Does your small business need to worry about Facebook’s algorithm changes?

6 min read
Will Stevens

Recently, Facebook announced changes that would make businesses and media organisations less visible in people's news feeds.

Some claimed the changes would have a huge impact on businesses that relied on traffic from Facebook to generate sales. So should you worry about the change Facebook has made and the impact the decision might have on your business? Let's find out.

Consider the metrics

The first thing to do in this situation is to try and identify any direct impact Facebook's change has had on your website. The best way to do this is using Google Analytics. Unfortunately, if you don't already have Google Analytics installed, you won't be able to follow this step (just make sure you get it installed on your website ASAP, so you can started gathering useful data.)

If you already have it installed, then you can quickly see if Facebook's changes have led to a drop in traffic by navigating Behaviour>Site Content> All Pages, adding a secondary dimension of source/medium and then adding an advanced filter of include source/medium containing Facebook. (NB: This method may not work if you have been using custom tracking tags when posting content to Facebook, then adjust your filter accordingly.

Once you've done that, it's a simple case of adjusting the date range so it fits around the period of the change Facebook made, and then setting a comparison to see what changes have occurred. It's probably going to be useful to compare the week before the changes to the week after, as well as comparing the week of the changes to the same week from last year. And of course, you can compare the weeks/months after Facebook's changes to the same week/month of last year to track the longer term effect.

At the very least, you'll be able to see if there has been a fall in traffic sent to your site via Facebook, and if you have conversions set up, you'll also be able to see if there has been a fall in sales generate via Facebook.

However - it's also important to remember that factors other than Facebook's algorithm change may be at play here. For example, if you ran Facebook advertising campaigns a year or so ago and then stopped them, that would be reflected as a drop in Facebook traffic. And if you've spent the last 12 months investing heavily in Facebook, you may see a rise in traffic from Facebook year-on-year. So make sure you pay close attention to the period when Facebook made its change - if views from Facebook were falling anyway, you may see the decline steepen, and if they were increasing, then that increase may flatten out.

Once you're happy that you understand what effect the change has had on your site's traffic, you can start to address the issue. That said, the tips we're about to look at are good general advice even if your Facebook traffic hasn't declined noticeably.

A website is always better than a Facebook page

Facebook pages are easy to set up and allow you to get traffic from one of the biggest websites in the world. So what's not to love?

Well, if you build your business using a Facebook page alone, then your success is entirely reliant on any changes Facebook makes. For example, reducing the amount of people who see your Facebook page could damage your business. But that's not the only thing that could go wrong. Facebook can make any change it wants to the way it handles pages at any time it wants. That means a thriving, successful business based on a Facebook page alone could vanish overnight and you wouldn't be able to do anything about.

Facebook pages are a useful addition to your marketing toolkit, but they can never replace a website over which you have full control.

If you don't already have a website then GoDaddy's Website Builder is a quick and easy way to get started. You can even import information from your Facebook page to help you get started.

Never rely on just one marketing channel

Even if you do already have a website, it's important that you don't rely too heavily on one channel to promote it. Why? Well, for the same reasons you shouldn't run  a business on Facebook alone - if you're relying on just one marketing channel, and that channel is controlled by someone else, then there's a risk that channel will dry up through no fault of your own.

So make sure that all your customers aren't coming through Facebook (or another platform, such Google's search results.) Instead, aim for a balanced approach so that if something does go wrong with one of your marketing channels, you don't take too big a hit.

It's also a very good idea to build up an email marketing list - that way, you have a method of contacting existing customers/people who have previously visited your website and provided an email address, without waiting for them to navigate to your site again.

Email marketing is an excellent way to secure your business against the fluctuations that can be caused by marketing through third-party platforms such as Facebook and Google.

You can learn more about getting started with email marketing in this guide, and you can also sign up for email marketing from GoDaddy when you're ready to start using the technique.

Facebook adverts still work

Facebook's algorithm changes may have made it harder for businesses to reach potential customers organically, but you still have the opportunity to reach potential customers through Facebook advertising.

There are some really great targeting options available through Facebook ads, so if you know exactly what kind of person you're trying to reach, then it's possible to really pinpoint your ads.

Of course, you'll need to make sure you're getting value for money from Facebook ads, but it's reasonably straightforward to monitor how your ads perform.

Check out this guide to get started with Facebook advertising.

Summing up

Facebook will undoubtedly make other changes in the future. They might be bad for businesses, or they might be good for businesses.

However, you need to make sure you take steps to ensure that your business will thrive no matter what Mark Zuckerberg decides.