BRANDS, USERS NO LONGER ABLE TO EDIT FACEBOOK LINK METADATA
In an effort to curb the spread of misinformation within its ever-growing social network, Facebook has rolled back the ability for users and Page managers to edit the metadata displayed when links are populated within the platform.
Part of Facebook’s core capabilities for several years, the ability to edit a link’s metadata within the platform provided flexibility for sharing engaging content. General users and Page managers could share website URLs and overwrite the populated link titles, descriptions, and images to match the orientation of their posts.
Although beneficial for publishers and marketers, this capability has been abused by some users, who have intentionally overwritten the displayed information to post misleading headlines from trustworthy sources or edited populated metadata to legitimize an untrustworthy source. Following the 2016 presidential election, during which many people criticized social media for propagating misinformation, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg even posted a statement acknowledging the problem between social networking and fake news.
Misleading Content Led Facebook to Reduce Low-Quality and Deceptive Links
Recognizing the inadvertent role that it has played in the distribution of misleading content, the company is taking steps to reduce low-quality and deceptive links. In addition to limiting the customization of links shared to its platform, Facebook is cracking down on substandard content and clickbait-style articles, which the company identifies through its algorithm and through user feedback.
Publishers Apply For Link Ownership
Though the new limitations will affect all users and Pages, select publishers have until September 12, 2017 to apply for “link ownership” within the Publishing Tools section of their Page. Being granted link ownership will enable administrators to overwrite the metadata populated in links from their owned domains. General users linking to URLs within the owned domains, however, will not be able to edit the metadata.
In a blog post revealing the update last month, Alex Hardiman, a product manager with Facebook, wrote that publishers who apply for link ownership will still be responsible for distributing truthful content. In the article she states, “Pages that abuse the ability to modify their own links in any way (for example, misrepresenting link content, spamming people with posts that do not meet our Community Standards) will lose access to this tool to overwrite metadata for link previews.”
Facebook Advertisers Will Not Be Restricted
For Facebook advertisers, the restriction to editing organic link posts will not affect new paid placements created through the Ads Manager or Power Editor interfaces. Across advertising objectives, ad creators will be able to continue customizing images, titles, descriptions, and display URLs.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR MARKETERS
With restrictions around editing populated metadata, social marketers and brand community managers may find publishing unique and original content to be more cumbersome. Because populated images and metadata will no longer be customizable, Pages that frequently link back to their website will have a hard time differentiating the content of posts directing to the same URL.
Additionally, brand websites without metadata optimized for search engines will find that the information that populates in Facebook may be incomplete or unattractive as a populated link.
For many brands and publishers, social referrals from shared content are a major source of traffic. Without pre-optimized metadata fields, links may be less engaging in the Facebook News Feed, and therefore will refer less traffic. To combat the loss of customization and a potential loss in referrals, brands and publishers should look to their website’s meta titles & descriptions or utilize Facebook’s Open Graph tags to standardize and optimize populated links.
OPTIMIZING FOR SEARCH AND SOCIAL
Without the ability to edit the information populated within links that are shared to Facebook, marketers and social managers will need to go to the source to ensure metadata is properly pulled into any URLs being shared.
The first step should be ensuring page titles and meta descriptions are being utilized sitewide and follow SEO best practices. Titles and descriptions are used by search engines to identify and display a page’s content to searchers in the search engine results page. This information is also utilized by Facebook to populate links when no Open Graph tags are present. At the very least, a well-optimized page adhering to SEO recommendations will ensure a link displays a full title and description in Facebook.
Open Graph Tags for Social
Beyond utilizing page titles and meta descriptions to optimize a page for search results and to better populate links when shared to Facebook, the social network recommends utilizing Open Graph tags to customize metadata exclusively for the channel. Open Graph tags are snippets of code that are placed on a webpage to inform the social network of the page’s content, displaying a specified image, title, description, and URL.
Although the sitewide usage of Open Graph tags requires time and resources in addition to what is needed to implement search-friendly page titles and meta descriptions, the tags can be used to customize populated link data for use on Facebook. By differentiating between the intent of searchers and social users, SEO-focused meta information and social-only Open Graph tags can distinguish the content of a page’s metadata to uniquely match each channel.
Because brand Pages are not the only Facebook profiles that might share a branded URL – customers, partnering organizations, and even the media may link back to a brand’s website – it is important to ensure web pages are optimized no matter how they are shared or discovered.
To learn more about Open Graph tags and how to add the markup to a web page, see Facebook’s guide for webmasters. To preview a link’s metadata or to check for Open Graph tags on a URL, Facebook has also provided a debugging tool for developers and marketers.