Facebook has been getting it from both sides about its news feed for awhile now. Users are unhappy because they get too many stories that they don’t want in their feed, but marketers are unhappy because algorithm changes have meant that fewer of their stories show up in their followers’ feeds.

Facebook made the first tweak to its news feed two years ago, and users immediately noticed a decline in the amount of stories they were seeing from pages they followed. Businesses were in an uproar because they weren’t able to reach as many of their followers, and they started paying more to boost their posts and get more visibility.

The dust eventually settled, but users weren’t totally happy with the way their new feed looked. Facebook reports that it received numerous complaints about the amount of click bait that was showing up on feeds — articles that included headlines that either withheld information or included false claims in an attempt to get people to click through but then did not follow up on the promises.

New changes to the Facebook news feed aim to correct those complaints.

Identifying Click Bait

What some people identify as click bait others may see as a simple online article. For some, identifying click bait is easier than the Supreme Court trying to identify porn. We have better guidelines than “I know it when I see it.”

Facebook set about identifying click bait by analyzing tens of thousands of stories that were shared on its feeds. It looked at the headlines that were used and compared them to the content of the articles. It found two main elements of click bait stories.

The first element was “curiosity gap” headlines. These are the kinds of headlines that tease a big surprise or secret in the headline. You’ve seen these all the time, such as “You won’t believe this magic food she ate to lost 100 pounds” or “This big star revealed the startling reason for her divorce.”

These headlines lure the reader to click, but the article usually only tries to sell you something or it delivers a weak story that doesn’t match up to the hype of the headline.

The second element that Facebook identified for click bait stories was a misleading headline. These headlines don’t outright lie, but they only reveal a part of the truth. For example, the headline might say, “Study Shows Eggs Prevent Cancer,” but the article reveals that eating a certain amount of eggs has a health benefit that can reduce the risk of cancer.

The headline might not be able to say everything, but it should not be misleading or vague.

Changes to the News Feed

Now that Facebook has the criteria to identify click bait articles, it is taking action to limit them on the news feed.

Facebook will limit the reach of a click bait article and potentially limit the overall reach of the page that shared it or that originally published it. The biggest offenders will see the biggest changes to their reach. Therefore, those that share stories that are 90 percent click bait are likely to see their reach throttled.

You don’t have to stop sharing stories that include creative or intriguing headlines that are designed to encourage the user to click through. However, you should think very carefully about the types of headlines you write and how they reflect the article. You can tease without being vague, and you can make bold statements without being misleading.

The point of these Facebook changes is not to control how brands market themselves but rather to provide a better user experience for those on the site. If users feel that they are inundated with spam every time they are on the site, they are going to stop using it, and that means your reach will be reduced to zero, whether you are engaging in user-friendly practices or not.

These changes on Facebook should be a wake-up call to any marketers who are still engaged in these spammy practices. If you are still using click bait and similar tactics to get visitors, you are likely driving away more visitors than you are attracting. That goes for your social media, website, and other platforms.

Not only will Facebook and other social media sites continue to tweak their algorithm, but so will Google and other search engines. You need to stay informed about how marketing practices are changing so that you can stay at the forefront.

Take a look at your social media marketing practices? What do you need to change?

What about your search engine optimization? What can be better?

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