Sunday, March 9, 2014

SEO for Facebook: Five Simple Algorithm Hacks

Regular readers of The Organic SEO Blog might remember our #1 SEO goal for 2014: to create easily-discoverable and easily-shared content. Now, we typically talk about creating easily-discoverable content for search engines. In essence, SEO has always been about connecting brands and browsers, and helping browsers find the most relevant results.

But the principles of SEO can also be applied to social media networks, like Facebook, and by following a few basic tips, you can improve the chances that your social media content will be seen, liked, and shared.

It's no secret that Facebook would like to challenge Google for search engine dominance. As Business Insider recently reported, Mark Zuckerberg believes he has a bigger database than Google. This is a bold proclamation, yet it fits with Zuckerberg's mission to make Facebook "more than any search engine," by adding a more intimate dimension to search--an intimacy Facebook hopes to obtain from over ten years of billions upon billions of status updates and shared photos.

This grand project may take years to develop, but you can see its infancy in Faceook's search engine, Graph Search, and in the News Feed itself. Both try as much as possible to deliver precise results based on user's feedback and previous habit patterns. This is a boon for well-known brands with large audiences, yet it also offers SEO-type opportunity for all brands.

Like Google, Facebook continues to tweak its algorithm to deliver the most relevant results for users. Although Graph Search is not yet the go-to search engine, the News Feed acts like search engine, delivering results uniquely tailored to each user. As Forbes recently reported, Facebook bases its News Feed algorithm on several simple factors:
  • How often you interact with the friend, Page, or public figure.
  • The number of likes, shares and comments a post receives from the world...your friends.
  •  How much you have interacted with this type of post in the past.
  • Whether or not you and other people across Facebook are hiding or reporting a given post. 
So for now, the key to attracting views, likes, and shares on Facebook is understanding the News Feed and how Facebook displays content on the News Feed. Whether you're hoping to increase your personal profile's views, likes, and shares or your brands views, likes, and shares you should always keep in mind the following Facebook algorithm hacks:

1. The most popular type of Facebook post, and the most widely-seen, is the simple text status update. (Yes, despite what seem people say, text is better than photos). If you run your own Facebook Page for your company, you might've even noticed that your text-only posts receive more views ("total reach") than your updates that include links or pictures. Facebook is evolving to favor photos, too, but for now, the best way to attract an audience is the text-only status update.

2. When sharing a link, do not simply embed the link in your update like this:

People are more likely to interact with a link when you use Facebook's link share feature, which makes the same post from above look like this:

3. Now, the link share feature expresses another key point about the News Feed algorithm: the more visually appealing and interactive a post, the better. For brands, this means only posting concise and edited text updates (yes, language can be visually-appealing or not, depending on the quality of the writing) and professional-quality photographs.

4. Inspire engagement with coupons, giveaways, or questions. Valuable coupons and giveaways are an obvious tool for inspiring views, likes, and shares, but don't forget the simplest form of engagement: asking a question. The Nervous Breakdown, a literary site, has perfect the craft of the Facebook question by asking people to be creative in three words. A recent question, for example, asked: "In exactly three words, please describe what you wish you could still do."

5. Don't annoy your fans or friends. Facebook suggests that brands begin engagement with only one or two posts a week, and many brands only post once each day. Posting more than once can even have an adverse effect on views. A general rule of thumb of most (but obviously not all) brands is to make each post count--and try not to post more than two times per day maximum.

Finally, we'd be remiss if we didn't ask you to check out the Facebook page of our sponsor, Stepmans PC. If you'd like to receive our blog updates on Facebook, simply like the Stepmans PC page!