A friend recently drew my attention to this Facebook share fail:
As you can see from the yellow highlighted scribbles the post was shared successfully but the description and author fields drew a blank, this makes the post less desirable and probably resulted in a lower level of interest than if these fields had been provided and in this case the obvious end result is less people walking the world with big muscles! Sad faces all round.
So what happened?
When the post was shared Facebook scans the webpage you’re sharing for key bits of information that it can extract and display in peoples feeds amongst the flurry of other updates.
Don’t worry if this means nothing to you…
If you cast your eyes towards the top of the page source code, you’ll see that it has a space in the meta data for “description” and “author” – neither of which is populated (I’ve highlighted it with a shaky red pen) – sad face, small muscles!
The quick fix is to make sure you’re using a content management system or blogging platform that provides easy access to update these fields and to make it part of your content product process to update them. Wordpress does this out of the box and can be further enhanced using plugins like Yoast. Although I’ve seen things get out of hand even when a content management system does handle meta data appropriately (especially in scenarios where people might ‘make a copy’ of an existing page to use as a template for the new page they’re creating and all the old snotty meta data gets carried across to the new page – yikes!).
Why does it even matter?
Apart from the obvious social media shoddiness that we’ve already identified earlier in this post. Meta data can still be picked up by the Google (and other) crawler and affect the way that your search results are displayed. Even if your post does have meta data then a search engine will usually try to take a stab at guessing the most appropriate page title and description to show on the search results pages, if it doesn’t have meta data then they’ll definitely need to take a stab – having this meta data in place helps give them a nudge in the right direction and increases the likelihood of your customers being shown relevant information.
Accurate page title data can also assist users, check out how your browser displays pages when you have multiple tabs open – you’ll almost certainly see the page title displayed on the tab, this will help your customers to use their web browser more effectively and hopefully make it easier for them to come back to viewing their site after going off on a Youtube/Facebook/(INSERT RANDOM WEBSITE HERE) binge.
Right, I’m off for a lie down. In the meantime give your meta data the once over.