Today, as with last week, we're going to be talking about bounce rate. This time, however, we're refocusing things a bit. We're going to examine how bounce rate comes into play on sites like Facebook - and how that in turn has 'bounced back' to impact marketing as a whole.
Now, at this point, it is worth noting that social media doesn't actually have a direct impact on search engine optimization, nor do links from social sites. With that in mind, they do still bring in a ton of traffic - so getting penalized for misleading practices while posting on them is definitely a bad thing, and could mean you're getting slammed by search engines, as well.
Anyway, let's get started.
I like to think that it's been well-established that a page's header is among its most important elements. After all, it's the first thing prospective visitors are going to see, it's their first impression of your website. The best headers are those that inspire the reader to click through; those that leave them wanting more, right?
In a way, you could consider bounce rate to be more a measure of the efficacy of a page's header and meta description than a measure of the content itself. See, the metric measures how many users 'bounced' from a site without looking at more content. Theoretically, this means that a high bounce rate is bad - it indicates that your site's not providing its users with the material it promised them.
Put another way, it could mean that even if you get a ton of traffic, your header are still misleading - that you're baiting users into clicking them and the providing little of value or substance.
Facebook's Click Bait Crackdown
I like to think Google's got a pretty good handle on click baiting by now, to be honest. In addition to pogo-sticking (which may or may not be a thing, depending on who you ask), there are a ton of different algorithms and metrics designed to punish content creators and webmasters who try to manipulate people into accessing their site. Until last year, that wasn't the case with social media; social sites didn't really have a lot of direct measures in place to protect against misleading linking.
Then Facebook did something very interesting - it implemented its own version of the bounce rate metric.
"Posts that click-bait tend to get a lot of clicks, which means that they get shown to more people, and get shown higher up in the News Feed," explained Facebook research scientist Khalid El-Arini and product specialist Joyce Tang. "However, when we asked people in an initial survey what type of content they preferred to see in their News Feeds, 80% of the time they preferred headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the full article before they had to click through."
"Over time, stories with "click-bait headlines can drown out content from friends and Pages that people really care about," they added.
They knew it was a problem. But what did they do to address it? Well...here's where the interesting part comes in.
"Facebook will look at the ratio of people clicking on the content compared to people discussing it and sharing it with their friends, operating under the idea that low engagement relative to the click signals click bait." wrote Venture Beat's Kia Kokalitcheva. "But Facebook will also look at the amount of time spent away from the site while you're 'reading' an article....essentially, Facebook will now look at your bounce rate from these stories"
So How Does All This Relate To Internet Marketing?
So we've established that Facebook devised a relatively cool (and possibly really creepy) means of identifying click-baiting articles on their site. It's pretty clear how this impacted social optimization. It forced greater transparency in social marketing, and pushed anyone posting stuff towards a focus on content rather than clicks.
"With this update, Facebook will make it a point to show more links in the default link-format, and push aside links that are shared in captions or status updates," explained B2C's Julia Giacoboni. "Facebook wants you to keep the link as it is - a link. You can edit and update the image that appears, but don't re-include the link in your status copy. Facebook studies show that following this format has resulted in twice as many clicks compared to links embedded in photo captions."
"The purpose," she continued, "is to direct people to content they want to spend more time to read through."
That Facebook brought about a change while Google was off ramping up its focus on semantic search is telling, to say the least. It's an indication that search and social media are starting to intersect. More importantly, it shows that the experience of the end user is becoming the most important factor no matter what platform you're on.
It's all well and good to optimize your keywords and anchor text. It's all well and good to design a title that inspires people to click on it. But if there's no substance on the other side - if you aren't designing a website with content that people genuinely care about - then all your optimization efforts will be for naught.
That, more than anything, should be the takeaway from Facebook's click-bait rule.