What You Need to Know About Facebook’s Continued Battle Against Clickbait

And how will the latest change in algorithm impact Facebook pages.

Facebook has made multiple changes to its algorithm over the years. And after last year’s much-debated topic of whether “fake news” shaped the U.S. election verdict or not, the effort to filter fake news stories out of the news feed has been a major concern for Facebook.

Now, the social media giant’s mission is to not only connect people but also ensure they receive relevant and accurate news and information.

To achieve this, Facebook released some updates to its news feed algorithm over the past year.

Last week, Facebook made another significant change to its news feed algorithm aiming to strengthen their fight against clickbait more efficiently.
Clickbait is all over the internet.

But, Facebook — with more than 1.94 Billion active users — is at the crux of it.

Why does clickbait work?

In a research paper titled “Breaking the News: First Impressions Matter on Online News,” two researchers looked at more than 60,000 headlines across four major media outlets.

Their study concluded headlines which generate extreme positive or negative sentiments tend to rate higher in the popularity index.

Another reason why clickbait works is because humans can’t stand gaps between information. It’s what George Loewenstein calls the “information gap theory.”

Clickbait Headline

The gap — famously used with words like “You Won’t Believe What Happened Next” — spark an endless curiosity. This curiosity coupled with an innate desire to get closure makes us click on these headlines.

Clickbait, in a real sense of the word, utilizes cognitive gaps to drive clicks to websites.

What’s Facebook Doing About Clickbait

To ensure authentic communication on their platform, the company is monitoring signals to help them understand what people deem trustworthy and what they don’t.

The latest changes, highlighted below, focus on making clickbait ineffective altogether.

First, we are now taking into account clickbait at the individual post level in addition to the domain and Page level, in order to more precisely reduce clickbait headlines.

Second, in order to make this more effective, we are dividing our efforts into two separate signals — so we will now look at whether a headline withholds information or if it exaggerates information separately.

Third, we are starting to test this work in additional languages.

What happens as a result of the latest algorithm changes?

Posts that use clickbait will be ranked lower in the news feed with Facebook further cutting down the reach of the page. In a statement Facebook said:

“Publishers that rely on clickbait headlines should expect their distribution to decrease. Pages should avoid headlines that withhold information required to understand the content of the article and headlines that exaggerate the article to create misleading expectations. If a Page stops posting clickbait and sensational headlines, their posts will stop being impacted by this change.”

Soon, this will be expanded to cover more languages.

What should you do to avoid posting clickbait?

Here are some best practices to follow to ensure you aren’t affected by Facebook’s latest change in the newsfeed algorithm.

1) Avoid exaggerated and sensationalized headlines
Anything that exaggerates or sensationalizes information can be flagged by Facebook as clickbait. Examples include stories sensationalizing certain news topics.

The image above is an example of that cognitive gap we were refering to earlier. We want to know what Leonardo Dicaprio did to this woman becasue the headline makes us think he did something terrible, but when we click the link we learn the entire situation was under control and he was completely calm the whole time.

2) Post relevant, informative articles
You should always post authentic, genuine, relevant and informative articles on your page. Make sure the headline is clear and directly reflects the content of the article.

3) Don’t share or re-share content that might be a hoax
In a sea of endless information, it is crucial to check sources. Facebook is heavily monitoring fake news and the accounts that share it. So, don’t share or re-share content from an unreliable source.

4) Avoid links that lead to pages filled with ads
If you are currently directing or plan to direct users to a website filled with ads and little valuable content, Facebook will flag it. As a general best practice, avoid hiding information under advertisements to serve the users better.

Facebook aims to make itself a place where authentic, genuine, and relevant conversations happen. With an increased focus on killing clickbait and fake news, Facebook has become strict about what pages can or cannot publish.

Moving forward, and as a general best practice, share content that is relevant to your audience and is from a reputable source.

This article was originally published on Hearst Bay AreaNorthern California’s largest news media and services group that connect businesses large and small with their target audience, through a comprehensive suite of multi-touch solutions unmatched by local competitors.

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