What you need to know about open graph tags and other social media metadata

Stop hiding

This post was originally published on Feb. 2, 2016, and was updated on August 26, 2019.

When you hear the terms “metadata” and “open graph,” are they foreign to you? If so, you’re in the right place. Why? If you want to get found online, and have your stuff shared the right way on Facebook and other social media sites, understanding how social meta tags work is essential.

The social platforms we all know and love have ever-changing algorithms, and you have to do all you can to get a leg up on your competition.

That’s why keeping your social pages optimized for search engines is so important.

So let’s break things down, and get you found online!

First up, what is metadata?

Metadata is information about a piece of content. Metadata is used to describe a blog or a website or give information about a piece of content within it.

For example, the information contained in a page’s metadata is frequently used to generate the snippets that are used when other sites are taking excerpts of a blog post or a website page. Other types of metadata may describe the length of a piece of content or what language it’s written in.

Metadata (literally “data about data”) tells search engines and other systems that consume content useful information about what that content contains.

When a user searches for specific keywords and phrases, the results also typically show descriptions related to the search inquiry. If your website is cool enough to show up in the search results, the viewer will probably see your site’s name embedded with a link to the site. Underneath that link is the site description. That’s an example of metadata, too.

Google Search Results Interior Designer Cedar Rapids
Meta description in a search for “interior designer + cedar rapids”

Metadata + social media

When you share a link to your blog on Facebook and LinkedIn, a description pulled from your site’s metadata generally populates as a preview to the site. Facebook, in particular, uses highly structured metadata called “open graph tags” or “OG tags” so it knows what metadata to use when sharing a link to your blog or website.

Related: Meta tags and the head section of a website

What is open graph?

As Facebook explains, open graph is a set of rules/protocol it created to control “how your content appears on Facebook.”

“Without these tags, the Facebook Crawler uses internal heuristics to make a best guess about the title, description, and preview image for your content.”

However, by using open graph tags, you can ensure that your content shows up the way you want it to on the platform.

On your website, you can insert these social meta tags into the head of an HTML page, and change how your titles, images, descriptions, and more look when a page is shared from your site to Facebook.

Example Facebook Metadata Yoast SEO
Have a WordPress website? The Yoast SEO plugin includes a field for Facebook and Twitter metadata. Simply enter the requested information and the data will appear properly in those social sites.

Some examples of open graph tags include:

  1. URL of the page
    <meta property=”og:url” content=”” />
  2. Content type
    <meta property=”og:type” content=”article” />
  3. Title of the page/article/blog post
    <meta property=”og:title” content=”” />
  4. Description of the page/contents of the article or blog post
    <meta property=”og:description” content=” ” />
  5. This is where you add a link to the image you want used when a user shares your page on Facebook
    <meta property=”og:image” content=” ” />

Here’s how it looks in practice:

Open Graph New York Times Tag Example
Image: The New York Times on Facebook

With the above example, the open graph tags might look like this:

<meta property=”og:url” content=”https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/29/science/meteor-shower-delta-aquarids.html” />
<meta property=”og:type” content=”article” />
<meta property=”og:title” content=”Southern Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower Will Peak in Night Skies” />
<meta property=”og:image” content=”https://static01.nyt.com/images/2017/08/09/science/00METEORSHOWER-deltaquariids/00METEORSHOWER-deltaquariids-superJumbo.jpg?quality=90&auto=webp” />

Facebook has published a more complete list of open graph tags it uses. At the bottom of the page, Facebook also explains to website developers and bloggers how to test whether or not their open graph social meta tags are working correctly.

As recently as July 22, 2019, Statista reported that Facebook is still the most popular social media platform. Therefore, if you are hoping your stuff will be shared on social media, it’s important to include open graph tags so your website shows up the way you want it to.

Do social shares really help your rank on Google and other search engines?

That’s a complicated question. Google uses many factors to determine where web pages rank, and one of them is user engagement with a URL. Another one of Google’s most important factors is user intent — it wants to provide the best answers in the best order for people searching for things online.

While Google has said that social media is not a direct SEO ranking factor, there’s evidence that the “correlation between social signals and ranking position is extremely high,” according to Searchmetrics.

