How to Optimize Your Content for Social Sharing with Meta Tags
Editor's note: this post was updated on March 25, 2014 to reflect recent changes to how Google+ displays shared links.
When you think of optimization, you might think mobile or SEO, but did you know you can optimize your content for sharing on social networks? In this tutorial you will learn how to optimize your web content for sharing on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+ using Open Graph Protocol, Microdata, and Twitter Cards markup.
What Is Meta Data and Where Does It Live?
Meta data lives inside the <head> tags of a page and tells search engines what the page is about. SEOs optimize this information to include important keywords within Google’s respective 70 and 156-character limits for the title and description. New markup tags allow you to leverage the unique display options of major social networks.
If you’re using a website content management system to publish your blogs or articles, it’s not always clear where the meta data should go. A web content management platform built for content marketing should allow content contributors to easily add code snippets to the head of each page or template without disturbing other content. Check your CMS for a dedicated code insertion point for adding content to the head, and for dedicated SEO meta title and description fields.
Optimize Content for Sharing on Facebook and LinkedIn with Open Graph
Facebook’s Open Graph protocol allows the newsfeed to intelligently display user updates. For example, it can now tell you that your best friend just listened to a song on Spotify or watched a YouTube video, which is more informative than a “like.”
Open Graph markup will also dictate how your content will display when shared on LinkedIn.
Open Graph tags declare what headline and description to display, and which image to feature. Although the standard 156-character description will work just fine, Open Graph clips headlines after only 65 characters, so include a shorter version.
<meta property="og:type" content="Article" />
<meta property="og:title" content="A title of no more than 65 characters" />
<meta property="og:description" content="You can use a 156-character description here.”/>
<meta property="og:url" content="URL of the article or page you are sharing" />
<meta property="og:image" content="URL of the image you’d like to feature" />
<meta property="og:site_name" content="Percussion Software" />
Optimize Content for Sharing on Twitter Using Twitter Cards
Twitter Cards markup makes content previews available, and associates links with the creator’s website and Twitter account. When you see a link on Twitter with a View Summary button below the tweet, you can click View Summary to reveal the card information.
Currently, Twitter offers six different card types: a basic summary card, a summary card with a featured large image, a product card, an app card, a photo card, and a video player card. All of these can be created and tested using Twitter’s cards validator.
Twitter Cards offer the most flexibility for displaying different types of content. While your headline is still limited to 65 characters, you get up to 200 characters for the description. This allows you to further target your message for Twitter readers, add a call to action, or include more details.
<meta name="twitter:card" content="card_type">
<meta name="twitter:site" content="@CompanyName">
<meta name="twitter:title" content="Your 65-Character headline">
<meta name="twitter:description" content="Your 200-character description.”>
<meta name="twitter:creator" content="@AuthorHandle">
<meta name="twitter:image:src" content="image URL">
Getting an image to show up on Twitter also doesn’t require using a Twitter card. Images uploaded to Twitter now display inline by default, with image tweets generating higher engagement and conversions. You can include your article in the tweet instead of the card, or you can include a second image with your summary.
Optimize Content for Sharing on Google+ and Improved SEO with Microdata and Google Authorship
Your SEO strategy, your social media strategy, and your content marketing strategy need to include Google+. Google+ has over a half billion users, and more importantly, is hard wired into Google.
Using microdata markup helps Google’s Knowledge Graph present your content more richly in search results, while improving your SEO because microdata is a standard developed and accepted by the largest search engines.
To use microdatgoogle a with an article or blog post, use the following declaration within your HTML tag:
<html itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article">
The other markup can reside within the body of your page, but if that code is not easily accessible in your WCM system, you can include it alongside other meta tags.
<meta itemprop="name" content="Your 200-character headline">
<meta itemprop="description" content="Your 156-character description.">
<meta itemprop="image" content="Featured image URL">
Your summary will not display on Google+, however, but Your summary will now display along with a larger thumbnail, and you can include a much longer and more descriptive headline than on other networks. At this time, your headline will allow up to 200 characters, so you can include more information, such as the name of your website or blog. When you have extra space to include crawlable, indexable content, always take advantage of it.
Another way to take advantage of Google+ is to set up Google Authorship with your profile, and your company page. This helps Google associate your content with these accounts, and as you develop more authority, Google is more likely to serve up search results that include your Google+ profile photo, increasing the likelihood of a click-through.
<link href=”http://plus.google.com/+YourCompanyPage” rel=”publisher”>
<link href=”http://plus.google.com/+PostAuthorPage” rel=”author”>
(Editor's note: As of late 2014, Google has scrapped Authorship, and will no longer track the rel="author" tag, but we're preserving this content for posterity.)
Always Be Optimizing Your Content
None of this is required to share your content on social media, and neither is content curation, personalization, nor optimizing your website for mobile. However, it will strengthen your content strategy by better targeting your message towards who will be viewing it, and where it’s going to be viewed. Aside from the cost of producing great content, the biggest obstacle for marketers is standing out among all the other content that’s readily available. Optimizing your content for social sharing is another way to support your distribution strategy and improve social engagement.
Karo was born in Poland, and learned to speak English by watching "Saved by the Bell" reruns during her first summer in the U.S., which has left her unable to go through life without occasionally breaking the fourth wall. As Percussion's content marketing manager, she oversees and creates content that drives website traffic, engages followers, and helps fill the marketing and sales funnel. She writes about content management, content marketing, SEO, social media and web design, and how to make it all less complicated.