Facebook, Google and the algorithm economy


The Social Media landscape is changing. With Social platforms looking to further push monetisation and the convergence of Search and Social Media, newsfeeds are awash with mediocre content that impairs the user experience.

Social Media platforms need to further refine their newsfeeds to ensure users remain engaged and compelled to share, comment and like content. Google is primarily an offsite search engine, meaning that although it may not confirm Social Media as a weighted ranking factor, in order to establish a brand’s authority (and ultimately its credibility), raising the profile of content through Social Media distribution is a tactic that’s both quick and effective if deployed with precision. All of this activity is undertaken with the intention of generating links naturally, and in turn, boosting a website’s authority. This affects its visibility online, along with any traffic picked up from the content or campaign.

The history of search updates range from Panda to Penguin, and most recently Hummingbird. All of these updates have a consistent theme: de-spamming Google and improving quality, whether it’s through removing thin content as a result of the Panda update, to penalising the use of paid links in line with Penguin. This was all introduced to guarantee users have a rich and meaningful experience through the delivery of relevant and contextual search results achieved with fewer searches and clicks.

Throughout 2013 there were a number of algorithm changes across Facebook, with the main update taking place at the beginning of December. This update saw brand pages lose a staggering amount of organic post reach, with more weight being given to older content that had been re-shared. The Edgerank algorithm, used to govern the content displayed in Facebook newsfeeds, is influenced by three key metrics:

1. Affinity – This is how often you interact with updates from other users.

2. Weight – Content type or action. Video has more weight than text, a comment has more weight than a ‘like’.

3. Time decay – This assesses how fresh the update or interaction is. With unique quality content helping to unlock engagement and push organic visibility, gone are the days where content could be duped. Brands now need to work both smarter and harder to talk to their audience.

Facebook’s graph search focuses on the semantic meaning behind the user’s intent, similarly to Google’s most recent Hummingbird update, which was developed by Facebook by former Google employees Lars Rasmussen and Tom Stocky. The similarities between Google and Facebook’s strategy for its users can be highlighted as the following:

• Quality content that people want to consume and take further action on.

• A better user experience for all to ensure user-ship stays strong across the platform.

• Relevant results based on user intent – for example when graph search is used, Facebook reviews, places, apps and games now filter into results to provide deeper options.

• New emphasis of content types – for Google’s universal results this means video becoming more prominent; for Facebook this means offering the user new category types to search within Facebook based on their initial intent.

Google is now putting more of an emphasis on user intent through semantic search thanks to the Hummingbird update. This is something Facebook has always done naturally as their platform is based around user-centric data, but what does this mean for you?

• Keep abreast of Google search algorithm updates and consider how a similar update would be applied across Social Media. In an algorithm economy, predictions based on updates and wider web knowledge can keep you ahead of competitors.

• Analysing your page insights beyond Facebook is essential – why not try Google trends and analytics to further dive into what’s engaging people online. This can then be fed into multi-channel content planning, as Social Media tends to be a good barometer for reception of a wider concept across other channels, such as TV.

• Ensure your pages are fully optimised so that additional organic reach can be maximised and Social properties can be optimised to help control first page results for brand terms. This is particularly important in the age of review sites becoming increasingly authoritative.


About the Author

  • Holly Dewsbury

    Holly Dewsbury is Head of Social Media at Lakestar McCann, one of the UK’s premier digital agencies. With an integrated background across both independent and network agencies, Holly works with B2Cs and B2Bs within a number of verticals including fashion, luxury goods, travel and finance. A regular commentator on the digital industry, Holly brings together Social Media with Search and Content to deliver a holistic approach to campaigns, ensuring that activities drive performance across the board on behalf of Lakestar McCann’s clients.

    Web: http://www.lakestarmccann.com/

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