Facebook SEO in 2016 and into the Future

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Graphic on the standard seoplus+ blue triangle background of the Facebook logo next to a Facebook search bar.
Graphic on the standard seoplus+ blue triangle background of the Facebook logo next to a Facebook search bar.

Last month,  online broadcast media monolith Facebook tweaked their algorithm to prioritize the posts of family and friends in newsfeeds at the expense of publishers. Last week, the algorithm was further updated to penalize  clickbait” headlines. These changes are meant to improve user experience and signal a return to Facebook’s espoused core values, but they threaten the place of businesses and advertisers on the social media platform. In this guest post, Graeme Kahn discusses the state of Facebook in 2016 and gives his thoughts on the future of the platform.

Written posts reach tumbles in 2016

We can see the reach has stayed roughly the same.

Publishers have over time ramped up their post counts month by month.

However, that strategy proved unsuccessful, as those media companies’ pages saw average reach per post sink, dropping by 42 percent in May compared with January.

So what’s going on…?

Well, publishers are still focused on writing posts when most people don’t want to read on Facebook and instead want to watch video instead, or click Like to a picture.

People can’t be bothered to read or write posts on Facebook, they’d rather create a video or share an image.

Facebook video posts:

Facebook videos posted by publishers’ Pages typically get 268% more shares than links.

Clearly video is winning here in 2016.

More than half of publishers’ 300 most-shared Page posts were Facebook videos.

With Facebook Live, people can create posts with very little thought and people seem to like sharing them the most.

Links to publishers’ sites posted by people, not Pages, average more likes and comments than Page-posted Facebook videos.

Videos and domain links are most commented and liked due to SEOs using these the most.

SEOs are still trying to push their content money sites etc. through Domain links, but there is a growing trend of Video Posts now.

Facebook execs already believe that people’s news feeds “will be probably all video” in five years.

Engagement rate decline felt by all

There’s no doubt that there’s a continuing decline in engagement amongst the biggest sites is an issue.

These rankings are looking at engagement with website content in a given month only, and don’t include engagements on native video or images.

For the past few months, it’s more likely that you’ll see an auto-playing native video go viral rather than a story from a website.

Despite this, there’s been a slow-down in engagement with links and other content for a broad range of sites, leading to decline in the monthly totals we record in these rankings. We’ll be taking a closer look at this development on the blog shortly.

Let’s look at the biggest publishers in Facebook right now

We can see the following things:

  • Despite declining interactions on their €˜owned’ content, the Huffington Post and BuzzFeed retain their lead at the top.
  • News sites including the Guardian and NBC improved their positions during April.
  • Strong growth in engagement for Indian sites and The Quint.

As Facebook focuses on video, engagement for top publishers declines

User interaction with non-video content has fallen sharply.

Over the past year, Facebook has set its sights on becoming a platform for video — in particular live video, something it has been paying a number of media companies to produce, in order to promote its streaming feature.

But the flip side of that increase is that non-video content produced by some of the leading publishers is getting less and less interaction.

Over the past nine months, my research shows a fairly sharp decline in engagement of all kinds: Likes, the most dominant form of interaction, dropped by about 55% between July of last year and April of 2016. Sharing activity also declined sharply: Shares fell by 57% and comments by almost 64%.

It seems obvious that engagement for non-video content is declining. But why? It could be that Facebook is deliberately pushing that kind of article down in people’s feeds. Or it could be a consequence of Facebook promoting more video, which squeezes out other forms of content. Or it could be both.

Whatever the cause, the impact of Facebook promoting video and paying media companies to produce it is obvious.

Looking at CNN which had 1,051 posts on its main Facebook page last July, with 22 native videos and a total of 97,330 engagements overall. Last month, however, the news network had about the same number of posts, but there were 10 times as many videos 22% of the total and 2 million engagements.

Facebook has made a number of tweaks to its News Feed algorithm that have also affected how media content appears and whether it gets engagement or not.

Among the changes were that Facebook now pays attention to “time spent” with an article in addition to just sharing behavior.

Facebook—time spent on stories algorithm:

The goal of News Feed is to show you the content that matters to you. The actions people take on Facebook—liking, commenting or sharing a post—are historically some of the main factors we’ve considered to determine what to show at the top of your News Feed. But these factors don’t always tell us the whole story of what is most meaningful to you. Recently, as part of our ongoing effort to improve News Feed, we asked people to rate their experience and tell us how we can improve the content they see when they check Facebook.

From this research, we learned that in many cases, just because someone didn’t like, comment or share a story in their News Feed doesn’t mean it wasn’t meaningful to them. There are times when, for example, people want to see information about a serious current event, but don’t necessarily want to like or comment on it. Based on this finding, we are updating News Feed’s ranking to factor in a new signal—how much time you spend viewing a story in your News Feed.

When talking to people about the way they use their News Feed, we’ve found that it’s not as simple as just measuring the number of seconds you spend on each story to understand if that piece of content resonated with you. Some people may spend ten seconds on a story because they really enjoy it, while others may spend ten seconds on a story because they have a slow internet connection. We’ve discovered that if people spend significantly more time on a particular story in News Feed than the majority of other stories they look at, this is a good sign that content was relevant to them.

For example, you may scroll quickly through your News Feed and like a photo of your friend’s graduation, followed by sharing a funny post from your sister. You keep scrolling and happen upon a post your cousin shared detailing everything she did and saw on her recent trip. Her post even includes a photo. You spend time reading her post and the interesting discussion about the best places to eat that had broken out in the comments on this post, but you don’t feel inclined to like or comment on it yourself. Based on the fact that you didn’t scroll straight past this post and it was on the screen for more time than other posts that were in your News Feed, we infer that it was something you found interesting and we may start to surface more posts like that higher up in your News Feed in the future.

Facebook original content algorithm:

Facebook has said that it is trying to promote original content over content that has shown up a lot in people’s feeds already, and that may have helped push down the numbers for media companies as well. But the biggest factor of all seems to be Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s relentless focus on video. That appears to be shaping the behavior of news consumers on the platform more than some publishers might like.

As of “earlier this year,” what Facebook internally calls “original broadcast sharing” had declined by 15% from the year before. Facebook recently formed a team to help fight off the decline in sharing with features like “On This Day,” which resurfaces content you’ve shared on Facebook in years past. Facebook has also changed its News Feed algorithm to prioritize what people share from their own profiles.

Move over social media and hello social messaging:

The decline in personal sharing on Facebook (think status updates, photos, notes, etc.) also comes at a time when messaging apps like Snapchat and Facebook-owned WhatsApp have taken off.


I could go on and on about Facebook SEO, there is so much more than what I have included in this post. I got mountains of information on all the Algorithms and like I said in another previous post there are roughly 600 of them as is stands in 2016.

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seoplus+ Team

The award-winning seoplus+ expert team includes digital marketing specialists and business advisors with a combined experience of over 75 years. Since 2012, seoplus+ has provided demand generation and business growth services to companies ranking from SMBs to multinational enterprises. Our team's rich and diverse backgrounds range from SEO, PPC, social media, content creation, digital PR, UX design, web development, and ecommerce, to customer success, lead generation, and growth strategy. seoplus+ is also an SEMrush Agency Partner, Google Premier Partner, and Shopify Partner.

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