How do Facebook instant items work
Do Facebook Instant Articles Affect #SEO?
At first glance, Facebook instant articles don't seem to have much of an impact on search engine optimization. After all, the purpose of Facebook Instant Articles is simply to create a better user experience for mobile users by giving publishers a better way to showcase their content on the Facebook app.
Major publishers are already using Facebook Instant Articles, so anyone can preview the feature before it is released to all publishers at Facebook's annual F8 conference on April 12th. However, before getting started with Instant Articles, it's more important for publishers to research what it takes to enable your content for Instant Articles and how this can affect your SEO efforts.
In this post, we're going to dive into Facebook instant articles: how they work, what changes publishers need to make, and how those changes can affect the SEO for their website.
This is how Facebook instant items work for users
Facebook Instant Articles is somewhat similar to Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). It enables publishers to share a link to the original article on their website. When users of the Facebook mobile app click the link, they will be directed to the instant item version of the content. When desktop users click the link, they will be redirected to the original article on the publisher's website.
Here's the difference. First, you have a standard click in the Facebook app on an article on a mobile-friendly website.
Now you have a click on an instant item in the Facebook app.
That's quite a significant difference in terms of performance. Even if your website is mobile-friendly, fully responsive, and has great load times, instant articles will still win.
Here are a few other things you should know about the functionality of instant items for users.
- Desktop users who click the same post link will be redirected to the original article on the publisher's website.
- When people share the instant article through the Facebook app, the link to the original article is shared on the publisher's website. Mobile app users who click this link will be directed to the instant article, while desktop users will be directed to the original article on the publisher's website.
How Facebook instant articles work for publishers
Before we dive into the specs, there are a few things you should know as a publisher to think about instant articles.
- You can sell ad space to Facebook advertisers in instant items for monetization purposes, or sell ad space privately over your own networks.
- Facebook has no plans to give preferential treatment in the newsfeed to publishers using instant articles.
- Facebook will provide analytical insights into readers' engagement with instant articles, saying that data can be shared using third-party tools and web analytics systems, although Google Analytics is not yet specified.
- Facebook is working with WordPress to develop an official plugin that WordPress users can use to get their websites up and running right away.
- You don't need to create any other content for instant items. Facebook can use your RSS feed and HTML markup to turn your pre-existing content into instant articles.
- You can sign up for more information on instant items to get access to the developer's guide for instant items and a link to a private group for publishers.
With that in mind, here is the most important thing you need to know about Facebook Instant Articles as a publisher. Unlike many other new features and releases from Facebook, once it is released, not everyone will be able to use it.
Publishers will either need to update their website's coding to reflect the HTML markup language and identify certain features in their content for Facebook instant articles.
Or they need to create / update their RSS feeds to meet Facebook Instant Item guidelines.
All of this is in the Instant Item Developer's Guide, which is accessible when you sign up for more information as suggested above.
Once a publisher updates either their website's HTML or their RSS feed, Facebook needs to approve the publisher (as soon as instant articles become available to everyone in April) by reviewing their last 50 articles to make sure they're for Instant articles are ready.
If their articles are not approved, they will have to wait until they have published 20 new articles reflecting proposed changes before they can resubmit them. This will essentially favor large volume publishers over smaller publishers and companies that blog occasionally.
Do Facebook Instant Articles Affect Search Engine Optimization?
Now for the million dollar question. Do Facebook Instant Articles Affect Search Engine Optimization? In a way, optimizing for Facebook Instant Articles could affect any website publisher's SEO, ultimately for the better. Here is how.
1. Publishers need to publish more content
Any publisher, whether it's a media company, corporation, or individual that uses content to establish authority, needs to take serious care of publishing more content. The every few months post approach that some have is no longer cut back when trying to get involved in instant articles as it requires a minimum of 50 articles to be approved.
And if publishers incorporate the right keyword optimization into every article they publish, adding more articles to their website should result in better keyword visibility on organic search. Hence a positive effect on SEO.
2. Publishers need to be serious about formatting content
Publishers who have not previously paid particular attention to certain formatting elements in their articles are starting to get started with instant articles. Especially since Facebook is looking for headers (H1 for the title and H2 for the subtitles), image and video titles, author assignment and related article links for instant articles.
