In the best of times, social media and search algorithms can be your best friend. They can help steer legions of qualified buyers toward your content and help you cultivate meaningful, potentially-lucrative connections. These surges in organic traffic can fill your pipeline and increase your marketing ROI.
But don’t get too comfortable because the gravy train can and will disappear without notice.
It happens all the time. Earlier this year, Instagram’s latest algorithm change tanked thousands of long-time influencers' and brands' engagement overnight, leading to a public outcry. Facebook, LinkedIn, Medium and nearly every other social media network, publishing platform and search engine on the planet have done the same, earning ire from large swaths of their user bases.
Of course, an algorithm change is nothing personal, but it is frustrating — especially when you’re left scrambling to shift your strategy and prevent a hit to your revenue. Fortunately, there are a few proven best practices you can (and should) follow in the wake of a big algorithm update to rebuild engagement and reclaim your traffic.
When you feel yourself speeding toward a brick wall, your first instinct might be to yank the steering wheel far in the other direction. But overcorrecting can be just as deadly. No matter the case, rash decisions often do more harm than good. For example, you might be tempted to halt all social activity or organic content creation and pour every last bit of time and energy into more surefire efforts, like paid search. But pivoting too quickly could hurt long-term outcomes.
First, take a breath. Yes, it sucks to lose your hard-won engagement, but it’s unlikely it’s gone for good. Plus, it often takes time for things to level out after an algorithm update. Wait for the dust to settle before you do anything drastic.
When you take a beat to think rationally and carefully weigh the impact, you’ll be in a more strategic headspace and better prepared to face the change head-on.
Now is also a great time to take a step back and re-examine how you're allocating your budget. Focusing most of your marketing spend on one platform (that you can't control) is a dangerous strategy, but it’s a trap many of us fall into.
For example, suppose you begin to see a steady flow of traffic from LinkedIn. Conventional wisdom would say to keep feeding the beast, so you choose to spend more time creating content for this platform and spend less energy in spaces that aren’t generating as much return.
Week after week, you’re rewarded with exponentially growing engagement until, one day, you log in to discover your engagement has plummeted. And because you didn’t share the love equally across other platforms, you’re in an even deeper hole.
While it’s not uncommon to spend more resources on one platform than another, make sure you’re not betting everything on a platform that could change its algorithm and instantly halt your traffic.
In marketing, as in life, when things start to feel chaotic, it’s best to focus on what you can control. In this case, that means refocusing your energy on your owned content.
If you've scaled back on things like blogging, email marketing or video content hosted on your site, now is a great time to revisit those practices because these are things no one can take from you.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Delve into your existing content library and identify opportunities. For example, do you have any old high-performing pieces you could dust off, freshen up and republish? Topics you’ve covered that you could tackle from another direction? Or webinars you could repurpose as a downloadable guide (or vice versa?)
A thorough content audit can help you unearth gems worth revisiting.
Take some time to evaluate your email marketing program and look for areas that need extra attention. For example, it might be time to clean up your email database, optimize your design or punch up your templates. You might even be inspired to create a new campaign or automated workflow.
Whenever you and your team put together a major content asset, you inevitably slice out a few things. For example, you might have additional footage from a recent video series or a few data points you couldn’t fit into your last big report. Now is a great time to turn those leftovers into something new — without having to create anything from scratch.
Genuine relationships are platform-agnostic. And once you’ve cultivated real connections with prospects and customers, no algorithm update can destroy them.
Look for ways to deepen existing relationships and generate new connections, like hosting a webinar series, increasing your participation in an industry event, or interviewing customers and publishing a series of success stories. Use social media platforms to help promote these initiatives, but strive to move conversations beyond earned and paid spaces (and into your email database) as quickly as possible.
When an algorithm update threatens your engagement, it can be tempting to ‘crack the code’ and look for ways to game the system. But, while this route may provide temporary gains, it will inevitably crash. So long as your strategy revolves around being human (with some strategic expertise, of course), engagement will follow.
Remember: there's a reason behind every algorithm change. Sometimes platforms and search engines will be forthcoming with their decision; other times, they’ll leave you to figure it out on your own. Regardless, there’s almost always something you can work on.
For example, Google's goal is to serve the most relevant and high-quality result for a query, so if your organic search traffic has taken a hit, perhaps it's time to focus on creating more human-centric content and updating high-ranking pieces.
Likewise, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media networks want to keep people hooked on their apps for as long as possible. If your engagement on one of these platforms has dropped, it could be a cue to stop directing users away from the app and keep them captivated with content on your company’s page or profile.
An unexpected algorithm update can feel like the end of the world — especially when it disrupts your No. 1 source of traffic. But in following these best practices, you can cushion the blow and keep your pipeline healthy.