When we think about increasing our reach on Facebook, we often think about things on social media that we can do: it might be the time of day we post, boosting posts with a spend, or even whether you schedule natively or using a third-party app.
But it’s worth not overlooking the updates we can make to our website which might just help increase the reach of our posts. Similar to Google, Facebook is trying to prioritise sharing posts of high-quality sites and reduce the sharing of ‘spammy’ sites. To do this, Facebook’s algorithm is relying more and more on data about how people behave on our site as an indication of whether or not our site is ‘high quality’. If it’s deemed a low-quality site, it will have lower reach.
The Facebook algorithm is a trade secret and kept more secret than KFC’s eleven-herbs-and-spices. This means that the information we do have on the algorithm is gleaned from press releases from Facebook and entrepreneurial folk who run tests in order to learn how the algorithm is behaving. In the end, we’re working with the best information we have at this point in time.
Facebook’s goal is to be a place where people choose to hang out because they can trust the content they see is great quality, so it’s in their interest to weed out spammy sites so people spend more time on Facebook.
So how does this impact us? Well, there are a few tweaks we can make on our website to make sure Facebook knows it’s a high-quality site. For most of us who aren’t professional scammers, it’s likely our sites meet most of this criteria already, however, if it’s been a while since you’ve updated your site, it’s possible your site needs a little spring clean anyway.
Let’s run through a few of the ways you can update your website to ensure you’re getting as much love from the Facebook algorithm as possible.
Let’s do it.
One of the updates Facebook released in 2017 is around site speed. If your site takes a long time to load, it’s common for people to leave before a page loads. Facebook tracks how long your site takes to load, and if it takes too long, Facebook’s algorithm may consider your site to be lower quality.
Customers expect a page to load in under 2 seconds according to one study, although Facebook themselves cite 3 seconds is the figure they’re keeping in mind.
So how do you test how long your site takes to load? Pingdom is a site that tests your site load speed and lets you know how many seconds it takes to load. Consider how fast your site takes to load on mobile devices, too, because the majority of Facebook users are now on mobile.
Now, several of the things you can do to increase your site speed need a developer, but one of the simple things everyone can do is compress the size of their images on their site. This article gives you loads of tips of free programs which you can use to compress your images, and how to do it. It also shares about plugins for WordPress which can automate it for, you, too.
Bounce rates and time on site
Are people heading to your site, then immediately leaving? Your bounce rate is how many people visit your site, then leave without heading on to other parts of the site.
Now, this update is from 2016, but we can see that more recent Facebook updates are in a similar vein, so we can assume this one is still relevant. Even if it’s not relevant for Facebook’s algorithm, it’s important to be mindful of which parts of your site are not keeping visitors engagaged so you can update your site.
You can find out your site bounce rate and time on site in your site analytics. Kissmetrics has a great article explaining what bounce rates are, and how to increase the time people stick around on your site.
Some simple techniques they talk about is making sure you link within your site to other pages, including more detailed content about your products or services, and updating your content to have more depth, detail, or videos to keep people around.
In Facebook’s quest to prevent dodgy sites getting all up in your newsfeed, one of the features it looks for is pop-up ads.
While most of us do not have pop-up ads on our site, many of us do have newsletter signup boxes. While Facebook hasn’t said whether it counts newsletter signup boxes, it might be something to watch over the next few months. Either way, even if Facebook doesn’t include pop-up newsletter sign up boxes, Google does.
Pop-up interstitials on mobile sites (which does include things like newsletter signups) is something a recent Google Search update is said to look down upon, even though there have been few reports of this actually impacting sites.
We haven’t heard a lot of cases of pop-up newsletter signup boxes impacting sites on search or Google, it is something to be mindful of. Diversifying your newsletter onboarding process, such as opt-ins throughout your content, might be another way to future-proof your site for changes along these lines.
Reduce the clickbait headlines
I’m a big fan of the headline hook — but I do try not to creep into clickbait territory. And that’s how Facebook wants it. One of the other factors Facebook looks for is what keywords are in your headlines, and if you’re being all “OMG 15 SECRETS YOU’LL NEVER BELIEVE”, then Facebook will put you in the naughty corner.
Facebook actually provides guidelines for publishers here and actually spell out the kinds of headlines they don’t want here.
Headlines they don’t want on their site include:
- Hooks that withhold information: “You’ll never believe who tripped and fell on the red carpet…”
- Headlines with misleading expectations: “A pen that never runs out of ink!” (when it does, of course, run out of ink).
- And the combination of both: “You’ll be shocked how shredded his abs are after eating this superfood”.
Optimise your images and title
Ensuring your website has images which will look good when shared on social media is not something which impacts your post being shared by Facebook, but it will impact if people click on your link if it looks unattractive.
Facebook’s recent update this year prevents people from editing links, titles and descriptions on links to their site, to prevent people pretending their site is about one thing, when it’s about another.
This means if you want your Facebook image, headline and description text to look stellar, you need to do it on your website before posting it to Facebook. This called your website’s metadata.
If you update your website to ensure all pages have a title tag and description, you shouldn’t have any issues. If you use WordPress, Yoast SEO makes this really easy.
This article is a great intro to meta-titles and descriptions, including plugins to make setting these up easier.
The other thing to keep in mind is ensuring you’ve got an image which is sized to look snazzy on Facebook. See the image at the top of my page? It’s not just to jazz up my site. It’s cropped to the perfect size so when I post it to Facebook, it pulls in that image. Facebook has a guide on the recommended sizes here.
For some sites, adding a big ol’ image smack bang in the middle of an article isn’t a good look. So you can add a preferred image to your metadata. Facebook actually looks to see if your page has specialised metadata just for Facebook, called OG tags (or OpenGraph tags). This article has a great rundown of how these work if you’re wanting to update these on your site.
Social media is changing all the time, but in the end, it seems that Facebook is being inspired a lot by Google in terms of prioritising sites which maintain best-practise standards. While we can’t predict where Facebook is going, we can see what Google is recommending as best-practise for SEO and do our best to optimise our site around these factors.
- Look at your site speed load time. If you can’t get a dev to check it out immediately, start with compressing your images.
- Look at how you can lower your bounce rate and ensure people stay on your site: create awesome content, create links between your content, create more in-depth content or things like videos to encourage people stick around.
- Consider reducing pop-ups: have alternative strategies to get people on your newsletter list if you use pops ups on mobile.
- Craft snazzy headlines: be careful when you get your creative flair on when you create headlines that you don’t enter clickbait territory.
- Make sure you’ve got images sized for Facebook: have an image on your page so when you share your site to social media, your links look professional because you won’t be able to update them on Facebook.
- Review your metadata: do you have custom site titles and descriptions? Your metadata is also really important for SEO and search, so customise this for each page. You might also want to create specific OG tags for Facebook.
At the top of the post, I mentioned that much of what we learn about Facebook is through press releases and user testing. Based on this, take what learnings you can from this list, but do your own tests to see if these changes make a difference for you. Most of these elements Facebook are pushing are also the same features Google wants to give you a little love on the Search Engine front, so these are good habits to get into to be found on the web irrespectively.
In the end, relying on one social platform to be your key for distributing your site content for your business will make things harder when the algorithm inevitably changes next.
Future-proof your site and business, by looking at your entire marketing holistically. Look at your SEO, look at your social and your newsletter: they are all really great at doing different things in your customer journey, so combine their powers to help you reach your ideal audience.
Now, grab a coffee, make a checklist and spend a little bit of time giving your site a bit of love.