Facebook Hates Cute Kitty Cats…

…And other conclusions drawn from last week’s News Feed algorithm announcement.

If there’s one thing the Internet public seems to agree on, it’s cats. Cute cats, funny cats, grumpy cats. But, no matter how many times I can see this and smile, I’m not sure it falls under the umbrella of ‘high-quality content’.

That admittedly vague descriptor, though, is at the center of last week’s announced change to the Facebook News Feed algorithm. On the surface, the announcement seems specifically relevant to news sites, but its implications certainly reach beyond these.

Facebook advised users they “may start to notice links to articles a little more often (particularly on mobile)” because “surveys show that on average people prefer links to high quality articles about current events, their favorite sports team or shared interests, to the latest meme.”

colonel meow

Caption: Colonel Meow is, unsurprisingly, unimpressed.

While I’ve run the risk of a grisly, scotch-scented end by taunting Colonel Meow here, the real entities that need worry about Facebook’s high-quality algorithm update are “Like/Comment/Share”-baiting content recycler pages on the platform.

This may seem like an abstract description, but think of the last pixelated, second-hand meme you saw from a page with a name like **RaNdOm ePiC SWaGG piX. (Note: The appearance should have proceeded you “hiding all” from the sharer. And while I’m ranting, I’d like to have a word with the web over the definition of ‘epic’, too.)

epic fail

Caption: I will make it my life’s mission to destroy you all.

But, while these ‘Like harvesters’ have the most to fear, there may also be some impact for social content strategy in a branded context as well.

How will the Facebook News Feed change effect content strategy?

At MRY, we’ve previously noticed that links to articles tend to receive fewer natural impressions. Following its post about algorithm changes in August, plus bigger preview images accompanying certain links in News Feed, it would seem that this could soon change.

In turn, then, a prioritization of brands’ more in-depth content would follow. This could take at least two different shapes:

1.) Brands as media companies – Brands could produce content hubs on topics where they already have authority, then further branch out. Connections could be made to incorporate shared media (i.e. bringing on notable guest bloggers) and some user generated content to maximize earned impressions.

2.) The Paid Media route – A tremendous opportunity sits in front of brands in the form of sponsored editorial content on media sites. This new type of display media commissions expert writers to script relevant articles incorporating a product or brand plug, in turn being shared to a media site’s and brand’s followers and fans.

The end goal of any brand producing or sponsoring such content – and the letter of Facebook’s intentions – should be providing a user with something of value and use. Much like…

How Google’s preference for useful content course-corrected SEO

In a BuzzFeed article recapping the announcement, the writer remarks, “these algorithm changes recall the era of search engine optimization.”

Smartass.

I’d contend that there’s no SEO era to recall to, as we’re still living in it. Those doing search engine optimization wised up ahead of Google’s initial Panda update to produce high-quality, useful content and ensure its distribution through the proper channels – or they watched their rankings suffer.

Search engines incorporated signals such as shares of content and the conversations surrounding them, ushering in a new era of optimization and gravitating more toward the mindset of a social platform. Now, it seems social networks are meeting search engines in the middle, developing their own algorithms and signals to determine usefulness.

In the end, we see that, though we encounter changes daily in digital marketing, the core effort should remain the same: Create meaningful and useful experiences for users, and you will succeed – whether it be in search, social … or just satisfaction in general.

Written by: Jason Morton, who works in MRY’s Owned Media department across community management and SEO, providing strategy for both. He hopes this algorithm has the least effect on Lil Bub.

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