There’s a critical issue impacting publishers worldwide every day, yet most remain unaware: Facebook algorithms are routinely penalizing publishers for posting at the “wrong” interval, leading to recurring declines in referral traffic.

Echobox recently published original research into these Facebook algorithms and the resulting hidden penalties. These exclusive findings, vital for publishers across industries, were also featured on What’s New in Publishing and New Digital Age.  

If you haven’t yet read the white paper, you can start by downloading it for free here. In this blogpost, we explore the key themes of the research and what it means for publishers.

How did the research come about?

Facebook has made major changes to its News Feed algorithm several times over the last few years. For example, in 2018 Facebook reduced the amount of news content on the News Feed, whilst in June of this year, it made changes that gave more prominence to “original reporting”. These announcements often leave publishers scrambling to adjust as such changes can have a significant impact on referral traffic.

Echobox has spent years understanding the algorithms that power the world’s leading social media platforms. We know that in reality, Facebook is constantly changing the “ranking signals” it uses. There is one effect that remains little-known amongst publishers yet impacts huge numbers of them: posting at the “wrong” frequency. So we set out to reveal this phenomenon to the world for the very first time.

How did you design the study?

First, we segmented publishers into key verticals – news, lifestyle and sports – to ensure the type of content being posted to Facebook was comparable. We then examined more than 250,000 Facebook posts and analyzed the time elapsed in minutes between two posts and the average change in referral traffic from Facebook for each interval. As a result, we were able to understand when a publisher could post in any given hour without being penalized as well as when a publisher should post in order to generate a traffic increase.

How does Facebook penalize news publishers?

We then analyzed two popular lifestyle magazine publishers. These publishers often post evergreen content – so we were interested as to how often this content could be posted on Facebook before it incurs penalization. A very different picture emerged: these lifestyle publishers were penalized more than news publishers. For example, one lifestyle magazine suffered a 1.5% decline in traffic when posts were spaced 5 minutes apart. We were then able to identify the ideal posting frequency for another lifestyle magazine.

What can publishers learn from this study?

The Facebook penalization algorithm is perhaps the biggest secret in social media publishing. Any publisher that regularly posts content to a Facebook page is likely to suffer the effects of it – often without ever realizing it. As a result, swathes of content never make the News Feed. The consequence: huge amounts of reach and traffic essentially being wasted.

However, publishers can take action to vastly reduce the risk of penalization. In fact, they can start to use Facebook’s algorithms to their own advantage. To do this, publishers need to ascertain exactly how often to share content on their Facebook page. In the research, we outline a rapid and proven strategy to do exactly this. We recommend all publishers read the research (see link below) to understand how the algorithm manifests itself – and how they could turn penalization into a positive effect within weeks.

Want to read more? Download the free white paper here