Unsolicited Advice

FaceBook vs Google traffic (again!)

Keyboard with brackets

A continual theme in my unsolicited advice is trying to figure out how best to get eyeballs on your content, and how Google and Facebook contribute traffic. It’s an ongoing back and forth between two giants.

There are a few new bits of data to add to the ongoing discussion. Recode has 2017 traffic data, and it looks like Facebook’s new  policies of prioritizing families and friends in their feed led to a drop in referral traffic for news (and a corresponding increase by Google referrals). graph of referrals from Facebook and Google in 2017

An interesting, though not direct, confirmation of those changes in Facebook algorithm can be seen in this article from Neiman Labs; over 70% of articles in feeds are now from friends and families. News content: less than 10%.

There also has been an increase in traffic coming through the Google AMP service, or Accelerated Mobile Pages.  AMP is a competitor for Facebook Instant Articles, and they both try to do the same thing: serve up content from all over the web as fast as possible. With the caveat, of course, that you remain within the Facebook or Google Ecosystem when you consume those articles.

There is also an interesting new feature in Google’s Chrome browser. When you open Chrome, it will suggest news items for you (if you are an android user). This obviously leads to increased traffic for suggested web pages, but it’s too early to say much about how those pages are chosen or how much traffic it generates.

The ultimate take-home message for content creators is still the same: don’t ignore Facebook or Google. You have to optimize for both.

Google “Promoted” search results are…..terrible.

WSJ has a new long, wonky article about web traffic that is just the sort of thing I love.  And, like a lot of news about our online ecosystem, it’s a bit depressing.

When you search in Google, it often puts “featured snippets” or “knowledge cards” at the top of the search results. You may also see a list of similar questions under “People also ask.” The problem is that the answers are sometimes bogus, and sourced poorly.

graph showing increase of google answers
From WSJ

“A study this year by Stone Temple, a prominent analyst of the industry, showed Google’s search engine answered 74.3% of 5,000 questions, and on those answers it had a 97.4% accuracy rate. Both percentages are higher than services from AmazonInc., AppleInc. and Microsoft Corp.

Yet since Google handles trillions of queries a year, even a 2.6% error rate suggests Google serves billions of answers a year that are incomplete, irrelevant or wrong.”       [emphasis mine]

I’ve certainly seen this in action in queries about insect identification or pest control.

How NOT to control Fire Ants, via Google

screenshot from google
The suggestions from Google about controlling Fire ants are TERRIBLE

Here’s an example: Suggestions for controlling fire ants.  Gasoline and grits! That will end well.

Note that there is a tiny “report inappropriate predictions” box in the lower right corner — so this is an opportunity to tell Google that Kill It With Fire Is A Terrible Idea.

Let’s say you search for fire ants and grits; a common home remedy. The featured snippet tells you that instant grits will kill fire ants. NOPE.

(Here’s an authoritative article about what does and doesn’t work in home remedies. FYI: none of these are effective. )

screenshot of incorrect recommendation
Very incorrect featured snippet from Google Search

Note that again, there’s a tiny little feedback link at the bottom right of the Knowledge Card. Give feedback on both good and bad results for entomological results! Help Google do better.

screenshot of feedback form
Google Knowledge card feedback form

Google gives priority to responses that have detailed comments about why the suggested information is wrong, and links to better, more authoritative resources.

So the next time you search for something and get terrible results, take action!

Facebook Page Traffic: Still a Problem

I wrote earlier here about how traffic on non-profit Facebook pages is radically reduced because of algorithm changes. Some new data has been added from the Chicago Tribune:

Facebook’s algorithm isn’t surfacing one-third of our posts. And it’s getting worse

To give you a sense of scale, the Trib has over 500,000 followers on Facebook, much larger than most non-profits or small businesses. And yet, here’s some of the traffic stats they shared:

From Chicago Trib

If you want a really thorough and wonky discussion of what this means, what Facebook recommends, and what to do next, check out this article. It’s not encouraging for those of us who manage pages with a much smaller audience.


Does your social media need an audit?

coffee shop

I was asked to do a workshop on social media for the IECC’s 2016 Conference, and thought I would write up what I did for everyone to use.

Running social media accounts takes a substantial investment of time and energy for staff. Before you get started: What do you want to accomplish?

Your followers and likes are increasing over time. Great!  But: Lots of followers isn’t meaningful if they don’t also connect to some real goal or metric for your organization.

What do you want to accomplish?  Do you want to improve fundraising, or make it easier to contact you with questions? What community do you want to engage with your social media?

“Everyone on the internet” is not a viable target audience! Have a clear goal in mind for what you want to accomplish with your activity on social media.

Audit Your Social Media

The first step in a website redesign is to take an inventory of what you have, and what exists already.  That’s a great way to start with evaluating your social media too.

  • Make a list of all the social media accounts you know about for your organization
  • Who’s in control of the account? If something happens to them, is there a backup?
  • How current is the information on the account?
  • Do all of your accounts have the same branding? Do the logo and name match on each account?

Here is a link to my personal social media audit. Feel free to download that spreadsheet as a template to use.

Once you list of all your existing accounts, then examine what information is out there about your organization that you don’t control.  (This is the second tab at the bottom of my spreadsheet. )

Facebook is notorious for creating pages for organizations –make sure you search for those. Here, for example, is a page Facebook made for Purdue’s College of Agriculture.

facebook screenshot
The Unofficial Facebook Page for the College of Ag

These unofficial pages can be liked and commented upon — so you need to know if they exist.

Is there a Wikipedia page about you? Who shows up on Google search that might be confused for your organization? All of these are ways in which your brand might be diluted or, in some cases, harmed.

google rating screenshot
Google Ratings for the Purdue College of Ag.

If you are a destination organization, or provide services, check out any sites where users might be rating you.

Those comments are full of useful information — and if someone is leaving negative reviews, taking time to respond can be important.

The last tab on the spreadsheet is for DATA. What metrics are you collecting right now on your existing social media accounts and websites? How far back does the data go?

ROI: Return on your Social Media Investment

Now that you know what social channels exist and how they are measured, circle back around to your goals.  Is the image of your organization presented by social media, and what people say about you online, in line with your organization’s mission and goals?

Are your social media channels in the right place to reach the audiences you identified? Are you measuring what you need to know?

Is there anything you can STOP doing, so that you can focus your efforts on social media channels with the most benefits for your goals?

For small non-profits, you can’t be on all social media channels. But you can identity which ones are best aligned with your audience and goals.

Social Media Resources to help you plan:

Utilities for Your Website:
Make sure your web pages look good when they’re shared!