Algorithm shakeup: Google, Facebook make changes

Search giant Google and social media platform Facebook have both announced changes to their respective platforms that will impact web and social media marketers.

Google this week rolled out changes to its search algorithm that boost the rankings of mobile-friendly pages on mobile search, so that when users search for content from their smartphone or tablet they’re more likely to find content that is optimized for that form factor, and will lead them to content that is readable without tapping or zooming, with buttons properly spaces, and no unplayable content or horizontal scrolling.

Google notes that these changes only affect search rankings on mobile devices and applies to individual pages, not entire websites. Mobile unfriendly sites will likely see their mobile traffic from Google Search drop significantly, but it will come back up once the site is made more mobile-friendly. Google invites developers to use its Mobile-Friendly Test to see how their site scores.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 2.20.01 AM
Mobile-friendly design like that on the left will be favoured by the new algorithm.


“While the mobile-friendly change is important, we still use a variety of signals to rank search results,” said Google, in a blog. “The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal — so even if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank high if it has great content for the query.”

In a survey of digital marketers by Web presence analytics vendor gShift Labs of Barrie, Ont. released earlier this month, 52 per cent of respondents said they believe their business will be affected by the mobile ranking algorithm change, 20 per cent said the change will not impact their business and 28 per cent were unsure.

Meanwhile, Facebook has announced a trio of changes to its newsfeed designed to make it more directly relevant and interesting to users, recognizing each user is their interests.

The first change will be more noticeable to those users without a lot of content in their feeds. Whereas before, the algorithm avoided showing multiple posts from the same source in a row, that will now be relaxed when people are low on content.

Second, to ensure people don’t miss out on important updates from those they care most about, those updates such as photos, videos, status updates and links will now appear higher up in your newsfeed, based on how often you interact with those people.

Finally, based on feedback that people don’t get much value from items about their friends liking or commenting on a post, those stories will now drop down to lower in the newsfeed.

You’ll need to scroll down further in your feed to find out that Greg liked their kale.


“The impact of these changes on your page’s distribution will vary considerably depending on the composition of your audience and your posting activity,” said Facebook in a blogpost. “In some cases, post reach and referral traffic could potentially decline. Overall, pages should continue to post things that your audience finds meaningful and continue using our Page post best practices.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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