stuff, and to do that, you’ve got to know how to beat Facebook’s news feed algorithm.
I know three foolproof ways to give your Facebook postings a boost in the news feed:
- Clean up your website code
- Avoid clickbait headlines at all costs
- Upload native videos and images instead of links
If you successfully swear by those three tips, I guarantee you’ll see a rise in impressions. I want to help you improve your social media strategy and also increase the enjoyment of your posts. Social media is supposed to be fun, right?
In this article I’ll give you some insight into each recommendation; how to do it, best practices, and tips moving forward. Best of luck, and if you have any additional questions, contact us!
A (Very) Brief Explanation of How Facebook’s News Feed Algorithm Works
How does Facebook’s news feed algorithm work? Basically, Facebook tries to predict what type of content you’ll most enjoy and pairs it with relevant stories and media from other users’ posts. It does this with dozens of social signals you yourself send the platform—what posts you like, what kind of media you share, what your “interests” and “hobbies” are, and so on—as well as social signals from others like you.
If you nail it down to bare bones, Facebook’s algorithm touches on the same areas as Google’s search algorithm:
- Relevance, using both social signals like engagement and predictions based on your previous activity (do you watch a lot of videos or do you prefer reading articles?).
- Quality, using signals from both internal sources (shares, likes) and external sources (linked website quality, mobile quality, photo quality).
- Timeliness, using signals including how fast a post received engagement and shares and when it was published.
All of these factors contribute to an overall ranking score, which determines where in a user’s news feed a post appears. Social Media Today offers a great in-depth explanation if you want to look further into the inner workings of the algorithm.
Next, we’ll look into how to be sure your posts are relevant, timely, and considered quality content.
Facebook News Feed Hack 1: Clean up Your Website Code
Facebook has become a lot more like Google in that it’s striving to provide more quality results to users, which means it’s looking to outside signals including website code. What code specifically?
- Your Open Graph Meta Data
- Your Website Speed
Open Graph Metadata
Unless you’re super-savvy with the back end of your website, this is a project for your website developer.
Open Graph metadata is a bit of code in the back of each of your webpages that tells social media sites essential information about your post. You know the snippets and photos that show up when you copy and paste a link? That’s what I’m talking about.
Tell your website developer that every single page on your website (that you intend to share) needs to have that special code, including a photo, otherwise your posts will end up without a description or a photo, and will be shoved down to the very bottom of the news feed.
Website Speed and Structure
The second part of your website tune-up should be your site speed and your mobile-readiness.
Site Speed: When was the last time you hit the “back” button on your browser or in an app because the page took too long? If you’re anything like me, it probably happened at least once today.
It turns out that I’m in the norm—people are too impatient to wait for a slow-loading page. In fact, Facebook reported that as many as 40 percent of website visitors abandon a site after three seconds of delay.
Another factor? Mobile-readiness. The large majority of Facebook users use the platform through mobile devices, which means only websites optimized for mobile will make it up at the top of the news feed. Facebook even has their own version of mobile pages: instant articles.
Facebook News Feed Hack 2: Avoid Clickbait at All Costs
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We’ve all experienced it; a headline that looks promising but when you click on it you’re met with content that’s… well, not worthy of the headline. Facebook’s clickbait update targets these headlines—ones that either exaggerate or withhold information—and ranks them lower, using a number of factors and signals.
Clickbait: Headlines that withhold information intentionally leave out crucial details or mislead people, forcing them to click to find out the answer. For example, “When She Looked Under Her Couch Cushions And Saw THIS…” Headlines that exaggerate the details of a story with sensational language tend to make the story seem like a bigger deal than it really is. For example, “WOW! Ginger tea is the secret to everlasting youth. You’ve GOT to see this!” – Facebook, 2017
How does Facebook know what headlines are clickbait?
It starts with the landing page and bounce rate. In their 2014 update, Facebook started including the time people spent on an article as a signal of a clickbait-y headline. If someone spent a long time on a landing page before returning to the news feed, then the headline wasn’t clickbait. If they came right back, it was.
“If people click on an article and spend time reading it, it suggests 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.” – Facebook, 2014
How to Beat It:
Honestly, just don’t try to deceive anyone. or lure people to …meh content with WOW headlines.
In 2014, Facebook surveyed users and found that 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. If what’s in your post isn’t interesting enough for you to create a compelling headline, you’ve got other issues.
Facebook News Feed Hack 3: Upload Photos and Videos Natively
The last tip is probably the easiest.
Instead of linking to photos and videos on other sites (looking at you, YouTube), upload them natively, or directly to the platform. This includes live video, which Facebook said would be preferred over any other type of video content.
Facebook’s news feed algorithm already favors images over links, and videos over images. That means video should be at the top of your social strategy—and it doesn’t have to be huge, long, polished commercials. GIFs work great, as do live Q&A sessions.
For the best results, make sure your images are:
- 1200×628 px for rectangular images
- 1200×900 for vertical images
- Accompanied by a full description with tags
For best results, make sure your videos match the following:
- Aspect ratio: 16:9 (here’s a complete list of supported aspect ratios)
Video: H.264 video compression, high profile preferred, square pixels, fixed frame rate, progressive scan
Format: .mp4 container ideally with leading moov atom, no edit lists
Audio: Stereo AAC audio compression, 128kbps + preferred
Length: 120 minutes max
Minimum resolution: minimum width 600 pixels
- File size: Up to 4GB max
- Thumbnail image size: 1,200 x 675 pixels
- Thumbnail image ratio: Should match the aspect ratio of your video
- Caption length text: Text only, max 2,200 characters
Tying it All Together: How to Succeed in Facebook Marketing
It seems so simple:
Post quality content according to Facebook’s specifications, and get more people to see your stuff. More people see your stuff, more people like your page/content. People that like your content become customers.
But come on, any social media manager knows that’s just not how it works. You’re still competing with family photos, political noise, news stories, quizzes—all the fun things people look at to waste time.
Not only that, you’re competing with publishers who make social media content for a living—some reputable, and some who are really, really good at scamming for clicks, likes, and shares.
It sucks, but there it is.
Nowadays, Facebook is pay-to-play. If you want to get your content in front of the people that matter, it makes a lot of sense to invest in paid social media marketing. You can read up on it here, or you can reach out to someone on our team!
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About The Author: Betsy is the social media team lead and a content marketing specialist with Blue Corona. When she’s not managing social media marketing campaigns or writing badass blog posts she’s practicing Muay Thai, hiking with her dog or teaching kids how not to fall off a horse.
View more blogs by Betsy McLeod