6 Website Optimization Best Practices to Encourage Facebook Shares

Most content shares on Facebook happen organically. Rigorous promotion on your part may help give your content a promising launch, but the majority of visits to your site will occur as readers find and share the content.

It’s therefore essential to optimize your page for sharing among your existing and potential fans. Abide by these best practices to ensure the most engaging Facebook experience for your audience.

1. Track the success of your content with Facebook Insights

Facebook Insights displays all referral traffic to your website that comes from Facebook, including when people share your links in their statuses or click on your Like or Share buttons. Insights will also provide you with demographic details of those sharing and engaging with your content. By understanding and analyzing trends about usage and demographics, you’ll be better equipped to improve your site and its content, and create the best sharing opportunities for your fans.

facebook-insights-reach

This data is available online as well as through an API for developers. For more details on how to claim your domain and start tracking, visit Facebook’s Insights Guide

2. Enable Facebook Crawler Access

If your content is open to the public, Facebook Crawler will access it to generate a preview for Facebook users. Facebook Crawler is activated when someone shares your website URL on Facebook, or Likes or Recommends a page on your site through a social plugin.

However, if your content has restricted access, you will need to enable access for the crawler. To be clear, permitting access to Facebook Crawler only allows it to generate previews—Facebook does not have permission to expose your restricted content.

There are two methods to enabling Facebook Crawler access:
1. IP whitelisting (more secure, but does require maintenance)
2. User agent whitelisting (less secure, but requires little to zero maintenance)

IP Whitelisting
You (or your developers) can allow the following IP addresses access to pages normally inaccessible to the public.
31.13.24.0/21
31.13.64.0/18
66.220.144.0/20
69.63.176.0/20
69.171.224.0/19
74.119.76.0/22
103.4.96.0/22
173.252.64.0/18
204.15.20.0/22
2401:db00::/32
2620:0:1c00::/40
2a03:2880::/32

*Note that these IP ranges change regularly. You should periodically run the following command for an updated list:
whois -h whois.radb.net — ‘-i origin AS32934′ | grep ^route

User Agent Whitelisting
You (or your developers) can allow the following user-agent access to pages that are normally inaccessible to the public. Facebook rarely updates these user-agents, which means users do have the ability to spoof them. However, very few users actually know how to change their browser’s user-agent, meaning the expected number of users who would exploit this is very low. Also, you do not need to include all of the URL’s regular content to Facebook’s crawler–a valid HTML document with the appropriate meta tags will do.

Facebook’s crawler crawls with facebookexternalhit/<version_number>, where <version_number> is either 1.0 or 1.1, as of March 2013.
facebookexternalhit/1.0
facebookexternalhit/1.1

As of May 28th, 2014 you may also see a crawler with the following user agent string:
Facebot

Facebot may crawl your entire website instead of just a single page. Facebot will respect your robots.txt settings.

Crawler Rate Limiting
You can label pages and objects to determine how long Facebook’s crawler waits to check them for new content. Use the og:ttl object property to limit crawler access if the crawler is too aggressive.

3. Always Use Proper Open Graph Tags

Open Graph tags provide users with basic structured information about pages shared to Facebook such as its title, description, image, and more. When content from your site is shared to Facebook, Facebook automatically scrapes the HTML of the shared URL. Regular HTML pages may return incorrect information because the scraper is left to guess which content is more important to display over others.

You can avoid this and control information the crawler picks up from each page by adding these basic meta tags to the <head> of your pages.

og:url The vanity URL for your page. This should be the undecorated URL–without session variables, user identifying parameters, or counters. Likes and Shares for this URL will aggregate at this URL.

og:title The title/headline of your article. This should not include branding such as your site name.

og:description A brief description of the content kept between 2 – 4 sentences.

og:site name The name of your website (not the URL).

og:image The URL of the image that will appear when someone shares the content to Facebook.

fb:app_id In order to use Facebook Insights, the app ID needs to be added to your page. You can find the app ID in your App Dashboard.

og:type What type of media best describes your content? This tag determines how it shows up in News Feed. If there are no specifications, the default type is website. Each URL should include only one type. Find the full list of object types here: Object Types Reference

og:locale Leave this blank for the US English-language default. You can use og:locale:alternate if you have other language translations available. Learn more about the supported locales through Facebook’s documentation on localization.

article:author Links to the author(s) of the article. If authors have either a Facebook Profile or Page, Facebook will offer users a chance to follow that author when the shared content is displayed in their news feed. Note that authors need to have the Follow option enabled so that people can follow them (more on this to follow).

article:publisher Links to the publisher’s Facebook Page. This tag is only available to media publishers, and offers users the ability to Like the publisher when their article shows up in News Feed.

4. Optimize Images for Previews

Image Sizes
For best display results on high resolution devices, use images that are at least 1200×630 px. At the minimum, you should use images that are 600×315 px to display posts with larger images.

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 8.12.09 AM

Small Images
Images smaller than 600×315 px will still display in the page post, but only as thumbnails.

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 8.13.31 AM

Note that the aspect ratio for images is the same across desktop and mobile displays. Do try to keep your images as close to 1.91:1 as possible to avoid unintended cropping.

Minimum Image Size
The minimum image size is 200×200 px. If your image is even smaller than this, you will see an error in the URL Debugger.

Pre-cache Images
Facebook’s crawler will not render an image if the content is being shared for the first time, meaning the first person to share your content may see something like this:

10734301_667829036664367_516015575_n

There are two ways to avoid this and have the image render on the first Share or Like:

1. Use the URL Debugger to pre-cache the image.
Running the URL through the debugger with pre-fetch metadata for the image. You should also do this if you’ve updated the image for a piece of content.

2. Use og:image:width and og:image:height tags
The crawler can render an image immediately if these tags are specified.

5. Debug Open Graph Tags with The URL Debugger

Instead of repeatedly posting and deleting your URL to preview and tweak your meta-tags and social plugins, you can use Facebook’s debug tool for an accurate preview as well as any errors or warnings from your content that may affect social plugins.

851580_254750958003573_910406135_n

The debug tool is also useful if you’ve made an update to your pages and need to refresh the content that Facebook had previously scraped.

6. Encourage Content Creators to Turn On “Follow”

Follow gives content creators the option of allowing users to view public updates on their profile without adding anyone as a friend. For example, journalists can post their latest article to their public profile for everyone to see.

How to Get Started:

  1. Head to your Account Settings and click on the Followers tab. Check the box to allow followers and adjust settings to your liking.
  2. Fill out your timeline–keep in mind the portions of your profile that will be public-facing.
  3. Follow journalists, authors, photographers, and other professionals with a large follower base for good examples of materials to share.
  4. Don’t neglect your followers. Remember to post interesting photos, updates, and links to new content.





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