Facebook algorithm: Focus on active users, paid strategy

13 Apr
Organic Reach in Facebook

Many suspect that Facebook is now reducing the relevant organic reach of brands in favor of more relevant paid content.

Summary: Facebook’s algorithm improves the relevant content in a user’s news feed. Most Facebook users are not active, but passive in their news feed and therefore accept the ‘improved’ news feed experience, which includes organic ‘and’ paid content.

Facebook has filtered its news feed with a sorting algorithm known as EdgeRank. This algorithm collects every possible signal to determine the relevance of every post to every user.

Your Facebook news feed is stuffed with tons of content that is then filtered in an attempt to create a user experience of ‘relevant’ posts. Facebook curates this relevance for you with both organic and paid posts. Facebook users, who nearly never adjust or improve their news feed, receive this feed.

Many suspect that Facebook is now reducing the relevant organic reach of brands in favor of more relevant paid content. So if Facebook will not willfully deliver brands into the normal news feed, brands have to find ways of sharing channel content more efficiently with users and/or purchasing paid ads from Facebook.

Focus on active rather than passive users

Active users will still drive to a brand’s Facebook channel directly for customer service, but brands can help active discovery of content through search, hashtags, co-branding, links, etc. It’s impractical to ask passive users to adjust their Facebook settings (Most Recent compared with the default Top Stories) to improve news feed penetration for your brand. Passive users won’t.

There are things that your brand can do organically for active users. These users are attempting to curate and filter their Facebook experience. These are the users that search for your brand and arrive on your Facebook page for regular features, who search for hashtags and keywords, and who scan the Friend Feed – “Paul Morrison likes Dearborn Sausage Company’s photo.”

Engagement from active curators (along with quality content) combined with paid ads is the formula that Facebook claims improves reach.

We will continue to monitor the issue of diminishing organic reach (falling from 45-40 percent to 10-12 percent in early 2014). Our initial strategy was to refine organic efforts to maximize our limited opportunities in the news feed. But it is becoming painfully obvious that brands on Facebook will have to consider a paid strategy, as well.

Subsequent discussion is that the end-game for Facebook is to reduce organic reach to zero and become a full-paid platform (much like a newspaper, and we know how things worked out with that model ;).

Play nice with Facebook’s algorithm

Don’t hold your breath on Facebook detailing all the factors in its son-of-EdgeRank algorithm, but here are a few factors that we know about, how they work and possible organic solutions (things you can do before paying for boost posts and sponsor ads).

  • Affinity factor: When a post receives high engagement (likes, comments, shares), Facebook serves on more news feeds. If many users are interested, then other users are likely interested. Organic Solutions: Improve the quality of useful info and improve engagement.
  • Timing factor: Know when your audience is online, and publish posts at those times. Organic Solutions: Review Facebook Insights and modify posting times in your editorial calendar.
  • Story Bumping factor: Facebook’s EdgeRank is believed to produce ‘Time Decay.’ This means that the older a post got, the less likely it would appear on news feeds. So if a lot of people engaged with your post (Affinity), Facebook might bump it back up the news feed. Organic Solutions: Improve the quality of useful info and improve engagement.
  • Instagram Weight factor: Facebook weights new page features high including sharing of Instagram posts on Facebook (‘regramming’). Facebook purchased Instagram in 2012. Organic Solutions: ‘Regram’ content in your Facebook news feed.
  • Last Actor factor: Facebook will survey that past 50 engagements of a user, giving more weight to posts from pages the user has recently interacted with. Organic Solutions: Increase affirmation, comment threads with top users.
  • Links factor: Instead of embedding a links, try adding an image and putting the link in the status update section. Users will interact more with images. This produces a larger image versus the small image that Facebook displays with the embedded link. Organic Solutions: Add image and add link to image status.

Facebook best practices

What’s a brand to do next? Focus on these four things:

  1. Improve the quality of organic posts by understanding Facebook’s algorithm.
  2. Focus engagement efforts on active users rather than passive users.
  3. Prepare a limited paid strategy (Post Boost) and A/B test with organic posts.
  4. Cross promote on other social channels and especially channels that are already linked with Facebook (Instagram).

Kevin Cesarz is the Director of Social Engagement for Thread Marketing Group in Toledo. Ohio.


Focus key elements of your landing page

13 Feb

Landing page exampleSummary: A landing page is a specific page on a website crafted for visitors and designed to achieve a marketing outcome (and we love outcomes, don’t we?). Any exposure to branding (TV/billboard/trade) will prompt consideration (search for website info – dates, times, prices and extra activities) and affirmation (checking social media for opinions). The campaign landing page focuses interest while being supported by branding and other navigation.

