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Giving social media the right information

Posted in Content, Marketing, Meta-data and Search

Put some text in a box. Press enter.

Writing a post on social media used to be so easy… These days, when you enter a web address into that little box some extra things happen.

When you type or paste the web address (or ‘URL’, something like, a whole host of other information will appear, including things like:

  • The business or website’s name
  • A title for the page being linked to
  • A short description of the page you’re linking to
  • A thumbnail image, larger image or series of images
  • A video or audio
  • Product information

Not just social media

It’s worth mentioning that it’s not just social networks that pull snippets of information and photos from websites. Search engines do the same! Think of the things that are displayed when you carry out a search:

If you’re searching for, say, a new drill at your local DIY shop, maybe the search will present you with an ‘out of 5 stars’ review rating, a price, availability, the shop’s opening hours. You get the idea. This is all along the same lines.

It’s really helpful to searchers if you provide this extra information. It’s also great if you have control over what’s displayed.

Automatic vs manual

Search engines and social media can do their best to find the right information on your website. They’ll then use to flesh out that simple link you entered with a title, description and maybe an image, if there’s one on the page.

That’s very nice of them, but:

  1. How do you know they’re using the right title, the right chunk of text and the right picture?
  2. What if you want to display a particular image, or use a video or feature a product instead?

You guessed it! You can tell them exactly what details you want them to display!

Unfortunately, this requires a bit of extra coding. Also, different social networks look for different bits of code, so you have to choose which you want to cater for. Here are some examples:

  • Twitter use ‘Twitter Cards’
  • Facebook use something called ‘Open Graph’
  • Google (normal search and Google+) use ‘Rich snippets’
  • LinkedIn and Google- also use Facebook’s Open Graph
  • Pinterest use ‘Rich Pins’

So it’s a good idea to think about where your website will be linked to from most. For example, if your site contains lots of great pictures, make sure you’ve got some Rich Pin details on there.

What next?

Do you think you’d see more enquiries if you had more control over what content was used to enrich links on Twitter and Facebook? Would you get more visits if your Google search results stood out more? Your web designer should be able to advise you as to where to start.

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More resources

Here are a couple more resources for you to enjoy. If that’s not enough, have a look at the full list.

  1. Images as the first thing in a button or link

    If the text of an interactive element like a button or link is preceded with an accessible image, we’ve probably got an accessibility problem.

  2. Alt text for CSS generated content

    There’s an interesting feature in Safari 17.4 that allows content added with CSS to have ‘alt’ text. I’m not sure how I feel about this.