Optimize your content for Facebook’s News Feed algorithm

The latest changes in Facebook’s News Feed algorithm have publishers on edge. While 30% of top publishers’ visitors come from Facebook, publishers are struggling to keep up with a series of Facebook’s algorithm changes — five large publishers we spoke with about this article are concerned about the drop in their Facebook referral traffic.

“We keep a close eye on our Facebook referral traffic and have seen significant drops over the past few years,” says Jonathan Glass, Digital Media Director at Storm Mountain Publishing.  “The timing seems to indicate that Facebook algorithm changes dating back to the summer of 2014 have given less priority to publisher content while bolstering priority to user content.”

Family and Friends Come First

In June 2016, Facebook announced on its blog that in order to show users the most relevant and engaging content, News Feed will favor and promote more content from family and friends of users.

What does this mean for publishers? According to the New York Times, “Facebook said it expected a drop in reach and referral traffic for publishers whose audience comes primarily to content posted by the publisher’s official Facebook page.”

A Catch-22 For Publishers

Because of the change, fewer users will see the content posted by publishers, which means less shares to friends and family. This is known as a seeding problem, and is one of the main drivers for decreases in Facebook referrals for publishers.

A smaller hit came in August, when Facebook announced an anti-clickbait algorithm that penalizes clickbait posts and the sites that create them. What’s the true impact? TechCrunch quoted Facebook’s VP of Product Management on News Feed, Adam Mosseri, “If you post 50 times a day and post one piece [of] clickbait, this shouldn’t affect you. If you’re a spammer and post clickbait all day, this should affect you a lot.” For most major publishers, this second update had a smaller impact, and the change is certainly a welcome one for Facebook users.

A Data-Driven Way to Drive Audience Growth 

So how can publishers continue to drive audience growth in this dynamic social media environment? Our data shows that shows that optimizing your Facebook posts’ title, headline, and intro text can increase engagement and reach of Facebook posts up to 50%. This can significantly increase the spread of your content seed.

Snowboard Magazine has been using the ShareThis Social A/B tool to optimize their Facebook intro messages. For the post Burton Presents, episode 1: Heavy Rotation, the winning intro message generated a projected 34% increase in clicks back from Facebook to the site.

Freeskier Magazine has also been testing its intro messages with ShareThis Social A/B tool. For its exposé on how CTE is affecting action sports athletes, it realized a projected 18% increase in click-through rate on its posts by using a powerful quote to drive attention: “It’s a tough subject; it’s the elephant in the room… It’s undetectable at this point and so we’re just left with people’s stories after they take their own lives because it’s just so painful.”

This storytelling version beat out the shorter, less personal version: “CTE—the brain condition first popularized by the NFL—has very real implications for skiers.”

Want to learn more?

Facebook’s algorithm will continue to evolve with little warning. We got you covered — you can read more about 4 ways to use Facebook’s algorithm to your advantage, 5 ways to increase your Facebook engagement, and 5 tips for A/B testing your Facebook posts.

Put yourself in the driver seat and start A/B testing your content for Facebook.  It takes you less than a minute to sign up for our tool and it’s completely free — so why not take a spin?