If you do Facebook marketing, one thing that you might want to understand is the Facebook algorithm.
The Facebook algorithm helps make sense of the huge number of posts that people and businesses share every day and chooses the posts to show in our News Feed based on a huge number of factors.
We want to help you understand how your Facebook posts get viewed on Facebook. So we’re collecting all the relevant Facebook algorithm factors, updates, and changes and placing them here in this post for easy reference.
Read on, and see what goes into the complex, fascinating formulas of the Facebook News Feed.
Facebook algorithm values
Understanding the Facebook algorithm starts with knowing the core values that Facebook uses to guide their thinking and work. These values can give you a hint of what content will do well or not so well on Facebook.
Here’s a brief summary of Facebook’s News Feed values:
- Friends and family come first: The main objective of the News Feed is to connect people with their friends and family. So posts from friends and family are prioritized. After those posts, Facebook found that people want their feed to inform and entertain them.
- A platform for all ideas: Facebook welcomes all ideas while making sure that everyone feels and is safe. They aim to deliver stories that each individual wants to see the most, based on their actions and feedback.
- Authentic communications: Facebook prioritizes genuine stories over misleading, sensational, and spammy ones.
- You control your experience: Individuals know themselves best. So Facebook creates features (such as unfollow and see first) to let people customize their Facebook experience.
- Constant iteration: Facebook strives to constantly collect feedback and improve the platform.
The overview of the Facebook algorithm
So how does Facebook decide what to show in a News Feed?
Here’s a quick overview of how the Facebook News Feed works, according to Adam Mosseri, VP of Product Management for News Feed:
To make it easy for you to understand the Facebook algorithm, we went through all the (known) changes that Facebook has implemented to its algorithm and came up with a list of factors that we think may determine whether your post shows up or not.
Do this: The Facebook algorithm loves …
- Posts with lots of Likes, comments, and shares
- Posts that receive a high volume of Likes, comments, or shares in a short time
- Posts that are Liked, commented on, or shared by one’s friends
- Link posts
- Post types that one interacts with often
- Post types that users seem to prefer more than others (e.g., photo, video, or status update)
- Videos uploaded to Facebook that receive a large number of views or extended viewing duration
- Posts that are timely or reference a trending topic
- Posts from Pages that one interacts with often
- Posts from Pages with complete profile information
- Posts from Pages where the fan base overlaps with the fan base of other known high-quality pages
Watch out for: The Facebook algorithm is not too keen on …
- Posts that include spammy links
- Frequently circulated content and repeated posts
- Text-only status updates from Pages
- Posts that are frequently hidden or reported (a sign of low quality)
- Posts that ask for Likes, comments, or shares
- Posts with unusual engagement patterns (a like-baiting signal)
- Overly promotional content from Pages—pushing people to buy an app or service, pushing people to enter a contest or sweepstakes, posts that reuse the same text from ads
To help you grow your Facebook Page reach, we’ve written a few guides that you might like:
- Post Less, Boost Top Posts, and More: 14 Ways to Increase Your Facebook Page Engagement
- The Simple Facebook Posting Strategy That Helped us 3x Our Reach and Engagement
- 17 Ways to Get More Views, Engagement, and Shares for Your Facebook Videos
If you want to dig into the Facebook News Feed algorithm, read on to find out all the relevant changes Facebook has made.
All relevant changes to the Facebook News Feed algorithm
(Last updated: January 2018)
Here’s a summary of all the changes that are relevant to social media marketers, in reverse-chronological order.
If you want to know more about any particular change, just click on the quick link and you’ll get more information about the change and how it may affect your Page.
- January 19, 2018: News that is trustworthy, informative, and local will be prioritized.
- January 11, 2018: Posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people are prioritized.
- December 18, 2017: Pages that use engagement bait are down-ranked.
- August 28, 2017: Pages that share false news will no longer be able to run Facebook ads.
- August 17, 2017: Posts that pretends to be a video will be demoted in the News Feed.
- August 2, 2017: Posts with links that load slowly on mobile will be shown less in the News Feed.
- May 17, 2017: Posts with clickbait headlines will rank lower in the News Feed.
- May 10, 2017: Posts that link to websites with low-quality experience will rank lower in the News Feed.
- January 31, 2017: Authentic and timely posts will rank better in the News Feed.
- January 26, 2017: Long, engaging videos will rank better in the News Feed (than short, engaging videos)
- August 11, 2016: Posts that are informative will rank higher in the News Feed of people whom might find them relevant.
- June 29, 2016: Posts from friends will rank (even) higher in the News Feed.
- April 21, 2016: Posts with links that keep people engaged will rank higher in the News Feed.
