Understanding Google and Facebook Algorithms (The What Now?)

As business owners and marketers, our main concern in the digital environment is to appear to our audiences at the best possible time. We need them to become aware of us when they are browsing, consider us when they are specifically looking for an answer to a problem and choose us over all the other products.

The problem that we face right through this process is competition. In a digital world of lists of search results and scrollable news feeds we run the risk of becoming lost in the noise. However, Google, Facebook, Twitter and all the other social networks have come up with a clever system to help our potential customers see our content – Algorithms.

Algorithms are computer programs that contain a series of steps or calculations that give us an output that we require or are interested in. By understanding what the algorithms do, we can help our own marketing efforts. We do this by presenting information that works with the algorithms rather than tries to manipulate them.

Since there are so many platforms with such a varied number of algorithms, I’ll stick to Google search and Facebook and briefly go through some of the main parts of the algorithms that will affect your business.

Google’s Algorithm

It’s probably safe to say that of all the online algorithms we access on a daily basis Google Search is the most complicated. With hundreds of factors such as content structure, search intent and readability being taken into account. Google does not let us know the exact details of the algorithm however, they do give out hints and experts in Google search and SEO will also work to figure out how it works and give us an idea of what we can do to help our businesses. Methods like Link building, social signals and tags etc, all still apply here, however, what is below is what you should be aware of for 2018.

Mobile Compatability and Speed – Mobile Algorithm

Speed – Google has been pushing mobile compatibility and speed for over a year now, they released an algorithm add-on that is commonly referred to as ‘Mobilegeddon’ as it knocked millions of sites down on search results when they released it. Google made great efforts with AMP, however, marketing seems to have broken this already as ads still needed to be served and these significantly slow down website loading time andUser Experience (UX).

The problem lies in broadband which has been getting faster in the past decade and we’ve been able to add buckets of code, fancy animations and big bold graphics to our sites in the past few years. However, with the rise in mobile browsing, we now have a problem. Websites need to load faster, be lighter in their design and be mobile compatible. We are viewing sites on screens that are smaller so information needs to be presented in a readable format, design needs to be more simplistic for UX and with mobile networks and expensive data bills (in some cases) sites need to ideally load in under 3 seconds.

Location Matters – The Pigeon Algorithm

Again this is related to mobile searching as users are often on devices and searching for services and products in their location or a location they intend to visit. There has been a significant increase in ‘near me’ searchers, where the searcher types in queries such as ‘places for lunch near me’. (This also plays into the Hummingbird part of the Algorithm, which understands Intent). It is therefore important to use locations in your keywords and add your self to the local listing, business groups, quality directories and services such as Trip Advisor, Yelp and Google My Business so your services are listed locally. But remember to keep these up to date and if you are a business that could be in a ‘near me’ or location search remember to highlight that service or solution in your content – for example; “Take your mornings up a notch with our amazing breakfasts served from 6:30am until 12:00pm”, catering for the ‘breakfast near me’ style searches.

Quality Content – The Panda Algorithm

Released in 2011 and growing constantly is Google’s Panda Algorithm. This is the big daddy of the algorithm and it’s always looking for better quality. If your website is doing any of the following you’re already being sat on by Panda. Panda is mostly concerned with content, it penalises sites with Duplicate content, plagiarized content (robbed from someone else) or thin content. It also hunts for user-generated spam (you advertising yourself) and keyword stuffing. All of these have been in the bad books for a long time, however, somehow this message has not been properly communicated to businesses.

