Facebook Updates Algorithm: Cracks Down on Caption Links and Click-Baiting


Proving that the people at Facebook do actually work and don’t just spend their day sitting on, well, Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg’s team updated their status with an algorithm update yesterday (August 25th) that represents a major change in the way brands will use Facebook. Here’s what happened and why it matters.

Algorithm Update 1: Facebook will give priority to link posts over image posts with links in the caption.

When it comes time to share your business’s brilliance (or clever kitten meme) with your Facebook fans, you’ve got a couple of different options. You can

  1. Post the link directly to Facebook (which displays a preview of the linked page), or
  2. Include the link in the caption of an image post.

Here are some examples of how these look on Facebook:

Link Post

Image Post with Link in the Caption


This update is significant, because a lot of the advice you’ll find on the Internet says that image posts are better than link posts. Until recently (and by recently I mean yesterday), most Facebook experts recommended posting images with links in the captions – and for good reason. Images occupy more physical space on the timeline and easily draw someone’s eye. Studies routinely found more likes and more comments on image posts.

But yesterday, Facebook forced a change in that thinking. A post from Facebook’s Newsroom said this:

“We’ve found that people often prefer to click on links that are displayed in the link format (which appears when you paste a link while drafting a post), rather than links that are buried in photo captions. The link format shows some additional information associated with the link, such as the beginning of the article, which makes it easier for someone to decide if they want to click through. This format also makes it easier for someone to click through on mobile devices, which have a smaller screen.”

What Does It All Mean?!?!

This is an important change to be aware of. Conventional wisdom has taught brands to favor image posts over link posts, but now it seems that will be reversed. While it doesn’t mean that you should never post an image and include a link, it does mean that you should use linked posts when trying to drive traffic.

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Algorithm Update 2: Facebook will punish brands for click-baiting.

So what is click-baiting? I’m glad you asked – mostly because Facebook just defined it so I don’t even have to think. Click-baiting is “when a publisher posts a link with a headline that encourages people to click to see more, without telling them much information about what they will see.” They offered this example:


Posts like this tend to see a lot of clicks, increasing the likelihood they will be shown in the News Feed – replacing the posts of friends and others that people really care about.

Facebook will measure a post’s “click-bateyness” by looking at 2 things: the amount of time spent off Facebook after clicking the link and the amount of social action surrounding a post. If Facebook deems a brand to be click-baiting by these standards (i.e., a lot of clicks but a short time off site and/or a lot of clicks but few likes, shares or comments), their content will be less likely to be shown.

What Does It All Mean?!?!

Let’s face it, click-baiting just makes sense, even if it is annoying. Sure, I’d love to get all the brand spam off my Facebook Timeline, but then how would I ever know which Kardashian I’m most like (it’s Khloe)? And this update should help in both areas. If you’re posting good content that people are reading or discussing, then you should be fine. Like most everything else on Facebook, engagement is a key component.

More about this: Facebook Cheat Sheet — Image Dimension Quick Reference for 2014

And for those who don’t offer anything people are interested in, trouble is on the horizon. Facebook said, “A small set of publishers who are frequently posting links with click-bait headlines that many people don’t spend time reading after they click through may see their distribution decrease in the next few months.”

Do you “like” this algorithm update?

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Harry Kierbow

Harry Kierbow is the Director of Social Media for Commissions Inc (CINC), a real estate technology and marketing company. He's played professionally on Facebook (and other social networks) for more than 7 years now, managing campaigns for brands (both big and small) and individuals (also both big and small). Universally regarded as the greatest ice hockey goalie to ever come from Griffin, GA (by his mom at least), you can find Harry between the pipes on the ice rinks of Georgia (yes, there is more than one) or playing with his 2 kids when he's not perfecting social media ads or binging true crime documentaries on Netflix. Connect with Harry on LinkedIn @HarryKierbow.