Facebook Fights Back Against Clickbait

iStock 35679502 MEDIUM 1024x682 1

You’ve seen these sorts of come-on headlines on webpages across the Internet —“14 Celebrities Who Are Now Broke,” “The Natural Cure for Nail Fungus Your Doctor Won’t Tell You,” “You Won’t Believe What Was Living in Their Crawlspace.” You click on the link and the story has little to do with the headline.

On YouTube, the same is done with videos. Click on the “related” video and the subject from the photo never shows up in the video.

You’ve been had by clickbait, the practice of using deceptive information, usually a leading headline, to get you to click through to the page…and up the site’s click-through numbers.

Clickbait has been notorious on Facebook for years. And with 1.7 billion users it’s easy to see why. But last week Facebook said “Enough” and announced it is making changes in its algorithm to combat clickbait.

Is second time the charm?

Facebook’s August 4 blog post announcing the new focus on rooting out clickbait comes almost two years to the day since the social media monster’s first salvo in the clickbait war. In August 2014, Facebook announced changes to its newsfeed that took into account the length of time a person spent on an article. It penalized publishers who used clickbait to garner clicks.

At the time, Facebook said, “If users click through to a link and then come straight back to Facebook, it suggests that they didn’t find something they wanted.” And it punished the “relevance” of the publisher.

Still, clickbait escalated, so Facebook is back two years later trying again.

How it will decide what’s clickbait

The Facebook newsfeed is the way many users get most, if not all, of their news. So, Facebook doesn’t want users to be discouraged by headlines that have little to do with the story. The company said it is tweaking its algorithm to create a system similar to email spam filters that send the latest Viagra ads to your junk folder.

Facebook’s blog said it will de-prioritize posts with headlines that “withhold information required to understand what the content of the article is and headlines that exaggerate the article to create misleading expectations.”

In the post, Facebook used three examples of clickbait headlines that it wants to make go the way of the Dodo bird: “When She Looked Under Her Couch Cushions And Saw THIS…I Was SHOCKED, “He Put Garlic In His Shoes Before Going To Bed And What Happens Next Is Hard To Believe,” and “The Dog Barked At The Deliveryman And His Reaction Was Priceless.”

The algorithm changes identify phrases that are commonly used in clickbait headlines, the blog post said. They now categorize headlines as clickbait by considering two key points: (1) if the headline withholds information required to understand what the content of the article is; and (2) if the headline exaggerates the article to create misleading expectations for the reader. They used an example with the headline, “Apples Are Actually Bad For You?!” They said this headline misleads the reader because apples are only bad for you if you eat too many every day.

Their new system identifies the posts that are clickbait and it links them with the web domains and pages that author and publish the clickbait. Then it punishes them by dropping them in the newsfeed. If the publisher stops with the clickbait headlines, it won’t affect their relevance in the future.

Why they’re doing this

The reason Facebook is taking this aggressive stance with clickbait is akin to how Google rates search results. Google wants users to feel as if the search results returned are relevant and high quality. That’s why its algorithm punishes things such as grammatical mistakes and typos, as well as irrelevant keywords. In the same way, Facebook wants users to be on Facebook as much as possible, so they don’t want them getting irritated by clickbait and leaving.

What will this do for your practice’s Facebook page?

At MyAdvice, we are big advocates of Facebook pages for our client practices. We populate some of your pages; others we just advise you on. This change in the Facebook algorithm should actually help. You don’t need clickbait on your newsfeed such as “21 Celebrities Whose Plastic Surgeries Went HORRIBLY Wrong,” and now there should be far less of those kinds of stories even hitting the newsfeed on your page.

As always, we recommend using your Facebook page for relevant news such as new equipment or procedures offered, photos of patients and your staff, special offers, links to other stories of interest to your patients, and anything that actively engages users such as a trivia contest or a photo caption contest.

If you have any questions about how your practice can better use Facebook, don’t hesitate to ask your MyAdvice representative.

Before you go...

Do you know how your current site is performing? Find out now for free -- it only takes a minute!


Get free Advice delivered to your inbox.