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Why Facebook and Google Are Now More Restricted For Publishers & Some Solutions

In the never-ending mission to stamp out spammers, Google algorithms are changed regularly with adjustments both big and small, which always causes a lot of speculation and debate online. Sometimes these changes can have dramatic impacts on businesses and the latest changes seem to have affected the Publishing industry specifically. But hold on- publishers are not spammers but the authority sites that have been favoured by search engines, so what’s going on?

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Recent Google and Facebook updates can have a dramatic effect on publishers

Back in April 2016, data revealed by Searchmetrics showed that online visibility for some prominent publishers plummeted. Big names like The Washington Post, Time Inc., Wired and The New York Times, quite suddenly became a lot less visible in search. As a specific example of the data, organic search results for Wired dropped by a whopping 65 percent. For the dramatic changes to occur like this, sweeping across so many publishers, this indicated that Google had made some new amendments to its algorithms. Those alterations are going to be costly for publishers who rely on their online strategy for building and attracting an audience.

Although Google is not overly forthcoming as to how and why it has made these changes, the sentiment seems to be that publishers have dominated the high-volume generic keywords such as ‘movies’, ‘Earth’ and ‘millennials’. It’s also been speculated that the search engine has deemed content that is old but has been tweaked, re-hashed and republished by publishers as not a sign of quality.

Many popular websites, simply because of their popularity, will have editorial features hitting the high spots for SEO rankings when they are in fact old content. So there is the speculation that Google seems to be bolstering their priority of freshness of information and new material. There may well be a move to ensure that ‘same-y’ features do not populate page one results, in favour of more unique content trickling through to the best search result places.

Facebook Ensures Friends And Family Come First

According to SocialFlow, a similar pattern is happening across Facebook. From January 2016 through mid-July 2016, around 300 publishers’ Facebook Pages have experienced a 52 percent decline in organic reach.

These findings affect the whole publishing industry – as Facebook is one of the pillars of any publisher’s strategy to reach and retain their target audience. The reasons behind this change (as with Google) are, as always, an adjustment in line with what users are perceived to want as opposed to what companies want.

Re-thinking Content Strategy

Keeping your audience coming back is always the number one priority for any platform, less it becomes redundant, superseded or morphs into a sales platform against the will of users. With Facebook, it’s been made clear that the algorithm change is so that people receive content from friends and families first and foremost and pages will not be shown in their feed so much – publishers will be more reliant now on people sharing their content (so it really has to be good quality!).

This is for an online community that is seen to have less interest and tolerance for their feed interruptions from businesses, as they are not social posts from people that they know. You can expect more family pictures and personal rants and selfies over news and branded content when using Facebook.

For most publishers, they will be less than happy with this recent development that cuts them down to size online and it will probably require a serious revisit to their social media strategy, in order to develop and optimise new content that cuts through.

It’s Not All Bad News!

For some media pages on Facebook though, it’s not all gloom and doom. There seem to be exceptions to the rules, for instance for publishers who use video heavily in their pages, the normal signs of decline do not seem to kick in. Video posting is something that Facebook sees as a definite plus.

Meanwhile in other developments, Google is experimenting in the US with a completely new format of search results which would mean media companies could publish their stories directly to Google in a new ‘Twitter-like’ feed. So all is not lost if you are a publisher currently staring in dismay at your recent analytics. As one door closes another one opens, that’s what they say!

Users want new information and the only way to combat this is to listen to the user, and to Google. Google wants to be able to reward publishers based on the freshness of the information they provide, so it is important to be unique and current with the topic and the content you’re creating.

Google is de-prioritising old or out-of-date content and publishers should be adopting this strategy too in order to avoid the decline in organic reach.

If you are looking to build, develop or optimise your website, or if you are a publisher and want some advice on making your website more visible, contact the team at Varn and we will be happy to talk you through some targeted SEO tactics.