Understanding the Facebook algorithm

February 19, 2020

If you’re posting on Facebook on behalf of a business, you might be struggling to reach your audience. Even if you’re creating great content, your posts might fall through and end up with almost no impressions. But why is that, you’re asking yourself? And that’s probably also why you ended up finding this post. The answer might be that you need a better understanding of the Facebook algorithm.

Recent changes

Like with most things in this world, the Facebook algorithm is constantly changing. They constantly change the way that content is being selected for the news feed. Many of these changes are to improve Facebook’s business model, but over the last couple of years, they started having another agenda.In January 2018, the head of news feed at Facebook explained some important changes to the Facebook algorithm. They wanted to give their users more meaningful interactions with friends and family. To do this they started showing them the content that they will be most likely to interact with. As explained by Facebook, this would, of course, cut back on other content, since space in the news feed is limited.Another important change for the users happened in April 2019. With the “Why Am I Seeing This?” feature, it became easy for users to see why specific posts ended up in their news feeds. Also, it became much easier to control what posts would be shown in the future directly from each post.In May 2019, they started basing the Facebook algorithm directly on user input. By presenting the users with surveys about their news feeds, they started to collect feedback. This feature was yet another step towards showing relevant content to the users.There are other examples of changes, but all in all the trend goes towards making the news feed as relevant as possible. What does this mean for you? Well, let’s take a look at how the Facebook algorithm works.

How it works

I’ll explain the basics of the Facebook algorithm for organic content here. If you’re interested in learning more, watch this short video explainer from Facebook. You can also listen to this podcast from an interview with Facebook’s head of news feed analytics. Finally, check out what Facebook tells the users about how the news feed works.


First of all, the stories that you will see depend on the inventory of available stories. The inventory consists of all the stories you haven’t seen yet from your friends, pages, and groups. Since you don’t have time to scroll through all these stories, Facebook will prioritize them for you.


When prioritizing the stories in the inventory, Facebook is looking at what they call signals. This includes a lot of data, but here are some of the basics:


Based on these signals, the Facebook algorithm makes predictions about each story. This Includes how likely you will be to comment, like, and so on. Finally, each story gets a relevancy score representing how interested Facebook thinks you are in it.

Relevancy score

Every time you scroll down your news feed, all the available stories are ordered by these scores. This is Facebook’s attempt to show you relevant content, and the more you use it, the more it learns about you.

What about ads?

Between the organical posts, Facebook will place some slots for ads. These ad slots then get filled with relevant ads from the highest bidders, but how that works is another story.

9 tips to rank well

1. Choose the perfect timing

Since recency is an important signal in the Facebook algorithm, it’s important to post when your audience is online. By doing that, your posts will reach their news feeds and get engagement before they die out.

2. Engage people (start discussions)

The most important signals are comments and replies. So, if you want to rank well, you should start interesting conversations. Some companies even make groups for this related to their pages, since it’s much easier to make group content rank well. A good way to engage people can also be to create live events since this often generates a lot of comments.

3. Prefer original content (especially videos)

Original videos and photos are ranking much better than links or content shared from other pages or groups. So upload your videos directly on Facebook instead of linking to your YouTube channel.

4. Avoid clickbait

The Facebook algorithm does not like clickbait, and it is getting increasingly better at identifying it. So don’t get too cryptic with your link texts, and don’t promise something you cannot deliver. Stories getting flagged as clickbait will be demoted.

5. Avoid engagement bait

Don’t beg people for likes or comments. Like clickbait, stories that bait engagement will also get demoted. Instead, you should post interesting content that will inspire people to interact naturally.

6. Encourage your colleagues to share your content

Content shared by regular users ranks way better than content posted by pages. If your colleagues are proud of what they do, you can encourage them to share content from their own accounts. This can be done manually, but there are also great employee advocacy tools out there to make it easier.

7. Target specific segments when posting

Targeting is not only for ads. You can actually target organic page posts towards specific segments in your audience. If some posts are only relevant to some of your followers, this might be a good idea. By doing this, there’s a higher chance that your posts will be shown to these users. Therefore, it will also improve your engagement.

8. Measure your performance

Simple metrics like impressions don’t show business success, but they can help you optimize your content. By knowing what works and what doesn’t, your posts will become better and better over time. Besides simple optimization metrics, consider measuring more interesting KPIs (key performance indicators). For tips on how to get started, check out this blog post.

9. Boost posts that are ranking well

This blog post is not going into details about paid content, but a good tip is to boost stories that are ranking well. If a story is already ranking well organically, it will generally also perform well if you boost it. This means more value for money.

How do we prepare for future changes?

The Facebook algorithm is constantly changing, and it’s definitely important to keep up. One thing is obvious though, it’s trending towards more transparency and more relevant content. So, how do we prepare for future changes? Well, it seems that just being nice and honest will get us a long way. Did you like this blog post, and do you want to see more posts in the future? Then sign up to our newsletter below, or follow us on social media. 

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