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Facebook’s Big Algorithm Change Isn’t Doomsday for Social ROI

When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the platform's algorithm would soon shift to prioritize posts from family and friends, brands and publishers went into panic mode. With good reason, because this latest update is going to change Facebook monetization strategy a lot. But it won't be the final nail in the coffin for publishers.


Think of this algorithm shift as a retreat back to the Facebook that once was. The platform used to be a social, personal space meant for sharing huge life updates and all of your pictures. Now it's become a passive platform where users mindlessly scroll through content, overwhelmed by readable videos and news stories without any real attachment to who is posting what. This shift intends to take us back to a more intimate place, and there's still room there for publishers, too.

Don’t Get It Twisted, the War Is Real

While the title of Facebook's announcement is "Bringing People Closer Together," it doesn't change the fact that the tug of war over ad tech in the industry is still an ongoing battle. Google is currently the leader in referral traffic, but Facebook isn't far behind, and the duopoly's reign shows no end in sight.

Given the amount of information Facebook has on every user, the Facebook Audience Network (FAN) is a true rival to both Google and all other social platforms who compete with it. This is one of the main reasons why the platform's revenue opportunities cannot be ignored. Facebook still has two powerful weapons in its arsenal: an incredible amount of active daily users, and a seemingly infinite amount of data on them.

Despite these amazing tools, Facebook has made it clear that they aren't afraid to diminish the reach of brands and new media companies. The platform began this pattern in 2017 after the infamous fake news fallout, which drove their ongoing push to de-prioritize vague and misleading headlines alongside any clickbait or "gotcha!"-style posts.

BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti touted the ramifications of poor-quality content in the digital ad space as far back as 2016 in his year-end memo. He credited how slowly the ad industry had taken to adapt to digital as the root cause of all the problems facing social ROI, and his sentiments still hold true today. "Social platforms can only optimize the content uploaded to their services, and when there isn't a solid business model for content, the void is filled with fake news, cheap entertainment and deceptive ads," Peretti said.

Think of this algorithm change as the latest chess play by Facebook in the ad war. It's designed to up the stakes. While the platform has told us that pay-to-play content will not be impacted by the change, expect CPMs to rise as the fight for appearance in the News Feed becomes more competitive. The next chapter of the war will be focused on who — whether it's a brand, media company, or news publisher — can create the most compelling content that's worthy of the News Feed. Facebook is hopefully setting the standard for a less-obtrusive internet. Hopefully all of the platform's friends and enemies alike will follow suit.

Experience Is Everything

We've always been big fans of personalization and customer experience at RebelMouse. Facebook began to make them one of its primary concerns too in 2017, when it began to de-prioritize third-party links featuring annoying ads that slowed down site speed. Sites containing video ads were most notably affected. This latest algorithm change is only a continuation of that experience prioritization, and it's the number one reason why this dramatic shift will be good for the digital ad industry.

Media companies and especially brands will have to be extra savvy moving forward. Quality content has never been more important. It must be as personal and as compelling as a life update from a close friend. When creating content in the post algorithm apocalypse world, if you get any part of the experience wrong, you won't be prioritized on Facebook and you won't make any money.

Here are some things, or really engagement loopholes, to keep in mind for your new Facebook strategy this year:

Organic: Quality content will still perform organically on Facebook in light of the new changes. The brands and media companies who make it work will be very passionate about reaching the right audience on every platform. This means understanding likeminded Pages and communities that would be interested in your content. Making use of Facebook groups and Messenger will be key strategy takeaways by the time 2018 ends. It will take a little more legwork to get organic growth, but it's our mission at RebelMouse to foster organic loyalty for anyone who is adrenalized about their content. Once you've achieved organic loyalty, you've opened the door to creating more revenue.

Influencers: The whole idea behind the algorithm shift was to make the platform become more personal and humanlike. If brands and new media pages no longer have top priority, actual humans still will. This is an opportune time for both influencers and influencer marketing to step up their game and create dynamic storytelling that goes beyond an ad-driven experience.

Branded Content: Much like the concept of influencer marketing, branded content will become even more relevant in the days following the algorithm shift. This doesn't mean just leveraging nice-looking sponsored posts, but rather using actual branded content that prompts genuine engagement from people. It's that engagement that will turn into growing impressions in the News Feed.

