Why You Need to be Concerned About the Latest Facebook API Changes to Link PostsAnita Kirkbride
Facebook has implemented a major change to its API that many small businesses are just discovering this week. If you came here because you can’t change the photo on a link post you’re trying to share on Facebook, it’s not a glitch…it’s permanent. Facebook announced you will no longer be able to change the metadata attached to a link post on Facebook. If you’re posting links to other people’s articles on Facebook, there’s not a whole lot you can do about this. However, if you want and expect people to be posting links from YOUR website, there are a few things you need to do.
What is Facebook open graph metadata?
When you post a link to Facebook, it looks something like this:
Or, at least is should look like that. Sometimes we don’t get any photos and sometimes we get photos that have no relationship to the article at all. Newspaper websites seem to be particularly egregious in this area. I link to a lot of newspaper articles and often, instead of the photo from the article, Facebook pulls in a website button, an ad from the sidebar, or some random logo you can’t even find on the page. This happens because the website isn’t “coded” properly, or the Facebook open graph metadata is not indicated.
When this happened, we used to be able to upload the right picture to replace the wrong ones. We used to be able to change the headline and descriptions when they were not descriptive of the article being shared. This ability is what Facebook deprecated (removed). From Facebook’s perspective it is a method to stem the tide of fake news as people were changing the images and descriptions to bait people into clicking through to their websites.
We will now be forced to use only what Facebook is able to pull from the website. So, if your website isn’t “coded” properly, people might decide the link doesn’t look nice or relevant and won’t share, because they can no longer add pictures, or update the headline and description. There have definitely been times when I’ve decided not to share an article because I couldn’t make it look good. Sometimes I would add a stock photo because any photo is better than no photo! We can no longer do this.
Facebook open graph metadata is the “coding” in the back end of your website that tells Facebook what to pull in for the picture, headline and link description.
If you paste a link to your blog post into Facebook and it’s NOT pulling in the right image, headline and description, you have a problem…but luckily it’s an easy one to fix. Go ahead and try it right now… open up a second window/tab and paste the link to your latest blog post into Facebook. Does it come up blank? Does it pull the wrong image? Is the description pulled for the article or for your entire website?
How do I fix my website’s open graph metadata?
While there won’t be anything you can do when sharing someone else’s link on your Facebook Page, you can take control of how your own links will appear when shared. There are several ways you can “fix” this problem for your own site.
If your website is built on WordPress, you’re in luck! There are numerous plugins you can use to manage your Facebook open graph metadata. I use both of these plugins because, over and above the Facebook metadata issue, they both have many other features. YOAST SEO is one of the best plugins for managing metadata. It gives you a place to upload the image you want Facebook to pull, and the opportunity to change the headline and description. Social Warfare (Aff) is another great option for this.
Simply upload your Facebook image into the appropriate place in the plugin and every time someone posts that link to Facebook, it will use the image you’ve designated, as well as the headline and description you’ve written. If you don’t do this, your headline could end up being the headline for your website, not the specific blog post. Your description could be the basic description of your company, or your keywords if your SEO specialist is a bit out of date.
If your website is built on a platform other than WordPress, get in there and dig around. Look for “metadata”, or Facebook Image, or even “Featured image” and “Google Snippet”.
A workaround for the link post issue
If you really want to have the picture associated with the link posted, and it doesn’t appear organically, you can choose to do a photo post instead. Either begin by uploading the photo and add the text and link, or paste in the link first and add the photo. Either way, your post will look more like this when you compose it:
Once you’ve posted it, it will look like this:
It won’t have the headline and description as the link post version does, but it gets the job done. And there are several camps that argue a photo post will actually have a higher reach than a link post anyhow. So, this might be a decent option for you if you’re sharing someone else’s content and can’t control the metadata.
Why all the fuss?
As someone who does a lot of sharing of other people’s content this change is really an annoyance as I will no longer be able to make link shares look better when a website isn’t coded properly. However, as a blogger, this is great since nobody will be able to change the image and information for my links. The big fuss is really from spammers and scammers who were using this as a method of getting people to click on their sites. If you take the time to set up your website for social media success, you’ll have nothing to worry about.