- March 1, 2016: Live videos will rank higher in the News Feed when they are live than after they end.
- February 24, 2016: Facebook launched Reactions to help businesses understand how people are responding to their posts.
- December 4, 2015: Facebook uses surveys to improve News Feed ranking.
- July 9, 2015: Facebook makes it easier for people to control what they see on their News Feed.
- June 29, 2015: Facebook now considers more actions on videos while ranking videos in the News Feed.
- June 12, 2015: Time spent on stories becomes a ranking factor.
- April 21, 2015: Posts from friends will rank higher in the News Feed.
- March 5, 2015: Facebook updates how Likes are counted.
- January 20, 2015: Hoaxes will receive less reach and have an added warning.
- January 7, 2015: Video is growing
- November 14, 2014: Overly promotional posts will receive less reach on Facebook.
- September 18, 2014: Facebook will be considering the rate at which people interact with posts.
- September 11, 2014: Offensive or inappropriate ads will be shown less or stopped.
- August 25, 2014: Facebook will look at bounce rate to determine if an article has a clickbait headline.
- June 23, 2014: Facebook can now rank videos uploaded directly to Facebook better than links to video sites.
- September 11, 2014: Posts that explicitly ask for engagement will be ranked lower in the News Feed.
- August 23, 2013: Facebook has developed a new algorithm to find and show high-quality content to users
January 19, 2018: High-quality news
Facebook will be prioritizing news from trustworthy sources, news that is informative, and news that is relevant to one’s local community 1.
According to Mark Zuckerberg, “news will always be a critical way for people to start conversations on important topics”2. So the team at Facebook is making another major update to make sure that news on the News Feed is of high quality. Specifically, they will be prioritizing the following types of news:
- News from publications that the community rates as trustworthy
- News that people find informative
- News that is relevant to people’s local community
Facebook has been surveying users to help determine the trustworthiness of publications and informativeness of news.
January 11, 2018: Meaningful interactions
Facebook will be prioritizing posts that create meaningful conversations, especially those from family and friends 3.
With their new goal of making sure that the time users spend on Facebook is time well spent, Facebook is making changes to their News Feed algorithm to give people more opportunities to interact with the people they care about.
To do so, the algorithm will be prioritizing posts that prompt conversations between friends and posts that people might want to share and react to, such as “a post from a friend seeking advice, a friend asking for recommendations for a trip, or a news article or video prompting lots of discussion”4.
Again, Facebook will be prioritizing posts from family and friends over public content from Pages as they believe a person-to-person connection is more valuable than a person-to-page connection.
An interesting point is that Mark Zuckerberg mentioned that people will be seeing more posts from “friends, family, and groups“5. This might be a great time to start investing in a Facebook Group for your brand.
December 18, 2017: Engagement bait
Facebook will be down-ranking Pages that share posts goading the user into interacting with likes, shares, comments, and other actions. 6.
Facebook has found that users dislike “engagement bait” posts. For example, “LIKE this if you’re an Aries!” or “Tag a friend who NEEDS to see this video”.
These types of posts seek to take advantage of the Facebook News Feed algorithm by boosting engagement in order to get greater reach. Facebook will now demote individual posts from people and Pages that use engagement bait.
Facebook has listed five types of engagement bait:
- Vote baiting
- React baiting
- Share baiting
- Tag baiting
- Comment baiting
August 28, 2017: False news
Facebook will be blocking Pages that share false news from buying ads on Facebook7.
Facebook found that some Pages had been using Facebook ads to build their following and share false news more widely. To prevent the spread of false news on Facebook, Pages that repeatedly share false news will no longer be allowed to buy Facebook ads (until they stop sharing such news).
The false news will be identified by third-party fact-checkers.
August 17, 2017: Video clickbait
Spammers have been tricking people to click on Facebook posts that look like a video but aren’t. These deceptive posts are often videos with just a static image or they feature a false video play button when it’s actually a link.
Here’s an example from Facebook9:
August 2, 2017: Webpage load time
It’s frustrating when a website takes a long time to load. Facebook found that “As many as 40 percent of website visitors abandon a site after three seconds of delay.”
Hence, Facebook is rolling out an update to show more posts with links that load quickly and fewer posts with links that might load slowly, in the News Feed.
May 17, 2017: Clickbait headlines
In its continued effort to make Facebook an informed community, Facebook is reducing the number of clickbait stories in the News Feed. This includes posts with headlines that withhold or exaggerate information, such as the following:
- “When She Looked Under Her Couch Cushions And Saw THIS…”
- “WOW! Ginger tea is the secret to everlasting youth. You’ve GOT to see this!”
Posts that link to articles with such headlines will rank lower in the News Feed.
