Facebook has announced that it is tweaking its News Feed in order to put more emphasis on posts by friends, and devalue stories and content that have been 'liked'.
This could have an impact on traffic to publishers and brands, as visibility into third-party content on the site will decrease.
Facebook explained the changes in a blog post by product manager Max Eulenstein and user experience researcher Lauren Scissors.
“Many people have told us they don’t enjoy seeing stories about their friends liking or commenting on a post,” they said.
“This update will make these stories appear lower down in News Feed or not at all, so you are more likely to see the stuff you care about directly from friends and the pages you have liked.”
The Facebook staff acknowledged that some brands will see traffic referrals from Facebook decrease.
“The impact of these changes on your page’s distribution will vary considerably depending on the composition of your audience and your posting activity. In some cases, post reach and referral traffic could potentially decline,” they said.
“Overall, pages should continue to post things that people find meaningful and consider these best practices for driving referral traffic.”
Facebook is also making two other changes to the News Feed as part of the update. The first will mean that those who don’t have an extensive network of friends posting lots of content will be shown more information from the same sources.
“Previously, we had rules in place to prevent you seeing multiple posts from the same source in a row. With this update, we are relaxing this rule. Now if you run out of content, but want to spend more time in News Feed, you’ll see more,” the blog explained.
Secondly, the update will also put more emphasis on what people are posting to ensure that key photos, videos and status updates are displayed higher up in the News Feed.
“If you like to read news or interact with posts from pages you care about, you will still see that content in News Feed. This update tries to make the balance of content the right one for each individual person.”
The move comes in the same week as a change to Google’s search algorithm that will punish sites without mobile-optimised sites, something which is likely to damage many brands' search index listing.
Author's view: This update will reduce traffic levels for websites that see healthy traffic referrals from Facebook thanks to people clicking on links that are shown only to them because friends have liked or commented on them.
Facebook's move may well be part of a ploy to encourage sites that do see traffic levels drop to consider advertising on Facebook, so that rather than benefiting from Facebook's platform for free thanks to organic sharing, they have to pay for the privilege instead.
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