Custom Audiences: The usage of custom audiences has been a gold mine for awhile, but this latest change really puts their value into perspective. Using customer lists and engagement rates to create custom and lookalike audiences will prove beneficial to your ad spend like never before. Targeting audiences that are known engagers of your content can only increase reach.

Perfect Links: Any third-party link posted to Facebook needs to be perfect. This doesn't mean just for quality of ad copy and imagery, but the experience overall. For instance, if your content doesn't use Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) format, your link is already losing before you've published. Make sure every page is optimized for speed and clarity.

SEO: If Facebook stops showing news stories in the News Feed, people are still going to seek out somewhere to get their news from, and chances are it'll be Google. Understanding the modern-day techniques around winning SEO, and using social to up your search strategy, is more important than ever.

Invest in Writers, Not Heavy Tech

Another upside to this algorithm change is the important return of the writer. Quality content has always required content creators with good writing chops. But the failure of the pivot-to-video movement, alongside this latest algorithm shift, makes worthwhile writing not just an add-on, but a make-or-break factor in whether your content monetizes at all.

Brands have always considered operating on Facebook to be a pay-to-play strategy, which is partially why engagement baiting lasted as long as it did. But as Yuyu Chen at Digiday points out, this change ushers in a new era: "The new Facebook algorithm will filter out clickbait-style promotions ("Like our product if you think this dog is cute"), which will pressure brands to create more meaningful content over the long term."

Shifting from a pure pay-to-get-seen type of ad strategy to creating substantial content with opportunities for actual organic lift is an exciting time for brands, publishers, and, most of all, writers. To make money off of FAN, content has to be worthy of it. There has to be more genuine content in the News Feed that people want to have conversations about.

This means it's time to invest in experienced writers, social gurus, and content strategists. Continued investment in heavy dev and tech teams will only make your content's visibility suffer in the end.

What to Do Next

It's pretty scary to have to rethink the entire business strategy that you may have just finished perfecting at the end of 2017. We've got a number of free resources available to you on our site about how to grow organically and leverage the platforms for your benefit — not theirs. We also offer strategy services around content, search and social marketing, and more, and you don't even have to re-platform to our CMS to gain access to them.

At RebelMouse, we live for algorithm changes like this because it's our passion to keep up with the platforms and tech so you don't have to. Your product should be your content. Let us know if you want to start working together.

NEW: Page Views per Particle Enabled for Google AMP

Increase mobile page views for every particle using Google AMP

RebelMouse has deployed an exciting update: We've enabled particle tracking in Google Analytics for articles using Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) format, which means every particle now triggers a page view event upon scroll. Before, just one page view event would be logged when the mobile page initially loaded.

Not Familiar With What This Means? Read On

The days of static, flat media are over. Sites with low performance scores, obtrusive ad experiences, and poor content structure simply won't make it. Knowing these truths, the way we think of an article can no longer be static either.

An article today now takes several forms: short-form, long-form, listicle, slideshow, etc. Because of this, we've created a simple framework called Particle Assembler that accounts for all possibilities when building out content.

We playfully call each piece of your content a "particle," which is quite literally a "part" of an "article." These particles have become the core way to author content on RebelMouse, and are standalone elements that use their own imagery, title, and copy. For example, let's say you create a post that's titled, "The Best Place for Tacos in Austin." Each taco destination in this article will have a lead image, the name of the restaurant, its location, and a description of the restaurant with images of their food. Each of these restaurant highlights contain enough information to stand by themselves as individual posts.

Building particles in RebelMouse's Entry Editor.

And they do stand alone successfully when you're on RebelMouse — each particle can be shared separately on social and each will register as a unique page view thanks to our latest update. This is a critical part of our modern pageview methodology that ensures our publishers deliver an elegant user experience to readers while still capitalizing on a meaningful monetization strategy. For instance, not only is every particle now a page view on Google AMP, but it's also a new revenue opportunity. This is thanks to the various placement opportunities for ads we offer within our Particle Assembler.

ICYMI, Google AMP is the search engine's lightning-fast mobile experience. With this update, sites powered by RebelMouse will not only deliver the best AMP experience to their users, but they'll also earn the page views their content deserves, too.