May 10, 2017: Low-quality webpage experience
To help build an informed community on Facebook, Facebook will be showing fewer posts that are “misleading, sensational and spammy”. Specifically, they are referring to websites with low-quality experiences, such as the following:
- Websites that contain little substantive content
- Websites that have a large number of disruptive, shocking, or malicious ads
Posts that link to such websites will rank lower in the News Feed and might not be allowed to be used as Facebook ads.
January 31, 2017: Authentic and timely stories
To surface authentic content, Facebook will be analyzing Facebook Pages to see if they have been posting spam or trying to game the News Feed by asking for Likes, comments, or shares. If Facebook finds that a Page’s posts might not be authentic, such as people are often hiding those posts, Facebook will rank those posts lower in the News Feed.
To show people stories at the right time, Facebook will now study how people interact with posts in real time. For example, if there’s an important soccer game going on and many people are talking about it on Facebook, Facebook will show relevant posts higher in the News Feed.
January 26, 2017: Video completion
When ranking videos in the News Feed, a factor that Facebook considers is “percent completion” — the percentage of the video you watched.
Facebook now recognize that it takes more commitment to complete a long video than a short one. So it will now put more weight on the “percent completion” factor for longer videos.
As an example, if people are, on average, watching 50% of a 30-second video and 50% of a 10-minute video, the 10-minute video will rank better in the News Feed than the 30-second video. That’s because the 10-minute video has to be more engaging than the 30-second video to keep people watching for five minutes (vs 15 seconds).
August 11, 2016: Personally informative stories
From its Feed Quality Program, Facebook found that people enjoy stories that are informative to them. Using the patterns that they learned from the program, Facebook will try to identify stories that are informative — usually, if they are related to people’s interests, if they engage people in broader discussions, and if they contain news relevant to them.
Facebook will then combine this new signal with signals of how relevant the story might be to each individual, to predict if they might like it.
June 29, 2016: Stories from friends
Despite the previous update, people are still worried about missing important updates from their close friends. So Facebook is tweaking the News Feed algorithm again to rank posts from close friends higher up in the News Feed.
April 21, 2016: Time spent viewing
Facebook learned that the amount of time someone spent reading or watching the content of an article indicates how interesting the article was to them. So Facebook is adding a new ranking factor — how long someone might spend looking at the article.
To keep things fair between short and long articles, Facebook will be looking at the time spent within a threshold.
A smaller change within this update is that Facebook will be showing fewer posts from the same Page together in the News Feed. That’s because people find that repetitive and prefers content from a diverse range of Pages.
March 1, 2016: Facebook Live
Facebook found that “People spend more than 3x more time watching a Facebook Live video on average compared to a video that’s no longer live.”21 That’s because those videos are more interesting when the event being filmed is happening live than after the event.
February 24, 2016: Facebook Reactions
For a start, when someone uses a Reaction, Facebook will infer they want to see more of that type of post, just like when they Like a post. But this could change23.
In the beginning, it won’t matter if someone likes, “wows” or “sads” a post — we will initially use any Reaction similar to a Like to infer that you want to see more of that type of content. Over time we hope to learn how the different Reactions should be weighted differently by News Feed to do a better job of showing everyone the stories they most want to see.
December 4, 2015: Surveys
Besides looking at quantitative signals such as Likes, comments, and shares, Facebook also surveys thousands of people every day to understand whether the News Feed algorithm is showing people the posts they want to see.
Here’s an example of the survey:
If a popular post isn’t something that the people surveyed want to see, Facebook will rank that post lower in the future.
July 9, 2015: Greater user control over the News Feed
Facebook is making it easier for people to adjust and customize their News Feed settings25.
The preferences tab will be more visible and more intuitive, allowing people to find Pages and people to like and follow, and easily selecting to follow/unfollow certain content.
June 29, 2015: Actions on Videos
Facebook found that many people don’t feel inclined to Like, comment on, or share a video even when they enjoyed the video.
So besides considering whether someone watched the video and for how long, Facebook is now taking into account of more actions such as choosing to turn on the sound, watching the video in full screen, and enabling high definition. These actions indicate that they enjoyed the video.
June 12, 2015: Time spent on stories
While many people might not Like, comment on, or share a post that they found meaningful, they would likely spend more time on it than other posts. Hence, Facebook is taking this as a signal for ranking Facebook posts.
By understanding what types of content someone prefers, Facebook can surface similar types of content higher up in their News Feed.
April 21, 2015: Content from friends and Pages
The first is for people who do not have much content to see — maybe because they don’t follow many people or Pages. Facebook used to have a rule that prevents people from seeing multiples stories from the same source in succession. They are now relaxing the rule so that if you reach the end of your News Feed but still want to see more stories, you’ll see more.