All of this is beneficial to SEO. Just make sure you tweak the titles, subtitles, and subtitles of articles with keywords. Related article links should help crawlers index more pages on your site and add value to internal links, especially when used with good anchor text (keyword optimized titles).
In terms of author mapping, you can generate potentially organic search traffic when people search for these authors by name and find their articles or author archive pages by properly recognizing different authors on your site and providing the correct markup to reflect that.
3. Publishers want to experiment with different media
In addition to increasing performance, the ability for publishers to create rich media experiences with content is one of the key highlights of instant articles. Facebook supports images, videos, animated GIFs, audio annotations, interactive images, maps, and slideshows to keep readers engaged with the publisher's content.
Ideally, this will give publishers the idea of creating more diverse content for their audience. By creating more diverse content, publishers can expand their reach by distributing different media to networks depending on the media type. Imgur, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, SlideShare, iTunes, Soundcloud, and many others could be primary destinations, most of which would allow you to refer to the original article as the source of the media. This is how you gain additional SEO value.
4. Publishers need to clean up their code
At the very least, publishers need to clean up a good chunk of their coding to make sure that Facebook instant articles work - either in their website template or in their RSS feed. While technical precision doesn't necessarily mean an increase in SEO rankings, clean code makes it easier for search engine crawlers to get their jobs done. This, in turn, makes it easier to index your website.
To be honest, Google wouldn't have provided a free HTML enhancement tool in the search console if the HTML coding wasn't an issue for Google.
5. Everyone needs to improve their cellphone friendliness and performance
Between Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP, every website - not just publishers - needs to improve its mobile friendliness and performance. Why? Because it's just human nature. So so:
People will begin to adapt to the mobile friendly high performance of Facebook instant items.
Then they expect every website they download to their smartphone to be the same mobile friendliness and performance.
This is especially true for websites referenced in Facebook Instant Articles, as these website links are opened in the Facebook app. If these links don't open up to a mobile-friendly experience at high performance, you can be sure that an audience spoiled by Facebook Instant Articles will want to leave the company.
Overall, sites that are optimized for mobile friendliness and high performance will perform better in search rankings because Google wants search users to have great experiences on the sites they click in search results. And of course, websites that are cell phone-friendly will rank well in mobile search.
As mentioned in many search articles, Google prefers responsive design. Increase this in your cell phone endeavors. You can use Google's free mobile usability tool in the search console to see if your website is having cell phone issues that could affect mobile search rankings. When it comes to high performance, there are a few tests you should do with Google's PageSpeed tools.
Just like with Game of Thrones, April comes along with Facebook Instant Articles. You can't start preparing your website content for this new feature too early if you are interested in it. It can only help your website's SEO and, as additional bonuses, it can increase Facebook reader engagement on Facebook and help you make money on the Facebook advertising network.
If you are interested in Facebook instant articles and the potential SEO benefits you could get by optimizing your website for them, take these steps now.
- For more information on Facebook Instant Articles, sign up for the link to the developer guide and a link to the Facebook group for publishers. Make sure to add the most reputable website that you are writing for as your current employer to your Facebook profile to be included in the group.
- Make the changes to your website's HTML and RSS feed as indicated.
- Get inspiration by browsing news articles from publishers who already have instant articles on your iOS or Android Facebook app. These publishers include the New York Times, National Geographic, BuzzFeed, NBC News, and The Atlantic. Note that not every link shared by these sites is an instant item. Make sure you are not redirected to their website.
- Post more content if you don't have 50 posts to submit for approval.
- Experiment with creating different types of content (images, videos, GIFs, etc.) for your content to get more instant engagement with articles.
- If you think you need help with instant items and are new to Facebook Business Manager, get to know Business Manager now because it is the only way to contact Facebook's instant item support. Note that if you don't like it, you can add and remove your Facebook Page from Business Manager. However, once they have been added, you cannot remove Facebook ad accounts from Business Manager.
Featured Image: Image from Facebook Instant Articles Press Kit.Used with permission.
In-Post Photo: Image from Facebook Instant Articles Press Kit.Used with permission.
All screenshots by Aleh Barysevich.Recorded in March 2016.
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