Facebook Uses Time Spent Reading Posts as Ranking Factor

On June 12th, Facebook announced that they would be adding a ranking signal to their News Feed algorithm. In addition to traditional engagement metrics, such as likes, shares and comments, Facebook will now factor in how long a user spent reading a particular piece of content. According to Facebook, liking, commenting or sharing a post doesn’t always reflect what is “most meaningful” to the user.

It’s probably safe to assume to that you want to keep seeing the News Feed stories that you like, comment on or share. But just because you want to see certain stories, doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to engage with them. In order to further improve the user experience, Facebook is adding a new ranking factor that measures how long you spend reading one piece of content in relation to how long you spend reading other content in your News Feed.

The reason that Facebook looks at time spent from a relative perspective is because the total time spent reading content could depend on a variety of factors, such as internet connection and PC speed. Instead, Facebook hones in on the stories that you spend the most time reading and flags these as relevant. This also includes scroll impressions. Meaning if you scroll quickly through your News Feed and stop to read a post, Facebook infers that this type of content is interesting to you and will make an effort to include it higher up in your News Feed going forward.

The fact that Facebook has the ability to connect consumers with brands based on personal interests, online behavior and engagement metrics makes them a huge player in the online world of paid advertising. But now that they’re focusing on user experience signals, I see this as the beginning of their foray into organic content discovery.

Unlike traditional search engines, like Google and Bing, which are based on intent, Facebook has the ability to predict interest, even if it wasn’t explicitly expressed by the user. It’s not a perfect science, but over the years Facebook has made leaps and bounds in their ability to provide more meaningful content in users’ News Feeds. When you consider some of the other recent Facebook developments, such as Lite, Creative Accelerator and Instant Articles, not to mention the rumors about Facebook’s plans for a proprietary search engine that could rival Google, it definitely seems like the social giant has set its sights on organic search.

The most recent algorithm updates aimed to reduce News Feed spam, and now that Facebook is including user experience signals, it’s more important than ever to make sure that your content game is on point. They’re not quite there yet, but I see Facebook playing a much larger role in organic search in the near future.

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