Facebook cracks down on clickbait

Facebook cracks down on clickbait

We all know how it goes. You log onto Facebook and your feed is filled with ostensibly exciting news articles, but it’s not clear immediately what any of them are. “You won’t believe what this kid made with his shoelaces!”. “Five amazing things you can do with porcelain (dentists hate #3)”. Well, thanks to Facebook, the age of clickbait may start to slowly draw to a close.

The world’s biggest social network is changing its post-sharing algorithms to stop users being caught out by misleading or lacking link titles. The process Facebook built determines two things: whether a post title withholds information required to understand the crux of an article, and whether the title is misleading to the audience.

After examining thousands of articles, Facebook built up a database of thousands of phrases and styles used in clickbait headlines, and links that use these kinds of constructions are given lower priority on news feeds.

Alex Peysakhovich, Research Scientist and Kristin Hendrix, User Experience Researcher at Facebook, said “we anticipate that most Pages won’t see any significant changes to their distribution in News Feed as a result of this change. However, websites and Pages who rely on clickbait-style headlines should expect their distribution to decrease.” While it will still be possible to use clickbait headlines, and those outlets with a significant following will still perhaps do well from them, they’re no longer a quick route to social media success.

The change will mean that many news brands and companies will need to change their social media policies, and find ways to draw readers to their content while giving away a lot of information in their headlines. This isn’t out of the question – the art of a good headline has been around for centuries – but there will no doubt be social media managers hurriedly trying out new forms of messaging.

The other impact will be that Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) will be of greater importance than ever before. The removal of clickbait headlines frees up space for headlines to contain searchable terms, and make a bigger impact on platforms outside social media.