As soon as businesses found out that they could drive more traffic to their websites with blog posts and articles all the trouble started. The problem here was that everyone seemed to miss the bit about ‘Quality’ and ‘relevancy’. Content was produced at a ferocious rate and to keep up, many websites tried to cut corners in X different ways

  1. Plagiarism or copying content from other sites – Google addresses this in Panda, if you copy someone else’s content or lots of different peoples content then you run the risk of being put in the naughty corner. Google now knows who published the content in the first place and will give them the credit put them on the results and put you in the dog house.
  2. Keyword Stuffing – Google have been telling us not to do this for about fifteen years, yet somehow so many people still do this. Adding in your preferred keywords as much as possible on every page to the point that it is unreadable will only push you down the search results.
  3. Duplicate content – (rolls eyes) this one seems obvious, yet it still happens. Every page on your site should have unique and individual content. Some businesses have been copying content from one page to another or worse, copying and reposting a blog from last year and publishing it again. If you had a successful blog post then write another piece on that topic or if your industry is changing and evolving, update old successful posts to be relevant.
  4. Thin content – ever read an article that seems to start well but trail off towards… Yeh, this is bad too. Content needs to have substance, be in-depth and give the reader something to take away – less like a supermodel and more like a college lecturer. If you’re banging out 500 words then you need to review and get closer to a full article. Thin content will only get you pushed down the rankings in preference to a website that provides attractive full bodied content.

Facebook’s Algorithm

Facebook is rolling out a new algorithm in 2018, this has a big focus on keeping (or bringing back) it’s social audience. Mark Zuckerberg announced in January “we’re making a major change to how we build Facebook. I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to help you have more meaningful social interactions.” The intention is to show more of friends, families and groups and less of businesses. However, all will not be lost as businesses are funding Facebook and they are not going to completely drown us among the posts about what food people are eating and what ‘Fluffy’ the cat is doing. This means you will have to be cleverer about your content, however, you should also consider the general rules that Facebook have for posting content.

Mobile concerns

With 92.1% of all Facebook users browsing on mobile devices, it’s not too surprising that Facebook has also focused on the importance of Mobile compatibility and speed. Facebook has stated, “We added a signal to News Feed to show people more stories that will load quickly on mobile and fewer stories that might take longer to load.” All the same, rules apply here for Facebook and Google really.

Video success

It’s not only your web pages that need to be mobile considerate, you also need to be aware of video load time. If your video is too large, it reduced the likelihood of being shown. The thinking behind this is simple, if videos are slow to load, the user will give up and leave. Plus, if your video is not watched to the end by users then it is considered to be low quality and will again reduce the likely reach. On that point, if you ask users to “Wait for it” or “Watch to the end and see what happens” Facebook’s algorithm will drop you.

Click Bait

We all know this one and none of us should attempt it, as Facebook rolls out, adjusts and tests the new algorithm this year we will see less and less of this content. Click bait is a headline that encourages users to see more by withholding information, such as “You’ll never believe what happened when this woman saw this man”. Facebook is now focusing on ‘Fake News’ issues and this extends beyond the Russians and politics. Headlines that mislead, withhold and encourage clicking are being targeted too. Accompanying this, Facebook’s algorithm will also decide if the content in your article is factual, backed up with research and of good quality.

Generall Rules for Algorithms

So what if you’re not following all the latest algorithm updates and don’t have the money to employ some Marketing Guru to work on this stuff? Here are 4 top tips for simple algorithm joy.

  1. When you’re creating your content for your website or your social media try to write naturally around your topic. Natural writing does not contain any manipulation attempts for keywords or clicking.
  2. Write website content that is full of information, has been checked for facts and will give value to your reader. This will give you condos with all the algorithms as you are providing quality and substance for (without sounding too corny) the greater good.
  3. Keep mobile as a priority, work to have your website mobile responsive or compatible. Ensure quality load times by optimising your image sizes and if you have video make sure it’s just enough quality for a mobile device rather than a 38 inch HD flatscreen TV.
  4. When it comes to social media your goal should NEVER be to sell to the customer right off the bat. You should always keep the ‘Social’ aspect as your focus, chat to your customers, ask them questions share interesting content that adds value and be there to answer questions. Don’t just be there for the negative but join the conversation too, if a person comments give a genuine and humble response – don’t try to sell!

Simply put, these algorithms are about providing quality and trying to manipulate them will put you on the back foot. Work with them and provide quality for your auduence.


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