See the Massive Difference

In just a short period after implementing this change, one client experienced a massive spike in AMP pages per user, where it jumped from 1.6 to 8.2:

Here's what their AMP pages per user looked like just prior to the update:

If you're interested in experiencing this type of growth and getting more page views for your mobile content, request a proposal today and let's start working together. If you're already on RebelMouse, email support@rebelmouse.com or talk to your account manager to learn more about particle views for Google AMP.

Primary Tags: Structure Your Site for Success

Dynamic taxonomy improves usability and propels SEO strategy

It's not a surprise that quality content can easily be spoiled by a poor site experience. This is why we're extremely proud of the lightning-fast sites we power. But speed is only the beginning of the user experience.

The temperature on platform dependency has cooled in recent years, revitalizing the value of site visits and search strategy. This is good news for both users and publishers who need site stability to survive. Because of this shift, RebelMouse focuses on three primary key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure site usability and health:

  • Sessions per User: The average number of site sessions that each user has in a given time period.
  • Pages per User: The average number of page views that each user has in a given time period.
  • Time per User: The average amount of time spent on site by each user.

In order for these metrics to shine, a site's architecture must be organized in a way that increases every user's time on site. The logic is simple: If a site is easier to navigate, the user will likely stick around longer. This is the gateway to user loyalty.

One important way we support these KPIs is through our intuitive tagging structure for content. Let's take a look at our primary tag functionality and how it can set up any site for success.

What Is a Primary Tag?

On RebelMouse, we give you the ability to use as many tags as needed on every article to help keep you organized. But there's also an option to assign one primary tag to a post. A primary tag is built on the same principle as a primary section. One tag lets you assign higher importance to certain pieces of content when processing and organizing your posts.

The Primary Tag and Tags sections in RebelMouse's Entry Editor.

The Benefits of Primary Tags

Dynamic Taxonomy: One of the primary benefits of using a primary tag is that it exposes the depth of content available to your users. Many publishers do this through the use of sections, which often turns out to be redundant and, in turn, ignored:

Sections can often be annoying to navigate and repetitive.

Using a variety of relevant tags for every article, rather than just repeating the same handful of sections, opens up more opportunities for targeted descriptors. For example, instead of using "Recipes" as a section over and over again, a primary tag can be used to create specific content flows for topics like "Vegetarian," "Soups," or "Cocktails."

Richer SEO: Since a primary tag exposes more information about your article, it also supplies more relevant data to Google's algorithm. Surfacing content in usable ways supports Google's mission to serve content based on audience behavior and intent instead of outdated and frowned-upon SEO methods like keyword stuffing. This approach is called white hat SEO, or ethical SEO.

By targeting specific interests, your dynamic tag structure will allow Google to more accurately understand your article's content and rank it accordingly. On RebelMouse, this creates a trickle-down effect, because users can click a tag and quickly get directed to more relevant articles, which boosts your SEO efforts further.

Here's how the site experience looks on RebelMouse-powered EcoWatch when viewing their primary tag "Plastics."

RebelMouse-powered EcoWatch takes advantage of a primary tag construct.

Improves Crucial KPIs: As mentioned before, RebelMouse traffic experts are constantly focused on improving the three KPIs that matter most to site usability and building audience loyalty. These metrics answer the following questions:

  • Frequency: How often are users coming to the site?
  • Depth: How many articles does each user consume?
  • Duration: How long is each user staying on the site?

Looking again at EcoWatch's use of primary tags, it's important to note that a primary tag is exposed on every one of their articles. They're also used in a left-hand navigation module that features the latest stories and trending topics:

Start Leveraging Primary Tags on RebelMouse

If you aren't on RebelMouse yet, request a proposal today and let's start working together to make sure your site is optimized for user growth. If you're already publishing on RebelMouse, and want to learn more about tagging best practices, contact your account manager or email support@rebelmouse.com.

Page Speed Is Crucial to Your Marketing Efforts

Most marketers don't prioritize page speed because they don't think it impacts their bottom line. However, page load has a direct impact on conversions and revenue.

