If there is no better advertising than word of mouth, you should be putting more effort into managing your social media presence. In case you haven’t connected the dots already, social media has a major impact on search engine results, whether directly, or indirectly influencing them. If the most critical aspect of SEO is generating traffic, which it is, social media has superhero powers in that regard. Every time someone shares a link on a social media site, an image and a brief description of the content appear, making it easier for users to gauge their interest in that topic.
The addition of this simple preview relays the relevance of shared links and begins a chain of events that potentially lead to someone visiting a particular website. More importantly, that topic may start an online conversation that results in multiple people sharing and conversing about the content and the site with which it is associated. This is what marketers like referring to as going “viral,” which is something money cannot buy.
The hidden trick to creating link previews, aka snippets, is the metadata that is associated with the webpage link. Metadata is data used to describe other data, yeah, that’s right, websites have a separate data structure in place which has the sole function of describing other data coders have already written. It’s a potent tool, and search engines leverage it almost everywhere on the internet, most of the time without visitors realizing it’s in play.
For example, when searching for movie tickets, Google Search displays a list of movie times at various theaters without having to visit the sites themselves. The reason they can do this is that those companies have configured the metadata on their respective websites to make the movie titles, times, and prices available to search engines.
My favorite movie theater, Grand Lake Theater, isn’t appearing in my search results because their site doesn’t have proper search engine optimization, which is a prime example of how SEO affects the revenue of a small business. Small businesses missing metadata on their sites is a common occurrence because there is a cost associated with maintaining the metadata, especially for sites with regularly changing content, movie theaters serving as a prime example.
Facebook and Twitter
Now that you understand what metadata is, and how it functions, it should come as no surprise that there’s no better place to leverage metadata than on the most popular social media sites. The problem is integrating snippets into your website’s SEO requires the addition of a specific kind of metadata, and if you haven’t heard of Open Graph and Twitter cards yet, this post is only going to get more complicated from here.
Open Graph and Twitter Cards are specific types of metadata structures designed to leverage the fact that social media is the digital equivalent of word-of-mouth. Where Facebook uses Open Graph, and Twitter uses Twitter Cards, with each being a proprietary platform of metadata, the result is the same, producing media rich snippets when information is shared from user to user. Every time someone includes a link to a page in their timeline or tweet, social media platforms display the desired imagery and messaging of the person who wrote the code that enabled it.
Each time someone shares something becomes an opportunity for businesses to extend their brand messaging without having to exert a massive amount of time and money. If the metadata on a website is not configured, social media sites tend to randomly select an image and text excerpt to display, leaving something to chance that is easily controllable.
While I’ve touched on how metadata works for two of the most popular social media sites, I’m well aware there are more platforms than Facebook and Twitter, and to disclose how every other site generates snippets we would need time to discuss generic metadata, and that’s something we just don’t have.
Understanding how to implement generic metadata is essential because it’s used to generate the majority of website previews everywhere else on the internet. So as we sprint toward the conclusion of this post, it’s becoming clear that the more advanced techniques of SEO can’t be fully explained in 1000 words or less, but the good news is, you can always reach out to RTR Digital for help with SEO.
RTR Digital provides a full range of SEO services and offers a full list of SEO tips here. Please leave any comments or questions about this post on the site, and we’ll discuss them in as much detail as possible.