Top 10 elements (and absolute essentials) I track on every landing page:

  1. Headline – Clear, simple, supports nonline efforts in print, trade media *
  2. Sub-headline – No marketing, supports search accuracy
  3. Benefits – Why does it matter? Applications make most sense to user. **
  4. Primary Calls-To-Action – Above fold
  5. Features – Short bulleted list supporting Benefits
  6. Customer Examples/Proof – Short text and image (if possible); specific to product if possible
  7. Success Examples/Proof – Awards and recognition
  8. Navigation – To decrease bounce rates. This is now the homepage. Can user navigate?
  9. Supporting Image – Must clearly indicate the offer (video or image) – no stock images
  10. Content Offer – Whitepaper, eBook or Guide
  11. Resources – 96 percent of visitors are not ready to buy (consideration mode) Link to resource center to learn more.
  12. Secondary calls to action: Bottom of page opportunity to call out realtime (social) media channels




Web is a cruelly literal place

3 Jan
core website statement

Many web users will be introduced to your brand through search. They will scan the heavens for an answer to their question or search query and they are expecting a specific answer or at least enough detail that they believe they are in the ‘right place.’

Yes, I highly recommend ‘literal’ core statements for the digital experience. State your case clearly on the homepage (and every page) of your website.

The web is a cruelly literal place. Many people will be introduced to your brand through search. They will look for an answer to their question or search query and they are expecting a specific answer or at least enough detail that they believe they are in the ‘right place.’ I would minimize the marketingese as web users are turned off by overt marketing.

Look at the heat map in this example. Video that is tailored for television is for a passive audience (thinking sitting back and consuming). Video that is optimized for the web is active (think sitting forward and looking for detail). What the heat map is showing is the web user not just playing the video, but scrubbing through it and checking out supporting links and other descriptive detail. Very different from a classic TV experience.

This information focus is something that I constantly coach creative and account people as to how different a print, billboard, brochure or other passive experience is in relation to a digital experience. The user is active, in control and relentless about ‘affirming’ the information that they are researching.

So keep this in mind when you write text that communicates the website’s purpose. You are writing not for your own people, but for the users of your website.

From my favorite usability expert, Jakob NielsenInclude a tag line that explicitly summarizes what the site or company does. Tag lines should be brief, simple, and to the point. For example, Global Sources’ tag line, “Product and Trade Information for Volume Buyers,” is a good, straightforward summary of what the site offers. Vague or jargonistic tag lines only confuse users, or worse, make them mistrust the site, especially if users perceive them as marketing hype. For example, Ford’s tag line, “Striving to Make the World a Better Place,” while pluckily optimistic, doesn’t describe Ford’s automotive business in any way.

It’s OK to be pluckily optimistic, just don’t be cruel to web users.




Why test landing pages after site launch?

23 Oct
Click Test Heat Test

Click test (like the heat map shown here) for task oriented success, then update your landing pages.

Why do we test landing pages after site launch?

Landing pages are critical to overall website goals in that they direct users to a result or goal. Our best AdWords and retargeting efforts merely move users into this discovery position. The next step is to determine how effective the opportunity – that is a website landing page – delivers.

Card Sorting is the most basic entry level test of usability (often conducted during a website build). More detailed website usability testing like Tree Sorting and Click Tests help us evaluate ‘next steps’ for users.

Examples of usability tests

Here are some examples of this ‘next step’ testing:

Once we have feedback, it’s on to creating a great landing page with maximum task oriented success.


Content Marketing is like a mini publishing empire

18 Sep
Example of too much content

The biggest threat to content marketing is too much content marketing.

If your goals are to connect your ideas with your customers, and to connect in an authoritative and credible way, and to control your own publishing schedule, then you should create a mini publishing empire and realize those goals.

So now, marketers and businesses finally have the tools to publish to their heart’s content. Ready, Set, Go. Follow us. Friend Us. Connect with us. Content. Content. Content. Publish like crazy.

With all this content marketing freedom comes the biggest threat to your mini publishing empire. The biggest threat to content marketing is too much content marketing.

Careful, exploding content

Yes, content marketing has exploded. Actually, mentions of content marketing have exploded, much like an unattended pot of spaghetti sauce.

But if your mini publishing empire is to be successful and really leave its content mark, it will have to produce content that really helps people do their jobs. We’re talking about great ideas that both entertain, and inform. The kind of content that makes people say “I’ve just been subjected to multiple examples of muck, but this isn’t muck, why, I’m not just relieved, I’m delighted.”