Here's a very simple scenario, supported by industry data, to underscore why the way pages are built and powered is crucial for paid media initiatives and your overall business:

Let's say a paid media campaign drives 100,000 new visitors to a landing page that takes five seconds to load. Google says that 53% of mobile site visitors will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load. So of the 100K mobile site visitors you paid to bring to the page, ~50K are leaving immediately due to poor page performance alone.

Some studies even show that bounce rate increases approximately 100% for every two-second delay. So, if site load jumps to seven seconds, you'll pretty much lose all of the visitors your paid strategies brought in.

A Poor Site Experience Costs More Than You Realize

Page load plays a huge part in customer dissatisfaction, too. Continuing on with our previous example, let's classify the ~50K that didn't abandon the page as dissatisfied due to poor page performance. As HubSpot points out, 79% of them are less likely to buy again from the same website. That's ~40K visitors never coming back to the site due to poor page speed. The loss is even greater when you consider how valuable returning visitors are: They represent up to 48% of all transactions and spend almost 2x more than new visitors, according to Business Insider.

Plus, people love to spread the word about a bad experience, probably more than a good one. 40% of visitors who had a bad experience with a website's performance would tell a friend or a family member. So of your 50K dissatisfied visitors, 20K are talking negatively about your brand. If they tell only one person each, that's an opportunity cost of another 20K potential site visitors and customers.

The main takeaway? Your paid media has to work much, much harder when you neglect to optimize your site for performance.

Owned and Paid Media Should Work Together for Better Efficiency

And speaking of site improvements to help the bottom line, marketers can't overlook the value of owned content (e.g., articles, reviews, social feeds, etc.) and its impact on overall traffic and lead generation strategies. Sites tend to see significant lift in audience reach and conversion when content is paired with commerce: For e-commerce companies, content can account for up to 69% of total organic traffic. And, even more compelling, conversion rates have been 6x higher for companies that adopt content marketing.

RebelMouse's CMS makes it easy for brands to systematically optimize page speed performance and organic reach, which allows paid media to be more efficient.

RebelMouse allows clients to easily manage website layouts and components at any time, ensuring sites remain fast and are rewarded by Google and Facebook. Our platform features proprietary SEO tools designed to help clients optimize organic search with every post and better align paid and organic search strategies for increased efficiency. Similarly, our platform also includes proprietary social tools to organically build community and growth, and our data helps clients spot winning organic trends that can inform paid social media.

RebelMouse Is a Partner That Can Guide You

When it comes to content marketing, it's important to be mindful of the relationship between owned, earned, and paid media — it will only help your teams engage and convert more audiences into customers and brand loyalists. At RebelMouse, we're proud of how we work with brands and our ability to provide the expertise, best practices, and modern technology that help teams become better content marketers. If you're a brand marketer, feel free to reach out to us to learn how RebelMouse can help you be more strategic and effective in your content marketing efforts.

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Target High-Value Users With Affinity Categories

Unlock valuable audience data and shape a new strategy

In today's landscape, quality content isn't enough — it's half the battle. Publishers need to produce shareable content backed by data to experience sustainable growth. At RebelMouse, we have a unique pageview methodology that provides an innovative user experience for every reader without sacrificing revenue and growth opportunities for publishers.

To do this, we track massive amounts of data across our platform through the use of custom-built Google Data Studio dashboards.

Click here to see the kind of growth our clients experience every day.

One of the best ways to discover more about your audience is by taking advantage of Affinity Categories. This feature breaks down audience demographics, including age, location, interests, and more. Affinity Categories are usually used to target audiences for ads, but we also use them to gain insights on what topics a site's visitors are interested in overall.

Normally, each category is listed out separately in Google Analytics. In the example shown above, our data experts split categories into separate levels to reveal different levels of audience depth. For instance, by splitting up the category News & Politics, we can better explore the detailed distribution of users interested in specific types of news:

  • News & Politics/Avid News Readers/Avid Political News Readers
  • News & Politics/Avid News Readers/Entertainment News Enthusiasts

From an editorial standpoint, this is useful because it allows publishers to determine and target varying levels of high-value users, improving the efficacy of a new content strategy or ad campaign.

If your site is already powered by RebelMouse, email support@rebelmouse.com to get a breakdown of your audience's Affinity Categories. If you aren't powered by RebelMouse yet, request a proposal today and start receiving the data you need to grow loyal followers at scale.

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