Beware the Algorithm Shift: Keeping Pace with Facebook and Google

Marketers are increasingly dependent upon our world’s twin titans of traffic, data, advertising, and referrals: Google and Facebook. In order to ride their broad shoulders to greater visibility, richer analytics, and sharper marketing, you need to be dialed into how they weigh content and what approaches they reward.

Facebook and Google are constantly tweaking their respective algorithms. It’s up to marketers to respond accordingly, lest you be left to wither in the parched wilderness of outdated marketing techniques.

Let’s review some basics of where Google and Facebook are now, and which directions they appear to be going.

Facebook

 
You might find it surprising to hear, but social media — not search — brought more traffic to 2015’s biggest news stories. As ubiquitous as Google has become, people are increasingly using social media to discover new content. Facebook in particular has become a referral beast, with millions of publishers and brands relying on the behemoth for traffic.

Which is why it’s such a huge deal when Facebook decides to alter their formula to determine who sees what when they’re logged in. Case in point is the recent change in their algorithm that placed more emphasis on ‘friends and family’ content in your News Feed. Publishers and brands panicked at the thought of losing eyeballs and traffic, and probably rightfully so. Especially those engaging in clickbait-y activities!

Marketers are now being forced to take a harder look at options like Facebook ads, boosting, and Instant Articles to gin up interest and brand awareness. Or for heaven’s sake, finding ways to get people to actually click on your company’s Page to see what you have to say. In other words, Facebook is reducing organic reach to force companies to buy more traffic.

A big X Factor in all this is video.

Facebook appears to be betting the house on video, as evidenced by their recent $50 million investment to pay for celebrities and media companies to create videos using Facebook Live. Companies are scrambling to incorporate video into their content strategies to keep up with this recent video-centric algorithm pivot.

Videos on Facebook rack up about 4 billion views per day, so the emphasis on video isn’t likely to change soon. But you should remain buckled up for changes ahead. The folks at Facebook like to say they view their work as ‘only 1 percent finished.’ And they’ve already made about 10 algorithm changes in 2016, with each a reflection of current trends (like the popularity of video).

So keep your head on a swivel and your ear to the ground. I wouldn’t put anything past these guys, as Mr. Zuckerberg appears to have friends in some pretty high places.

Google

 
Google’s been changing the way we search and use the internet for nearly 20 years. Since launching their famous toolbar in 2000 they have blazed the cyber-trail for us all, pouring the foundation upon which much of the internet today sits.

Google has played a key role in writing (and re-writing) the rules we must abide by to win a favorable web presence. The secret sauce is their mysterious, mercurial algorithm.

Websites are ranked and indexed according to Google’s algorithm, which ultimately elevates quality sites that are content rich and linked to other high-quality sites. It penalizes those that are spammy, low quality, non-responsive, and most recently, not mobile friendly.

Most of Google’s algorithm changes are minor, but some have major implications on traffic, ads, rankings, and SEO techniques. Take the AdWords kerfuffle from earlier this year, which removed ads from the sidebar altogether. Or the launch of the personalized, online behavior-focused Hummingbird update in 2013. Google never stops tinkering. The onus is on marketers to keep pace with what they value and what they penalize.

All in all, Google uses about 200 different criteria to rank your site. Broadly speaking they are looking for E.A.T. (expertise, authority, trustworthiness). That overarching concept is not likely to change.

But who knows!

The folks at Google are nothing if not ferocious innovators.

The Takeaway

 
The volatility and unpredictable nature of algorithm tweaks is a sharp reminder that a successful marketing strategy should be well-rounded, flexible, and also include a paid element to help you reach your target. Relying exclusively on Facebook to give you reach, for instance, is a fool’s errand, since organic exposure seems to decline with every algorithm update. You shouldn’t count on any one channel exclusively. Much like the stock market, you have to diversify!

Adapting to algorithm shifts helps marketers create the right type of content, crafted in the way the audience wants to receive it — which can give you a starring role in your audience’s social feed. Knowing when those algorithm changes happen and what they entail is crucial in keeping a social media strategy on the right course.
 

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