How great social media link previews can boost your website traffic {with a bonus tip!}

Improving your social media link previews.png

We’ve all done it. We're excited about posting a link to our website on social media and we get the dreaded result of an ugly box that cuts off half our text, distorts our logo, or some other unattractive preview.

Does this sound familiar? There are definitely times I do not want to create a special graphic to go with my Facebook post, even though I know I should. So when we decide to take a shortcut and let Facebook figure out what the preview should like, it can be quite the risk. As a matter of fact, it’s often the difference between how much Facebook will even show the post to our followers, or it can drastically reduce the number of people who are willing to click the link and visit the site we’re promoting.

It’s important to stop here and remind you that social media absolutely plays a role in your SEO. There are conflicting theories out there as to how important it really is and exactly what is being counted. But we know that social media is its own kind of search engine and is a critical piece to our overall SEO strategy.

Today, links are mainly achieved through developing original content that is in turn, shared across social media. Links to your content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube and other social networks help the search engines understand what websites are credible and should be ranked for what keyword phrases. (Source: Marketing Consultant Brian Honigman)

So how does Facebook decide what to include in the preview when you insert a link into your post? They look for meta data — that is, kind of like your website’s DNA. If you haven’t told your website (via code) what the page is about and you haven’t titled your photos, Facebook isn’t going to have much to work with. And, if you have never shared that page before, it’s even more difficult. In these circumstances, Facebook will likely default to no image at all. Luckily, there is a way to fix this!

Here are two different ways to make sure Facebook displays your link the way you’d like:

  1. You can create an image on your own to post with your link. If you do this, you’ll simply delete the preview Facebook generates and upload your own photo instead.

  2. You can set a default Social Share Image for anytime your website is shared via a link. With Squarespace sites, you can even take this one step further. You can set your site-wide Social Share image under the Design/Logo & Title section, and you can set specific social share previews for every page. While this can be time consuming to set up, it will save you a lot of work when you’re posting on social and ensure your link previews always look great.

    Remember to get creative when creating these images. Simply using your logo might not be the best strategy. You have some serious real estate to work with — 600 x 315 px to be exact. Consider adding in your “why” to this graphic and always keep it on brand. Here’s an example of what my current default image looks like when I share links over on my own Facebook page.

One Nine Design Social Share Logo.png

Now, when sharing blog posts, Squarespace is smart enough to share your blog thumbnail, instead. Keep this in mind when choosing your thumbnails. Sometimes, it’s best to create a square image for the thumbnail (or one formatted for Pinterest, if you’re sharing there) and another to use on your social media share since square graphics tend to get cut off on Facebook link previews.

Sidenote: For WordPress users, I do know this is all most easily accomplished via a plugin like Yoast SEO. I don’t work with WordPress sites often so I recommend seeking out an experienced WordPress designer or developer for further advice.

{Bonus Tip!}

Now, some people have taken this step and still do not see the preview come up. That’s because Facebook might need a little help from you. In their effort to really curb the junk out there, they’ve also made it a little more difficult for those of us following the rules. The best way to make sure you’re going to be happy with your preview is to use the Facebook Debugger. On this site, you’ll paste the link you want to share and it will show you exactly what the link will look like. If it’s not showing what you think it should, simply click the “Scrape Again” button (sometimes it can take a few times) until your current image appears. Then, you’re ready to share it on Facebook.

Link previews are more eye-catching and clickable than plain URLs – by giving your link an image, title, description, and more, you’re providing people with the contextual information that’ll make them want to click.

We might never completely understand just how Google determines the SEO algorithms unless we get a job there so we have to be as proactive as we can, where we can. If we can make our website links as attractive as possible on social media, link to great content, and increase our website traffic, then our chances of becoming BFF’s with Google greatly increases. In the end, even if social media isn’t a straight line to ranking on Google, it’s still one of the best ways to share our story and be found online.

Until next time, keep making a great first impression!