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Facebook Data Debacle Drives Marketers to SEO

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Facebook’s Data Debacle Drive Digital Marketers to SEO

Before Facebook was a dominate force on the internet, there was the Google Search.  Not to say that today, people do not use Google to search for information anymore, but Facebook has taken a large bite out of Google’s dominance in the past few years.

Since the massive data leak involving Cambridge Analytica, many Digital Marketers have been diverting their clients marketing spend back to Search Engine Optimization.

Not only is the push back to organic search a positive thing for SEO Agencies, but a good thing for the way people take in information on the web.  Let me explain…

Changes in How People See Content on the Web

The move back to SEO is a much welcomed change for many of us. The difference between running a targeted ad in front of someone vs being in the results for a users search request is a major shift in how people access information online.  That seemly subtle but critical change in how people consume information on the web has changed our society. 

Who Has Control of What You See?

When you start your internet experience at the doorstep of a search engine, YOU, the consumer, are in control of the content you encounter.  You type something in and Google provides you a variety of results to choose from.

When you start your day on Facebook, you are immediately being targeted by digital marketers who are fighting to get traffic.  These ads don’t necessarily look like a traditional advertising, but come in the shape of Click Bait.

Clickbait headlines typically aim to exploit the “curiosity gap”, providing just enough information to make readers of news websites curious, but not enough to satisfy their curiosity without clicking through to the linked content.

What we have evolved to in the fight for web traffic, is more aggressive Click Bait style ads.  Digital Marketing Agencies are using thousands of data points to have their ads placed in front of people who are more likely to click on it.  This has fundamentally changed the way we consume information on the internet.  

There is a perpetual process of having similar opinionated information pushed in front of users which creates a myopic view of the world.

Hyper-Targeted Facebook Ads get Abused

Personal data is getting abused
People’s personal data have been abused by Facebook

In early 2018, concerning information arose about Cambridge Analytica. This data mining firm scandal actually dates back to 2015, but the public has just recently become aware of the many problems with Facebook and data mining.

In the months since the scandal broke, many things have already changed on the web. More and more marketers are moving away from Facebook and returning to SEO marketing tactics instead.

The Facebook Data Debacle

By now, almost everyone has heard something about the Cambridge Analytica scandal. However, there is a lot of misinformation and confusion still flying around, so most people just know that it is some sort of vague issue with a company using people’s Facebook information to sway elections.

Essentially, the issue was that a political data firm used unethically obtained data to target users. The company could look at the interests of a user and the user’s friends, and then it could create targeted content designed to sway people’s political leanings.

Facebook’s Response to the Cambridge Analytica Scandal

The first thing Facebook did after the scandal broke was suspend Cambridge Analytica and Russian-American Aleksandr Kogan, the creator of the app that was harvesting data. The company is now taking steps to ensure that this issue does not happen again.

They claim they are attempting to restrict apps’ ability to access user data, and they are trying to make privacy settings clearer and more centralized. Facebook also plans to disclose more information on who pays for the ads that users see.

Privacy Changes Affect Facebook’s Targeting Options

Though most people have been paying attention to the changes in privacy settings on Facebook, the most influential change following the Cambridge Analytica scandal is actually the reduction in Facebook’s targeted advertising. Facebook previously had a program that gathered data about a user’s activities with Facebook, and they would let marketers pay to access this information. Facebook now says they are going to close this program within the next six months.

At DEAN Knows, where we focus on real estate digital marketing, we noticed that one of most successful real estate seller lead generation tools (which focused on Facebook hyper-targeting) has been dying on the vine.

Facebook Faces Criticism

The scandal has not just affected the way Facebook runs things. Until the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, most people saw Facebook as a relatively harmless way of socializing with friends and sharing content. However, the realization that Facebook data is so carefully monitored and curated has many people rethinking their Facebook usage.

Many users reported that they had lost trust in Facebook. Following the scandal, there was a surge of users logging in to Facebook to change their privacy settings and make it harder for advertisers to target them. Many users have taken advantage of new features that let them remove old data and reduce the number of things that are shared with them.

Digital Marketers Rethink Their Strategies

The changes and unrest in Facebook have been causing many companies to rethink their digital marketing techniques and strategies. Since it will now be much harder to target consumers with advertisements, companies no longer have the guarantee of user interest in their Facebook advertisements. (continued below)

Facebook faces repercussions from digital marketers on data breach
Facebook faces repercussions from digital marketers on data breach

There is also some concern that reduced user trust in things they see on Facebook means that customers are less willing to believe and engage with the advertisements they see on Facebook. The inability to directly access profile data for users and craft ads that appeal to certain demographics is making many companies return to an older form of advertising.

Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of driving views through search engine engagement, predominately on Google (the worlds largest search engine).  

However, many advertisers are starting to realize (or remembering) that SEO can actually be a powerful way of gaining interest. Companies have the ability to craft articles that target specific searches, so they still have the option of focusing on certain user demographics.  Most current SEO advertising relies on Google, since their reach is powerful. 

Here are just a handful of products owned by Alphabet/Google:

  • Android – the worlds largest smartphone operating system
  • YouTube – the worlds most popular video repository and 3rd largest search engine on the planet
  • Google Maps – can you get anywere without them?
  • Google Chrome – statistically speaking, you are reading this on Google Chrome right now
  • Gmail & G suite — whether free or for business, Google dominates email
  • Google Drive – everyone’s first experience with cloud storage
  • Nest – yep, they own the smart thermostat company too
  • Chromecast – how do YOU stream to your TV?
  • Google News – the largest aggregator of news in the world
  • Blogger – older, but wildly popular blogging platform
  • reCAPTCHA – yep, almost every web form in the world uses it
  • Google Earth – still an overwhelming achievement in technology
  • Waze – for the people who don’t use Google Maps, just for good measure

…and that is just getting started.

A Welcomed Shift in the Use of the Internet

This shift from Facebook back to Search Engine Optimization may be better for both content creators and consumers. Advertisers on Facebook needed to rely on making an emotional connection with their readers to pull them away from seeing what their friends ate for lunch. This led to many click bait titles, lengthy articles filled with little information, stilted attempts at identifying with readers and exaggerated claims.

As marketers begin to switch back to SEO, they are finding that since they abandoned SEO for Facebook, the Google Algorithm has changed substantially.  They no longer need to pad content with keywords and acquire spammy back-links. This style of writing for ranking purposes has died a couple years ago. 

Today, ranking on Google requires a holistic approach; ultimately providing the consumer with EXACTLY what they are looking for…which, in my humble opinion, is a better way for people to experience the internet and may even save humanity.