Beyond Rankings: Optimizing for Engagement





Blog Date

June 6, 2024


UK, Manchester

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Table of Contents

Beyond Rankings: Optimizing for Engagement

Ranking is Overrated

Remember the good old days when search engine optimization (SEO) was all about chasing those coveted top rankings? You’d meticulously research keywords, stuff them into your content, and cross your fingers, hoping to land that prized #1 spot. Well, buckle up, folks, because those days are long gone. In today’s ever-evolving digital landscape, ranking is just the tip of the iceberg.

As Andrew from Surge AI puts it, “Engagement isn’t necessarily a positive sign! The most engaging content is often the most toxic.” You see, the classic metrics we’ve been chasing – clicks, likes, shares – they’re not always indicative of true user satisfaction. In fact, they can often lead us down a dark path of clickbait and misinformation.

Imagine a world where your social media feed wasn’t just a never-ending scroll of engagement-driven content, but one that actually brought you closer to your friends and family. Andrew envisions a future where “each social media feed has a principled product objective that it’s optimizing for rather than blindly showing you the type of content you happen to click on the most.” Sounds pretty refreshing, doesn’t it?

Engagement Traps and Human Evaluation

The problem with engagement-based metrics is that they often reward the wrong kind of behavior. When Facebook optimized for “Meaningful Social Interactions” (MSI), it ended up boosting low-quality, toxic content because, well, people love to engage with that kind of stuff. As Andrew puts it, “If your uncle shares a clickbait video that you hate, you’re compelled to leave an angry comment, which compels him to insult you back in turn. And since those (angry) comments increase MSI, the News Feed algorithm learns to show you even more.”

So, how do we break free from these engagement traps? The answer lies in a concept that’s been quietly revolutionizing the world of search engines: human evaluation.

Just as search engines like Google and Bing use human raters to evaluate the relevance of search results, we can apply a similar approach to social media platforms. Imagine if Facebook asked a panel of trained raters to evaluate posts based on how much they made users feel closer to their friends and family. Suddenly, the algorithm would be optimizing for something far more meaningful than mere engagement.

Measuring What Matters

Implementing a human evaluation-based approach to ranking isn’t as difficult as it might sound. Andrew walks us through a step-by-step process:

  1. Define a clear product principle that the platform wants to optimize for. For example: “Bringing friends and family closer together.”
  2. Recruit a panel of human raters and have them evaluate a sample of posts based on how well they align with that principle, using a 1-5 scale.
  3. Aggregate the ratings and use them as a metric to compare different ranking algorithms or content recommendations.

It’s a simple yet powerful concept. By focusing on what truly matters to users, we can create social media experiences that are not only engaging but also genuinely beneficial. And the best part? We can apply this approach to all kinds of digital platforms, from e-commerce websites to news aggregators.

The Future of Optimization

Imagine a world where your favorite social media platform doesn’t just show you the most clickable content, but the posts that make you feel more connected to your loved ones. Or an e-commerce site that doesn’t just optimize for conversion rates, but for delivering a truly delightful shopping experience. That’s the future we’re working towards, and it all starts with rethinking our approach to optimization.

At MCR SEO, we’re excited to be at the forefront of this paradigm shift. We believe that by focusing on user-centric metrics, we can create digital experiences that not only drive traffic and conversions but also foster genuine engagement and lasting relationships. So, let’s ditch the old-school SEO tricks and embrace a new era of optimization – one that puts people first, not just numbers.

Human-centric optimization might sound like a lofty goal, but the data is on our side. As ImageKit’s blog points out, optimizing for user experience can have a ripple effect, leading to better engagement, higher conversions, and even improved search rankings. It’s a win-win-win situation, and we’re here to help you navigate this exciting new frontier.

So, are you ready to move beyond the rankings and start optimizing for what really matters? Let’s dive in and create digital experiences that bring people together, one pixel at a time.

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