It stands to reason that if your content is getting shared a lot on social media, leading to engagement and click throughs, search engines will start to notice that the public finds your content interesting. This could give your page an indirect boost in the search rankings.

That’s why it’s so important to make sure your content is showing up the right way on Facebook.

The better your content looks, the more likely it will be noticed by Facebook users, who will, perhaps, engage with your website.

To generate even more notice, it’s also a smart move to optimize your other social media pages with metadata related to your blog or website. In other words, add your meta description to all of your social profiles. How? Read on to find out.

Related: SEO for business — A collection of resources

How to optimize your social media metadata

By now you know that social media is a great platform to get the word out about your website. Optimizing your social media metadata makes it easier for search engines to find those profile pages, too. Here’s what to think about.

Let’s say your blog is a fashion review site. Every one of your social media pages that is dedicated to your blog needs to have the words “fashion review” in the description. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even LinkedIn give you a description area to say what your page is about.

Facebook

Though we covered open graph tags above, you can further optimize your Facebook business page as well. Simply add a description in the page’s “About” section. Copy and paste your page’s meta description in the area for a “short description.”

Related: How to use Facebook for your business

Instagram

You can post your meta description in the bio section. It will appear at the top of your profile.

Be sure to fill out the “website” portion of your profile, as this is currently the only spot on Instagram where you can post a clickable link to your site for pages with less than 10,000 followers.

GoDaddy Instagram Bio

The exception to the 10,000 followers link rule is adding a link to IGTV. Marketing & Online Business Guru Elise Darma posted this YouTube video explaining how you can add links to IGTV so you can share links without meeting Instagram’s followers requirement. For the rest of us, we’ll have to rely on Instagram’s bio section for our link juice.

Related: Ultimate Instagram guide for your small business

Twitter

You should also add your meta description to the bio section of your business’s Twitter profile. Modify your description to fit if you run short on characters, but be sure to retain your keywords.

For optimizing your Twitter metadata even further, ilearn about Twitter Cards. They are similar to open graph social meta tags on Facebook, but not as advanced. Still, every edge helps, right?

Here is an example of a Twitter Card to give you an idea of how they look on Twitter. This one is what Twitter calls a Summary Card as it features an image and text, effectively summarizing what the user will find on the web page if they click through:

Twitter Example Summary Card
Image: Twitter Developer Pages
The more specific you are in the description, the better.

 

General searches will always show the most popular and recent activities, but to really guarantee that the viewers you want on your page will see them, get a little more specific.

If you have a site dedicated to the hottest and newest Cadillacs, for example, you want to include the word “Cadillacs” in the meta description. “Car website” isn’t going to cut it. “Car website devoted to Cadillacs” — much better.

Related: 4 essential Twitter tips for businesses

Go public for greater visibility

Although it might feel like you need to have a popular page to get noticed, popularity is only one piece of the puzzle. Another important factor in optimizing your social media profile is to make the page setting public.

Most search engines won’t display results for private pages.

 

If you have to “approve” a follower, you’re telling the search engines you don’t really want to be found.

Tailgate on trends

You can gain even greater visibility by posting about trending topics.

Let’s say you wrote a post about Taylor Swift. In a twist of fate (or luck), the media has been covering Taylor all day and sharing all those news articles and videos all over social media. Now’s a good time to post a link to your blog post so you can take advantage of that traffic.

Popular references can draw potential followers to your pages.

And, that will tell the search engines your website is relevant to searches about that subject.

It’s OK to post about trending topics even if your blog or website isn’t directly related to a particular subject — just don’t overdo it. No one likes posts that bait and switch, promising one thing and delivering something totally different.

Related: How Google Trends can help you find your next customer

Searching within social sites

Search isn’t limited to traditional search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. You can search for topic-specific websites and blogs within various social media platforms.

Remember that fashion review site I mentioned? If someone searches for “fashion review” in Facebook, they’ll get pages that contain the words “fashion review” in the description plus articles, blog posts and images that have those keywords in the social media metadata.

This is a prime opportunity to get new viewers onto your site’s social media pages, and eventually onto your blog or website.

Now what?

Optimization of your social media pages isn’t difficult, but taking the time to do it for your pages will significantly improve the number of page views your site sees in a given month.

Need some help? Give the experts at GoDaddy Social a call.