Facebook today announced further plans to clean up the News Feed by reducing stories with click-bait headlines as well as stories that have links shared in the captions of photos or within status updates. The move comes just four months after the social network reduced Like-baiting posts, repeated content, and spammy links.
First up, “click-baiting” refers to posting links with a headline that piques your curiosity without actually telling you much information. In other words, you click to see more, and you aren’t told enough about what to expect.
Facebook explains why it’s finally cracking down on posts like the one above:
Posts like these tend to get a lot of clicks, which means that these posts get shown to more people, and get shown higher up in News Feed. However, when we asked people in an initial survey what type of content they preferred to see in their News Feeds, 80% of the time people preferred headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the full article before they had to click through. Over time, stories with “click-bait” headlines can drown out content from friends and Pages that people really care about.
In short, this method may drive traffic, but it’s not a very candid way of doing so. The content may be of high quality (though it usually isn’t), but if it is, it should be able to speak for itself.
The News Feed algorithm now considers how long people spend reading the given content and the ratio of people clicking on the content compared to people discussing and sharing it with their friends. The company argues that if users click on an article, spend time reading it, and maybe even came back to interact with it on Facebook, they clicked through to something valuable, while if they came straight back to Facebook and didn’t engage with the story, they likely didn’t find something that they wanted.
This brings to mind an obvious flaw: what if you open multiple links from Facebook in background tabs for later reading and stay on the social network? Hopefully Facebook will be making ongoing adjustments so it isn’t penalizing stories unnecessarily. The company expects this change to impact “a small set of publishers” in the next few months.
As for sharing links in posts, Facebook says it is reducing stories with links in status updates or in the text caption above photos:
The company explains why:
We’ve found that people often prefer to click on links that are displayed in the link format (which appears when you paste a link while drafting a post), rather than links that are buried in photo captions. The link format shows some additional information associated with the link, such as the beginning of the article, which makes it easier for someone to decide if they want to click through. This format also makes it easier for someone to click through on mobile devices, which have a smaller screen.
In short, Facebook will now prioritize showing stories shared in the link format, and show fewer posts with links in captions or status updates. If you’re still sharing links the old-fashioned way, expect a decrease in traffic.
Top Image Credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images