Facebook News Feed Updates Could Impact Referral Traffic

This week, Facebook announced changes to News Feed that could have an impact on referral traffic for news websites. The change will take into account not only posts that Facebook believes a user will take action on (such as a Like, Comment, Share or Click) but also how much Facebook thinks that user wants to see a post at the top of his or her News Feed.

Ian Kennedy on Flickr

Facebook cites research from their Quality Panel, which regularly polls users, asking them to rate stories in their News Feed and how much they like seeing them at the top of the list. Facebook’s conclusion is that users have a better experience when they see stories at the top of the News Feed that are both engaging and highly rated (in those Quality Panel polls) as a post the user wants to see.

However, Facebook says this could result in a temporary drop in social referrals for news websites. According to the release:

Pages might see some declines in referral traffic if the rate at which their stories are clicked on does not match how much people report wanting to see those stories near the top of their News Feed. This update helps rebalance those two factors, so people are seeing relevant stories to them.

Since many stories posted by news organizations can be considered “bad news” or a sad story, users may want to click on them to find out more but might report to Facebook that they don’t want to see that post at the top of their News Feed. However, Facebook cautions against asking people to take specific calls to action (such as “click here,” “find out more below,” etc.) because they say that will only cause a temporary increase in clicks which may be at odds with the Quality Panel Poll results.

As with most algorithm changes, we usually see things normalize after a few weeks. In the meantime, our advice? Keep posting great content, using Facebook best practices to share stories that will matter to your local audience. People tend to read and share stories that stir up strong emotions such as happiness, sadness, anger, hope, and even laughter. If you need help honing your social strategy, get in touch with a member of our client strategy team.