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Facebook is secretly penalizing publishers, new research reveals

What's New in Publishing 30 Sep 2020 07:15

Facebook’s hidden penalization algorithm was revealed in new research published by Echobox, the AI-powered social publishing platform. 

The study, entitled Facebook’s penalization algorithm revealed: How Facebook secretly penalizes publishers, pulls back the veil on one of the biggest secrets in social media publishing:

Publishers are routinely being penalized by Facebook algorithms for posting at the “wrong” frequency. And most publishers are completely unaware.

The research analysis was carried out by Echobox data scientists in August 2020 and is based on more than 250,000 unique Facebook posts. The report found that Facebook algorithms, whether directly or as an indirect consequence, penalize publishers for posting either too frequently or too infrequently.

To understand precisely how these penalties are impacting publishers, and to quantify their effects in terms of lost traffic, the researchers studied how different intervals between posts affected Facebook traffic for leading news, lifestyle and sports publishers.

For example, they examined data for 2 top news publishers and observed that for both, posts spaced less than 10 minutes apart resulted in decreased Facebook referral traffic. The decline in traffic was particularly steep on posts spaced less than 5 minutes apart:

Posts spaced roughly 10 to 40 minutes apart resulted in a slight increase in Facebook traffic, appearing to be the “sweet spot” for these publishers. However, the relationship between post frequency and penalization is nonlinear: beyond the 40-minute mark, penalization occurs again and referral traffic dips

According to the report, Facebook is constantly tweaking its algorithms and the variety of “ranking signals” it uses to prioritize certain News Feed content while penalizing other posts. When publishers post at certain frequencies (whether that’s too often or not often enough), Facebook algorithms appear to penalize that publisher’s  Facebook Page by not displaying its posts as often in the News Feed.  

Publishers who regularly post content to their Facebook Pages are likely to be suffering from Facebook penalization without even knowing it. These “hidden” penalties mean they could be missing out on substantial referral traffic over time.

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