Please help us understand best practices for creating successful content for platforms like Google AMP News, Apple News, Facebook News, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Hi there! Thanks for asking about best practices for creating successful content across six different online publishing platforms, including an explanation of how each platform's algorithms work and what determines content ranking. The short answer is that the best practices for creating successful content for platforms is implementation of an algorithm which optimizes content, personalizes content for users of all types, provides the most current topics and trends, and engages users with relevant content (e.g., news, friends and colleges, trending topics, etc.) quickly and efficiently.
I have gathered information on Google AMP, Apple News, Facebook News/Trending Topics, Facebook News Feed, Instagram, and Twitter, which specifically looks into what is known about each platform's algorithms and best practices for increasing visibility/reach and/or ranking. A deep dive of my research is presented below.
While the use of Google AMP helps boosts visits from Google mobile search, the implementation of AMP does not affect ranking within the Google algorithm. However, it was recently revealed that while AMP versions of otherwise-existing sites are not used in ranking, for sites which are only published in AMP (i.e. canonical), the AMP pages will be used to determine the quality of the site.
As such, you can look at three different rubrics for optimizing content for Google AMP:
1. Google ranking factors: For the canonical version of your site, whether it uses AMP or not, you'll want to optimize for a variety of factors used in Google's ranking. I'm providing a list of 205 known ranking factors for you, which comes from SEO expert Brian Dean.
2. When using AMP as a separate, supplemental version of your main site, the AMP team recommends that you make your AMP pages as content-rich as those served on your main site. Avoid AMP pages with trimmed-down content.
3. The technical setup of your AMP implementation will influence several factors. As mentioned above, whichever version of your site is set as the canonical version is the one that Google will use for indexing and ranking. There is also a special markup required for content to show up in carousel displays. I've found you a guide for the technical implementation of AMP that will help you incorporate technical best practices into your AMP setup.
Apple News' algorithm personalizes which content is displayed for a user across three different types: 1. trending stories, 2. topics the user has subscribed to within the app, and 3. featured stories from publishers using the Apple News Format. Both Top Stories and Editor's Picks (featured stories) are determined via human curation, not an algorithm. These curated stories tend to be picked from mainstream publishers, such as Bloomberg, the New York Times, and CNN.
Given these findings, the best practices for achieving top-ranked content within Apple News are two-fold:
1. Publish using the Apple News Format, which is a custom JSON format used for optimizing your content across iOS devices. The Apple News Format Reference provides both technical and layout design best practices for optimizing your content for Apple News.
2. Have your content published by a mainstream publisher, and make sure it trends among readers. As noted by VentureBeat, the same article will often fall under both Trending and Top Stories, increasing its visibility within Apple News.
FACEBOOK NEWS/TRENDING TOPICS
Since you listed both Facebook News and Facebook as separate platforms, I interpreted your request for information on "Facebook News" to be about the specific factors involved in the news stories featured as Trending Topics on Facebook.
Facebook's Trending feature is currently run entirely by an algorithm, with human curators only responsible for ensuring that topics are about real-world events and are not duplicates of another topic. The Facebook algorithm surfaces topics "that have recently spiked in popularity on Facebook," according to the company's VP of Global Operations. While little is known about the specifics of the algorithm which governs Trending, Quartz teased out a few crucial elements: timing and shares.
According to Quartz's analysis of Facebook's patents, the Trending algorithm probably takes into account three things: " the timeframe during which those posts were made, and weighted number of mentions, according to the patent" (including hashtagged text, likes, and shares). The Quartz article identifies timing as the most important element amongst the three, explaining that the more mentions a topic receives within a shorter time period, the more likely the topic will be classified as trending.
The Quartz article also identified one factor which negatively impacts a topic's chance of surfacing within Trending. Content that is shared by people who post and share frequently is weighed less by the algorithm, and thus devalued in comparison to content that is shared by less-frequent posters.
Keeping this information in mind, the best practices for optimizing content for surfacing within Trending Topics are:
1. Generate a large number of mentions within a short period of time.
2. Encourage users who do not post or share frequently to share your content.
3. Post content about topics that are already trending.
4. Follow Facebook's best practices for media publishers, which include posting frequently, sharing content in a variety of formats, use calls-to-action, consider social context, tagging other Pages, and adding Like and Share buttons to your sites.
