Facebook is a vital source of traffic for many web publishers, but they are at the mercy of the social giant’s ever changing standards of what constitutes quality content. Those standards dictate the content that appears in users’ Newsfeeds, and the order in which it is ranked.
Clickbait works. Publishing empires have been built on it; some of which have honed the art of the clickable headline to fine edge. Clickbait is one of those “I know it when I see it” phenomena. It can be hard to define, but everyone knows it when they come across it in their feeds.
Facebook, which believes its users don’t want their Newsfeeds full of clickbait, has been working on an algorithmic definition it can use to filter out low-quality clickbait. For some publishers, that’s bad news. Many have seen their Facebook referrals plummet in recent months. Facebook is quite open about how they detect clickbait. All publishers who want to do well on Facebook should consider how their content would hold up under the algorithm’s scrutiny.
As I said, clickbait works, but after a user has clicked on the headline, they’re almost always disappointed by the content. Many will click, scan, and immediately go back to Facebook. Facebook can use this information to limit the appearance of low-quality content and misleading headlines in Newsfeeds.
Publishers should ensure headlines are relevant to the linked content. This should be obvious, but even big newspapers pick out a small detail in an article and make it the headline feature, particularly if that detail is titillating, has shock value, is likely to outrage, or otherwise produce an emotional reaction. The content rarely lives up to the promise of the headline, and users don’t stick around for long.
Of course, this isn’t the only way content produces high bounce rates. If the content is of a poor quality or is boring, users will bounce.
The lesson to be learned is this: if you’re going to publish content and share it on Facebook, make sure it’s content that a reasonable person would want to read.
You Won’t Believe What Facebook Did Next!
Facebook’s data scientists analyzed many thousands of headlines to discover the typical pattern of clickbait headlines and train algorithms to recognize them.
“First, we categorized tens of thousands of headlines as clickbait by considering two key points: (1) if the headline withholds information required to understand what the content of the article is; and (2) if the headline exaggerates the article to create misleading expectations for the reader.”
Facebook’s team identified phrases used in clickbait and will filter content that contains those phrases. If your Page consistently produces clickbait, it’s not just the clickbait content that will be penalized. Facebook will reduce the likelihood that any content produced by a Page or domain features prominently in Newsfeeds. Clickbaiting can negatively impact every piece of content your Page or site shares on Facebook.
The lesson here is obvious: try not to publish clickbait. Publish valuable content with headlines that accurately represent that content.