Facebook loves Google – What Facebook marketers can learn from SEO
According to a widely-circulated article by Business Insider last week, Facebook’s latest newsfeed alogithm ‘tweak’ is “screwing an entire profession”. Now, whilst the article in question is rather sensationalist (and if the SEO comments are anything to go by, rather ill-informed) it clearly struck a chord with certain marketers and bloggers, as at least half a dozen friends shared it with me asking my opinion.
Anybody who has been ‘marketing’ on Facebook for a while will know that they like to tweak their algorithms occasionally – but it always surprises me how surprised people are when Facebook make a move which seems to favour advertisers PAYING for the ability to advertise.
While mulling it over this morning on the District Line (a great place to think – you get lots of quiet time while the train is stuck at signals!) it struck me just how similar Facebook marketing is to SEO – though the similarity might not be obvious to those of you who haven’t experienced both industries. Let me tell you how.
Here’s a (very) potted history of Google and SEO – forgive me for leaving out anything important, I’m just trying to illustrate a point here:
When Google started out, everything was simple. Optimising your website to appear highly was a relatively straightforward process – a few changes to your coding, maybe a submission to a directory or two and BANG, you’re ranking well. As time went on and more and more people wanted to rank highly, Google spent more and more time on tweaking their algorithms to combat the ‘spammers’ and ner-do-wells – SEO got more complicated, but good SEO people evolved and rolled with the changes.
The other major motivator in Google’s desire to discourage SEO was (and still is) the desire to monetise search – every road block they place in front of marketers could easily be ‘solved’ by simply paying Google to appear in their sponsored results – or that’s what Google would have us believe, anyway.
These days, Google employ hundreds of people specifically to deal with bad results in their feed – algorithm changes have gone from annual or bi-annual events to monthly or weekly occurrences. Keeping up with the changes is a full-time job, and good SEO people know exactly what to try and who to listen to when it comes to testing things. But it certainly isn’t easy.
I’m sure you don’t need me to tell the same story for Facebook for you to spot that the evolution of Facebook pages and the feed is very similar to the early days of SEO. What used to be relatively simple and straightforward – post the right content, tweak your settings and mobilise your fans – is now getting harder and harder. Facebook (like Google) would love us all to throw our hands up in defeat and shout “Screw this – it’s too HARD! Have my money instead”.
Now I’m not saying that this is or isn’t fair – my personal opinion is that nobody should be surprised when a completely-free platform decides it wants some recompense for providing its services. But the reality of the situation is that Facebook (and every other site that comes along) wants to make money (ideally without charging the end user directly) and will try lots of ways of doing this.
Thankfully, a lot of digital marketers who earned their salt in SEO are also working with social media now, so with any luck the industry as a whole will roll with the proverbial punches and see this as an opportunity rather than a threat. And if a few marketers with no patience give up in the meantime, thinking the whole thing is just TOO hard? Well, that’s no bad thing either, in my opinion.
And hey – if my Facebook news feed has a few less “LIKE THIS PHOTO IF YOU HATE CANCER!” posts in it as a result, I’ll gladly take the hit on my stress levels at work…