Facebook is altering their News Feed algorithm to reduce the number of clickbait headlines users see in their News Feed. Facebook has decided that headlines withhold information and go against one of their News Feed Values, authentic communication. While this mostly affects publishers, Facebook’s insight into how they created this algorithm provides few hints on what not do when developing headlines.
Facebook’s peek under the hood came in a blog post released today by Facebook staffers, Alex Peysakhovic and Kristin Hendrix. Clickbait is defined by them as: "If the headline withholds information required to understand what the content of the article is" and "if the headline exaggerates the article to create misleading expectations for the reader."
To create their punishment model, Facebook took a large sample of headlines, categorized which ones were clickbait, and then analyzed common phrases. Pages and domains that employed a largely clickbait based strategy are sure to see their organic distribution drop overall until they change their ways.
It’s yet to be seen how this will affect brands or if this model Facebook has built can distinguish between complete clickbait or general puffery. Facebook’s Publishing Best Practices guide about clickbait contains an example in which a post would be punished for exaggerating a claim that toes the line of puffery and clickbait.
The guide provides this explanation as to why this is deemed as clickbait:
The headline below “This Pen Never Ever Runs Out of Ink! Get It While It Lasts!” exaggerates the article to create misleading expectations for the reader. When the reader clicks on this link, the content is about a disposable pen, and the headline has mislead the reader.
It’s possible that this is just a poor example since we don’t see a landing page for a product that is as promoted. The takeaway is to be conservative with headlines and monitor post reach in these days following the change.