The second is to show posts from friends you care about, higher in your News Feed so that you are less likely to miss them. If you read and interact with posts from Pages, you’ll still see them on your News Feed.
The third is to reduce or remove stories about friends liking or commenting on a post, such as this:
March 5, 2015: Facebook Likes
January 20, 2015: Facebook targets hoaxes
To reduce the number of posts containing misleading or false news, Facebook has announced that the News Feed algorithm will begin to factor in when many people flag a post as false or choose to delete posts.
Facebook will reduce the reach of such posts and add a warning on the post (without reviewing or removing the post).
January 7, 2015: Video is growing
Facebook has provided some new stats and tips on using video, including these:
- In just one year, the number of video posts per person has increased 75 percent globally and 94 percent in the US.
- The amount of video from people and brands in the News Feed has increased 3.6x year-over-year.
- Since June 2014, Facebook has averaged more than 1 billion video views every day.
- On average, more than 50 percent of people who come to Facebook every day in the US watch at least one video daily.
- Seventy-six percent of people in the US who use Facebook say they tend to discover the videos they watch on Facebook.
November 14, 2014: Overly promotional Page posts
Facebook heard from people that they want less promotional content on their News Feed and more stories from friends and Pages they like.
After digging into their data, Facebook found that these are the types of posts that people find too promotional:
- Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app
- Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context
- Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads
Here’s an example:
September 18, 2014: When people Like and comment
Facebook used to only look at the total number of Likes on a post when ranking it in the News Feed. Now, Facebook will also look at the rate at which people are Liking, commenting on, and sharing a post.
If people are engaging with the post right after it is posted, and not as much a few hours later, this suggests that the post was most interesting at the time it was posted, but potentially less interesting at a later date. Based on this signal it is more likely to appear higher in News Feed earlier on and lower at a later date.
September 11, 2014: Offensive or inappropriate ads
When people hide ads in their News Feed, Facebook takes it as a signal that others might not want to see them, too, and show them to fewer people36.
Now, Facebook is also asking people why they hid the ads. If it’s because the ad is offensive or inappropriate, Facebook will stop showing the ad.
August 25, 2014: Bounce rate
If someone clicks on an article and returns to Facebook immediately (or “bounce”), it might mean that they didn’t find what they were expecting. This is often because the article is using a clickbait headline. Facebook will be using this signal when ranking the article in the News Feed.
In addition, Facebook will also be monitoring if people are Liking, commenting on, or sharing the article after they click on it. If few people are, it’s likely that the article is not valuable, relevant, or meaningful. Facebook will then rank it lower in the News Feed.
Facebook will also be ranking posts with a link preview higher in the News Feed than posts with a link just in the caption — as the link preview shows more information about the article.
June 23, 2014: Better videos
For videos that are uploaded to Facebook directly, Facebook is now able to know whether someone has watched it and for how long. It seems that they are unable to do that for links to YouTube (or other video sites) videos.
Having this new information will allow Facebook to rank Facebook videos better. Early tests have shown that people are watching more videos that are relevant to them.
September 11, 2014: Like-baiting
Some Pages try to game the News Feed algorithm by explicitly asking for Likes, comments, and shares. Here’s an example:
As people have reported that such posts are less relevant than posts with a similar amount of engagement, Facebook will be ranking these posts lower in the News Feed.
August 23, 2013: High-quality content
To build the algorithm, Facebook surveyed thousands of people and put the results into a machine learning system. Here are some of the questions they asked:
- Is this timely and relevant content?
- Is this content from a source you would trust?
- Would you share it with friends or recommend it to others?
- Is the content genuinely interesting to you or is it trying to game News Feed distribution? (e.g. asking for people to like the content)
- Would you call this a low quality post or meme?
- Would you complain about seeing this content in your News Feed?
The algorithm also uses thousand other factors to determine if a post is a high-quality content. Some of these factors include “how frequently content from a certain Page that is reported as low quality (e.g. hiding a Page post), how complete the Page profile is, and whether the fan base for a particular Page overlaps with the fan base for other known high quality Pages”42.
Could you help us make this resource more complete?
We’d love your help in tracking any changes and factors to the Facebook News Feed so that this post can be as complete as possible.
Is there anything that we’ve missed?
Is there any news that came out recently that we should add?
Let us know by leaving a comment on this post or drop us a tweet. We’ll be happy to pass along a hat tip in the post for any and all good leads.
We hope this resource comes in handy for you as you navigate your Facebook marketing strategy. Let us know how things go, and if there’s anything we can do to improve the way we help.
This blog post was originally written on November 4, 2014 and updated on October 18, 2017.
Image credit: Unsplash