The world’s two digital giants are making significant changes under their bonnets and this may reduce the number of people visiting your company’s website or viewing your Facebook posts. Here’s what you can do about it.
THE CHANGES IN A NUTSHELL
When people look for information about your charity on the web, a mathematical formula known as an algorithm calculates where your website will appear in the results. Will it be at the top of the first page or much further down? Will it only be on the second or third page? The algorithm factors in things like the time people have spent on your website, how speedy it is, and the number of web links on it.
“The Google algorithm has always treated mobile-friendly sites as ‘better’ than traditional ones,” says Marcus Austin, an internet marketing consultant. “But following the changes, it now actively discriminates against sites not designed to be viewed easily on mobiles. So, if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, it is likely to feature lower down the search results.
“Facebook’s algorithmic change put friends’ content at the top of your news feed and pushes anything else – from business pages, to ‘likes’ from more distant friends – to the bottom.”* Ultimately, the change means that users get to see the content that they care about and engage with the most.
WHAT DO THESE CHANGES MEAN FOR YOUR CHARITY?
To remain high in Google’s search rankings you must ensure that your website displays clearly on mobile devices. For charities with older sites, making your site mobile-friendly may take time and money, but in the long term both will be well spent.
The Facebook changes mean that your business’s free (known as ‘organic’) traffic will either appear lower down in users’ newsfeeds (if a user has ‘liked’ your page) or disappear completely (if a user’s friend has ‘liked’ your page). “In the past, if a friend of yours liked a product or brand, for example, it would appear in your Facebook newsfeed, which is why many of the adverts say: ‘Please like us on Facebook’,” says Austin. “For brands, getting someone to ‘like’ their page was a cheap way of getting lots of eyeballs without paying Facebook to advertise. But not any longer.”
However, organic content will not disappear from a users’ feed if a charity produces interesting content that users engage with.**
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO ADAPT TO THESE CHANGES?
Google has a tool that can help you work out if your site is mobile friendly. Start by typing or pasting your URL into www.google.co.uk/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/
If you get a thumbs down, you have three options:
- Change to a responsive design, which is a single website that changes its layout as the window size alters (Google’s recommended option)
- Develop a dynamically served website (that means different devices will receive a different version)
- Create an alternate mobile page (you send users to a dedicated URL if they are on a mobile)
WHAT ABOUT THE LONG GAME?
The best way to future-proof against Google changes is to think of the end user first. Will what you’re doing to your website make it more complicated to see on certain devices, or take longer to download, and will they need to download a browser add-on to see it? If you have to answer yes to any of these questions then don’t do it.
When considering Facebook, remember that the site is increasingly looking to make money out of its services, and that includes charging businesses and charities to advertise. So if you’re happy to do that, you need to ensure you’ve really thought through what you want to say in your paid-for ads or promoted posts, and who you want to reach, because you’ll be paying for them.