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Facebook Algorithm Update to Reduce Organic Reach Again?

It’s been a big couple of weeks for algorithm updates. First we had the fear-inducing Mobigeddon from Google which, although it promised to be a big update, thus far appears to have had little impact. And now we have another algorithm update from the world’s favourite social media site, Facebook.

But what does the update mean to you and your brand? Will it mean even more difficulty attaining that organic reach that so many of us have seen drop recently?

Here’s what we know:

  1. For users that don’t have a very busy newsfeed, the site will now allow for “multiple posts from the same source in a row”.
  2. Content posted by friends will be given greater priority than any other.
  3. Users will see less information about what their friends have liked or commented on, instead seeing more updates from friends that they follow directly.

Essentially then, the site is attempting to keep its users happy by showing them more relevant information from their friends in their newsfeeds.

So what will be the impact on Pages?

Facebook state that:

“The impact of these changes on your page’s distribution will vary considerably depending on the composition of your audience and your posting activity. In some cases, post reach and referral traffic could potentially decline. Overall, pages should continue to post things that people find meaningful and consider these best practices for driving referral traffic.”

Limiting Reach

The changes do appear on the surface to impact brands as it will be even more difficult to gain meaningful organic reach. For loyal followers however, who interact with your Page regularly, they will continue to see your posts.

These changes are no surprise. Facebook has been warning us for a while now that organic reach isn’t something that can be relied upon and that changes will be made to ensure that the platform is more useful for its users. It’s also a way for the social network to push business users further towards its advertising platform, which it should be noted is an extremely powerful one.

Publishers the Biggest Losers?

Probably the biggest losers then are going to be publishers that don’t utilise Facebook ads. Publishers have enjoyed a few years of big boosts to traffic through Facebook, but this new update could spell the end for that.

According to Moz’s Rand Fishkin:

“Publishers are going to be in a tougher and tougher position, given that Facebook's organic reach is already so low (~2% on avg was the last reliable number I heard). I wouldn't be surprised if this has a much more dramatic impact on organic web traffic channels and opportunity than Google's mobile-friendly algo changes.”

So it seems that for publishers, the party’s over now and those that want to continue seeing the kind of traffic from the site that they’re accustomed to may now have to dig deep and invest in paid advertising on the platform.

Facebook Ad Revenues

With that in mind, the only real winner we’re likely to see following the update is Facebook itself. The changes will surely push more brands and publishers towards paid advertising on the platform. Additionally, in March The New York Times broke the news that the social network is courting publishers to post content natively on the site. It’s likely that this will see Facebook and those using the site to post native content share ad revenues in the future.

Facebook has enjoyed huge success with the introduction of native video to the newsfeed, so it’s likely that it’s looking to emulate that success with news. For publishers, it will mean that they can more effectively drive a subscription payment model, with teaser videos and articles posted natively in order to tempt people into buying.

Expanded Ad Offerings

At the end of the day, Facebook is a business and one that has to answer to stakeholders. In the past few years, we’ve seen the site evolve from one that was just a medium for connecting with fans into an advertising powerhouse.

Its ad platform is one of the most powerful around as it allows you to really drill down targeting in order to reach your ideal audience. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were told that the site wouldn’t make any money from mobile, and yet Facebook has proved everyone wrong by releasing excellent mobile ad revenue figures. Due to the way that users behave – in that they remain logged in across devices – Facebook has also been able to improve its understanding of its users and pass this on to its advertisers.

Targeting Accuracy

According to TechCrunch,

“[Facebook] can target gender with 90 percent accuracy compared to the online ad industry average of 50 percent.”

The company has invested a lot of money into its advertising platform, so it’s no real surprise that it is constantly looking for new ways to ensure that it has the best ad platform around. For example, in February 2013, it acquired Microsoft’s Atlas, which was comprised of a suite of tools for ad measurement. This enabled the site to further its understanding of cross-device ROI for those ads that were run through Atlas across the web.

With all of this in mind, it’s likely that brands will see changes to organic reach. This means that brands should strongly consider using its advertising. It’s powerful and it allows you to tap into a huge audience whilst making the most of the best targeting features on the web. This might mean that some marketers will have to consider how best they can use PPC budgets in order to ensure that they get the best possible ROI from all of their marketing activities.

Of course, it’s also vital that brands tailor their content to suit the audience and ensure that everything that they post is relevant and useful. This does increase organic reach if you have a fair amount of engagement already on the platform as more people hit like or share. It's time to get strategic with Facebook and pay more attention to the content you post, how the ad model works and how your audience engages with your content.

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