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How Facebook is Taking on Clickbait and Black Hat Marketing
Chances are this isn’t the first time you’ve fallen for clickbait.
You’ve seen these stories all over the web, especially on Facebook. “Football player gets busted over the weekend, you’ll be shocked when you learn why,” or, “New study shows these bathroom products are killing you. Chances are you’re using them.” It’s easy to see why people feel compelled to click on these articles, and it’s even easier to see why companies love posting them: they get clicks. The attention-grabbing headlines hook readers, pulling them into the article the second it comes across their screen. Tactics aimed to exploit this curiosity are considered part of “black hat marketing.” This type of approach disregards user intent, and instead focuses on increasing traffic in ways that can be spammy, unethical, and even worse, non-relevant to users.
There’s a reason Google and other platforms penalize content for black hat marketing, and it’s no surprise that Facebook is taking a similar approach as the amount of content being shared across their platform continues to increase.
What is the new Facebook algorithm?
In the last few weeks, Facebook has started cracking down on these “clickbait” articles by updating its algorithm to recognize such sensational titles. You may recall, back in April, that Facebook began tracking the time spent on content. From a data standpoint, it’s easy to recognize clickbait articles because users generally bounce off rather quickly. In their April post, Facebook mentioned that their algorithm is part of their Feed Quality program. They want users to have a meaningful experience, and the goal of the News Feed is “to show people the stories most relevant to them.” However, it’s not the amount of clicks that a story gets that determines how important its content is, but rather the amount of time spent reading it, and the new Facebook algorithm aims to take this into account.
How does Facebook’s new algorithm work?
Facebook’s latest algorithm works by first identifying commonly used phrases in these clickbait headlines. A headline is considered a clickbait headline if it:
- Withholds information needed to understand the article’s content
- Exaggerates its statements to create misleading expectations
So if an article mentions something like, “You’ll Never Guess Who…” and doesn’t actually tell you who – then it is flagged under this new system.
This algorithm also identifies Pages and domains that are constantly being flagged for clickbait, and pushes them down in the News Feed. However, once a Page stops posting clickbait articles, the system will recognize it and their posts will “stop being impacted by this change,” allowing them to appear higher up in the News Feed.
How will the new algorithm affect the overall Facebook experience?
Only time will tell how effective this new system proves to be. Between Facebook and YouTube, these titles are everywhere and will likely be impossible to abolish completely. However, the implementation of practices like the new Facebook algorithm gives more visibility to non-clickbait type headlines, allowing marketers to push through more meaningful content and attract more qualified clicks. If we shift into thinking about our audiences in terms of long-term engagement versus momentary captures, we can help #EndClickBait once and for all.
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