You are battling not just to build a strong content mark but to separate yourself from the swill. The weak content will initially look a whole lot like the good stuff. All those snappy titles and headlines, come-hither subtitles, bright, shiny, candy-like buttons. Oh, you want to, you want to.

To bolster my case for you creating a mini publishing empire and leaving a content mark I will talk about the principals that make great content: the content user, authority, the length of the path and passion.

See you at the University of Toledo Internet Marketing Conference on October 1.

Kevin Cesarz is the Digital Strategy Leader for Communica and the former Web Editor of The Blade. His current restricted diet limits him to 1,200 mentions of content per day.


What does content governance look like?

22 Jul
Referencing a Content Hub

If and when any changes are made you have an opportunity to talk about navigation by referencing a content hub’s landing page and its contents or changes to any social media channel. Maersk Line does a great job of this on its Facebook page.

Reduce the many things that content marketers must do. After you discover the landscape, survey the existing information and make plans to create great new content, you must govern the information. So what does content governance look like?

Content governance is coordinating the measurement and maintenance of your information. A maintenance focus leads with updating fresh content including:

  • Dated material
  • Connections to other content
  • Social channels
  • Influencer channels

Update Examples

Examples of updating dated material: Tournament fields, ongoing counts/projects. Assure your reader that this material is the primary source with a dated reference – “Field was last updated July 16”.  Ever look for information and find that the top search results are from several years ago?

Examples of connections to other content: Have you linked to a source that was accurate and solid at one time but has been surpassed? Reward the user with the improved link, and even offer the previous link for depth.

Examples of updating social channels: If and when any changes are made you have an opportunity to talk about navigation by referencing a content hub’s landing page and its contents or changes to any social media channel. Governance is not only maintaining your social channels, but also affirming each channel and the channel highlights.

Examples of updating influencer channels: You can’t update your influencers’ social media channels and content hub, but you can play nice by commenting on their social channels and blogs.  Note recent referrals in analytics, or active influencers on other social channels. Share or connect something that those users are interested in.

Focus on Maintenance and Measurement

A maintenance focus leads with updating content inventories including:

  • SME Inventory: Expand and prune your Subject Matter Experts
  • Content Inventory: Prune or revise dated information
  • Participant Inventory: Add new influencers and check their level of interest

A measurement focus leads with learning from website metrics including:

  • Top Referrers: Paid or Organic referral? Discover the connection
  • Top Content: Repeat success. Low performing – improve it!

Best in class content comes from updating your content and content inventories, and learning how to improve your information and user experience. Govern wisely!


Streamlining vs. content quality: You know it when you see it

23 Jun

Content mills are like white walls

Content mills are like painting a wall. You might not be building a storytelling mural or adding creative branding with detail and context, but simply painting to cover the wall – one color, one coat.

Summary: Are content mills – companies that provide quick, SEO-rich content in volume to brands – the best solution for your “I need more content on my website,” woes? Probably not.


When we want to create the best content experience possible, just how much do we want to streamline our content production? 

I recently noticed a popular content marketing blog listing several text brokers, also known as content mills, to help brands with content creation.

Content mills and content mill brokers have grown in popularity with the rise of writers seeking self-employment and freelance opportunities as well as clients seeking web content to provide SEO critical mass and opportunities to crosslink. Content mills have sprung up like weeds clogging verdant online pastures.

Long term prospects for content mills

Fortunately the content mill model is destined to fail in the long term because Google, Bing and other search giants no longer reward truly bad content and low quality back links.

Winners going forward in content creation will be brands that create solid, unique content that real people want to read and share. A team of subject matter experts trumps a content mill’s pennies-on-the-dollar, freelance team. An engineer’s passion for their product and processes is shockingly obvious compared with a writer producing 300 words on the same topic.

In 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart tried to explain “hard-core” pornography, or what is obscene, by saying, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced . . . [b]ut I know it when I see it.”

People searching for an answer to their question online know good content when they discover it. Text brokers can fill a topic with the appropriate keywords and word count, but quickly streamline past readability. When content is custom, creative and in context, your reader/customer knows exactly what they’ve found.

White wall content

When your search uncovers mill-generated content that technically answers the question but without any passion, context, or additional detail, you’re disappointed and you continue your search.

Content mills are like painting a wall. You might not be building a storytelling mural or adding creative branding with detail and context, but simply painting to cover the wall – one color, one coat. This can be expertly done, and done quickly and efficiently, but it is simply a clean, white wall. A white wall of content is pleasant, but merely a placeholder for more inspired words.

Find more ideas under #contentmarketing on Twitter.