I interpret your request for information on optimizing for the Facebook platform to refer to Facebook's News Feed, as that is the dominant user view.
Facebook's News Feed is governed by a collection of hundreds of algorithms, and there are a dozen different compilations of these algorithms in use around the world at any given time. These algorithms produce relevancy scores for each post that are specific for each user, taking into account hundreds of variables to predict whether a piece of content will be relevant for a given user. Then the algorithms sort all possible posts by relevancy scores to position the one deemed most relevant to a given user at the top of that user's New Feed. One of the most recent tweaks to these algorithms is that content which users spend the most time viewing is boosted in the rankings.
Given the complexity of these algorithms, media publishers should first follow the best practices Facebook itself has set out for them. However, there are a few other things you can do to help boost the reach/visibility of your content:
1. Use Facebook's audience optimization tool, which allows publishers to target posts according to interests, demographics, and geography. Best practices for using the tool include using relevant tags, tagging posts with a combination of broad and narrow terms, tagging for adjacent audiences, include organizations and brands, and using trending memes and hashtags.
2. According to Neil Patel, named by Forbes as a top 10 marketer, these factors will also increase the visibility of your content: be a news publisher, post about big news before that topic reaches Trending, post content which will engage users to spend more time viewing that content, and use live videos more than recorded videos.
Instagram's algorithm is designed to display posts based on seven factors: engagement, relevancy, relationships, timeliness, profile searches, direct shares, and time spent. Here's how the algorithm looks at each factor:
1. Engagement metrics incorporate both likes and comments, with comments weighted more heavily since they take more effort.
2. Relationships of viewers to posters are examined based on how often a user has interacted with the poster's previous posts.
3. Relevancy is a bit more opaque of a factor. Buffer suspects that relevancy is based on genres of content a user has liked and shared in the past.
4. Timeliness here relates to how recently a post was shared.
5. Profile searchers are those accounts a user checks most often.
6. Direct shares indicate which accounts are producing content a user tends to share most.
7. Time spent is a suspected, but not confirmed, factor. Buffer's analysis is that Instagram, like its Facebook parents, is incorporating the amount of time a user spends viewing a post within its algorithm.
Since the Instagram algorithm changes constantly, you might be interested in viewing a list of further guesses at what the algorithm might be using to decide which posts to surface. Based on what is known about the algorithm, there are a couple of approaches to determining best practices for increasing ranking on Instagram:
1. Buffer has a good roundup of 10 ways to increase reach, including posting at optimal viewing times, using videos, hosting contents, curating user content, and posting less.
2. Another approach is to create a pod, wherein users with related accounts group together to like and comment on each other's content in an effort to mimic organic engagement for the algorithm.
Twitter's algorithm changes on a daily or weekly basis and incorporates thousands of factors in its ranking. Just a few of these factors have been confirmed by the company: overall engagement (including retweets, clicks, favorites, and time spent viewing), engagement of a tweet as compared to other tweets by the same user, the recency of publication, how often a user engages with the poster, how much time a user spends reading posts by the poster, and what kind of formats are being used (links, images, videos, etc.) compared to what kinds of formats a user typically engages with. Given the complexity of the algorithm, there are several approaches to best practices for serving up successful content on Twitter:
1. Follow Twitter's own best practices guide, which includes five guidelines for each of three steps of producing content (planning, creating, and publishing).
2. Focus on your business' voice, knowing your audience, and responding to inquiries.
3. Carefully use repeated content, repeating tweets on a monthly or quarterly basis instead of within the same day, and add variety to the posts featuring repeated content.
4. Incorporate live content or broadcast partnerships, which Buffer identified as a top Twitter trend for 2017.
To wrap it up, I have gathered information on the algorithms used for surfacing content across six platforms: Google AMP, Apple News, Facebook News/Trending Topics, Facebook/News Feed, Instagram, and Twitter. For each platform, I have also presented resources surrounding best practices for optimizing content for what is known about these algorithms.
I hope this helps! Thanks for asking Wonder. Please let us know if we can help with anything else!