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Algorithms from Facebook, Twitter, and Google have a disproportionate impact on publishers and large corporations alike, how do you protect your company against the impact of an algo gone rogue?

Recently, LittleThings – an online publisher focused on inspirational content targeted at women – announced that Facebook’s latest algorithm shift was going to be fatal for them.  While Facebook has been making changes to its newsfeed algorithm consistently over the last few years, no one was prepared for the dramatic consequences of the early-January change.

No previous algorithm update ever came close to this level of decimation.

 – Joe Speiser

The reality is that as a platform, Facebook wields more power than it ideally should.  Also, can you really blame Facebook for it?  It has to run its own business and you have to run yours.  Eventually, the company is going to do right by its own users.

Assuming you have been sufficiently spooked by the impact of this algo change, what are some steps you should start on immediately?  Here are five things you must do:

1. Drive your own sign ups.

Build your email database, your phone database, your WeChat database, provide the right incentives to get users to share their details with you. When you own the data, you own the customer.  Make it extremely easy for the user to sign up.  Provide discount coupons or free content to encourage signups.  Use Facebook itself to drive more signups while you still can.

Create your own repository of users who trust you and are valuable to you.  Of course, there are many risks of overusing email for outreaches, but you can solve that problem when you have a lot of emails to worry about.  More on that in a future post!

2. Drive app adoption.

Users are more likely to sign up and share their email after they’ve downloaded your app.  It is simply easier to tap a button and give access to their gmail accounts than to fill out a lengthy form to register on the web.  Whether you are a content publisher, an e-commerce store, or a SaaS platform, the amount of consumer-behavior data that apps provide will enable you to determine the right persona of users you should be targeting.  Their in-app behavior will also provide you with enough ammo to drive your content, product, and sales strategies.

3. Build the right content strategy, not simply an SEO strategy.

It may not be a popular opinion, but letting SEO algorithms determine your content strategy is like a puppy trying to catch its tail – it likely will chase its tail for a long time and, if it succeeds, it won’t be able to hold on for long.  Let your business strategy and customer base determine your content strategy instead.

An SEO strategy – even a good one – is not sustainable in the long term because any self-respecting search engine will keep updating their algorithms to serve the user better.  And Google, with 96% of search volume, is extremely self-respecting.

Your users should come to you because they want to read a certain kind of content or buy a certain kind of product.  Across Nov 2017-Jan 2018, while was experiencing a downward correction in traffic, continued to grow marginally.  Does TC have a more loyal user base?  Does TC not use social channels to get traffic on to its website?

4. Serve your existing audience well.

Spend a lot of time on understanding your user base, especially the base that has signed up to read your content or buy from you. Segment your customer base into different persona – the college kid that buys gizmos, the housewife that searches for recipes, or the Uber driver who reads bite-sized news while waiting for the next ride.

It costs five times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one.

– Ipsos Research

Give your audience what they want to see often enough and you will see them returning to your web or app more often.  A fair warning – don’t overdo the outreaches and notifications because once the user is pissed enough to uninstall your app (or mark your email as spam), it is near impossible to get her back.

5. Segment. Segment. Segment.

The only way you can achieve any of the points above is by understanding the persona of valued users of your website: users that spend a lot of time reading articles, users that purchase high-value products, or users that continuously interact with your forums.  Use segmentation tools like Metrilo, Hubspot, or  If your website has been up for at least a year, you could also run some customer cohort analysis to determine which groups provide you with more payback, and which groups you’re losing consistently.

Once you determine your target segment that provides the right payback, focus your energies on getting similar users on to your website.  Outside of algo-pain, Facebook provides you an option showcase your promotions to audiences similar to those that you value highly.  Create ad audiences that represent your high-value customers and spend some money to get similar customers on to your website.

Need to prepare your marketing team for marketing beyond the algo?

Reach out to us using the form at the end of this page and we will schedule a time to understand your priorities.  Also, don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter!


Product and Marketing guy. Ex-founder of $10m re-commerce company, with extensive experience in B2B and B2C product design, revenue management, and sleepless nights.

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