Is your content at risk for falling prey to Facebook’s News Feed changes and hurting your newsfeed distribution?

This week, Facebook released another update in their ongoing battle against financially-motivated spammers. Users have actively complained about non-authentic stories and “fake news” being scattered throughout their news feeds. In response, Facebook crews are diligently working to reduce the distribution of this content.

Facebook states that these updates should have little effect on quality publishers. Keyword: should.

What’s a well-intentioned content publisher to do in order to avoid setting off any “clickbait” alarms over at Facebook?

Here’s a list of Facebook’s key criteria for defining a low-quality website, and how you can maintain the integrity of your site and spread of your content across News Feeds:

  • Facebook Criteria for Low Quality Websites #1: Websites that provide a lack of substantive content and an abundance of ads
  • Solution for Publishers: Follow the ‘80/20 Rule’ for a healthy amount of interest-based content vs. promotional material.

Yes, you should be using your website to promote your brand. But reducing the amount of promotional content to 20% will make your efforts more effective amongst your readers – and it will help your promotional content fly under Facebook’s radar.

The other 80% should be interest-based or educational in nature. Readers enjoy content that is entertaining and/or teaches them about a topic they’re interested in. They’re also more likely to engage and share this type of content. As Facebook strives to be a top distributor, they’ll continue to tailor algorithm updates to reward content that their users like.

To be in Facebook’s good books, make sure the majority of your website’s content has a genuine intent on providing value to your readers.

  • Facebook Criteria for Low Quality Websites #2: Websites that use sensational headlines
  • Solution for Publishers: Avoid headlines that purposely withhold information that describes the full nature of your content

Yes, I know. This one can be a bit tricky to understand. If you give away too much in the headline, how do you entice reader’s to click?

Writing headlines that are Facebook friendly require finding a sweet spot between enticing curiosity and exploiting curiosity.

Here’s a few examples that exploit a reader’s curiosity (and make Facebook angry):

  • You’ll NEVER Believe who Admitted to Kissing this Former Child-Star
  • This is Why Mom’s Everywhere are REFUSING to Listen to their Doctors
  • You’ll Be SHOCKED You Let Your Kids Eat this After Finding Out What’s REALLY in it

Will these headlines attract clicks? Most likely. Problem is, none of them describe the true nature of the article’s content. We’re forcing the reader to click to find out – and Facebook doesn’t like that.

Instead, focus on enticing readers without forcing their hand:

  • 5 Popular Actresses Who Admit They’ve Kissed Macaulay Culkin
  • Doctor tells a Mother She Needs to Lose Weight: Here’s Why She Won’t Listen
  • Nutritionist Exposes the Real Reason You Don’t Want Your Kids Eating Ketchup

These headlines give your readers a few crumbs to provide a taste of the article’s content. They tempt the audience, while still allowing them to make an informed decision about whether they want to read on. Finding this balance when writing article headlines is key to maintaining a high distribution of your content.

  • Facebook Criteria for Low Quality Websites #3: Websites that use misleading headlines that do not match what the person would think they’re going to when they click the link
  • Solution for Publishers: Don’t use headlines that mislead the reader’s expectations

Similar to rules about withholding information, Facebook also penalizes articles using headlines that actively mislead their readers.

So for example… “Mom with Newborn Gets 6-Pack Abs after Eating this Superfood”

Yes, it gives the reader a substantial amount of information. But, it’s incredibly misleading. The headline gives the impression that this “magical” superfood is the sole reason for this woman’s 6-pack. And while most of us would love for this to be true, we know the unfortunate truth. 6-pack abs require a lot more work than eating a cup of kale every day.

Instead, this headline would be more appropriately written as “Here’s Why this New Mom Says Kale Helped Her Lose Weight Post-Baby.”

This headline is informative, while still leaving a teeny bit out to entice curiosity.

But more importantly, it gives a truthful representation of what to expect inside the article.

In addition to the criteria listed above,

Facebook is also looking to penalize websites that use disruptive ads (ie. pop-ups); contain disturbing (ie. shocking violence) or offensive (ie. overtly sexual) content; prohibited content (see list of prohibited content here); and contain non-functional landing pages.


Facebook’s continued efforts to diminish the spread of false and low-quality content is, all in all, a great thing. It cuts down on the amount of useless noise that’s distracting readers from quality content. It also entices users to spend more time on the network as they continue to see more and more content that they find valuable.

By following the above suggestions, you’ll be able to steer clear of the war path and avoid being classified as a “financially-driven spammer” in the eyes of Facebook.

Written by Kayla McDonald
Kayla McDonald is a social media strategist with 5+ years of experience in consumer psychology, content creation and online marketing.