Thursday, September 15, 2016

What Is the Facebook Algorithm?

What Is the Facebook Algorithm? was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Facebook headquarters sign on Hacker Way

Photo credit: Facebook Newsroom

The Facebook algorithm takes into consideration engagement, relevance, timeliness, and thousands of other factors in an effort to populate people’s News Feeds with more of the stuff they want to see, as inferred by Facebook.

Unlike sites where everything you post automatically shows up for every person who follows you, Facebook uses an algorithm to dictate what content appears in an individual’s News Feed. In Facebook’s official words, “The goal of News Feed is to show you the stories that matter most to you. To do this, we use ranking to order stories based on how interesting we believe they are to you.”[1]

In a sentence, the Facebook algorithm weighs factors to determine on a post-by-post basis whether a post is qualified to pass into an individual’s News Feed. And given Facebook’s impressive stats (1.71 billion monthly active users at last count[2]), it’s worth finding out how to extend your content’s reach organically on this platform.

What’s in the Facebook Algorithm?

Facebook calculates the authority and importance of Facebook Pages based on several factors — the most prominent of which is social interactions. The social site rewards engagement, so the algorithm considers the ratio of engagements to total number of followers.

The number of people “liking” your Page isn’t the main criterion. Content creators having real interactions with people, even if the audience size is smaller, carries more weight in the algorithm than an account with thousands of mute (and possibly fake) followers.

But that’s on the Page level. Individual posts have ranking factors, too.

The engagement cues that count in the algo include likes, clicks, comments and shares. But the social network also looks at the length of time spent viewing a post in the News Feed as an indicator of content people want to see more of.[3] The lesson here isn’t surprising — quality counts.

The News Feed filtration system — once called EdgeRank but now simply referred to broadly as the Facebook algorithm — takes into consideration as many as 100,000 individually weighted factors to deliver the most authoritative, relevant, and timely content to individuals.[4]

Algorithm 2

Sheldon explains the friendship algorithm on The Big Bang Theory. His algorithm has more to do with real, in-person friendship and less to do with news feeds, but you get the idea.

Of those 100,000 considerations, the three original EdgeRank factors — Affinity, Weight, and Time Decay — are still relevant and prominent ranking factors. In other words, EdgeRank hasn’t gone away. Its principles have simply been folded into a much larger, more advanced contemporary Facebook algorithm.

The goal of News Feed quoted4 Factors the Facebook Algorithm Takes into Consideration

Facebook keeps adjusting its algorithm. It’s not just trying to find the right balance of ads and content, but also the right mix of shares from various sources.

  1. Interaction a post is generating: Not just how much, but also what type — liking, commenting, clicking, sharing, or time spent viewing. Each of the interactions has its own weight depending on the amount of effort it takes to perform.
  2. Who made the interaction: How directly connected is the user to the poster? It’s based on manual friendship designations, the user’s preferences, closeness inferred by interaction, and other factors.
  3. When the post was made: Time decay happens because the News Feed rewards freshness.
  4. Post popularity: If a post is losing the freshness edge because of time decay, but lots of people are still actively commenting on or sharing it, the engagement can trigger a bump that expands the post reach.

4 More Factors Brand Pages Need to Know to Increase Organic Reach

Social sharing is a critical part of content marketing. But Facebook isn’t going to appreciate a business Page using Facebook just to promote its own content. Short of boosting posts with actual money, here are a few tips to help you keep your posts circulating through the network.

  1. Don’t use click-bait: Facebook’s algorithm weeds out click-bait headlines, the kind that give little information about what the person will find if they click through.[5] So make sure to put enough description in your headlines.
  2. Link the right way: Facebook favors links shared as link posts. The algo frowns on image and status posts containing a link in the text.[5] You’ll get even more reach if you leave off the link altogether! Sharing in a variety of formats is best, with and without links. With our own Facebook Page (see here), we get 10X more organic reach on posts without a link — probably because Facebook likes keeping people on its own site.
  3. Mobile site load time must be fast: To improve the mobile UX, Facebook announced that “website performance and a person’s network connection” are considered when delivering promoted (paid) posts.[6] We can assume that how fast a page opens for a mobile user can affect the reach of organic link posts, as well. (Tip: Publishers can make sure their content loads fast using Facebook Instant Articles.)
  4. Go for engagement: The social network’s tips for effective posts include: keep it short; use big, beautiful images; and respond to people’s comments quickly.[7]

Want to boost your social media engagement? Our social media services may be the answer!

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Editor’s Note: This is an update of an article originally posted by Chelsea Adams on Sept. 30, 2013.

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