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Why every marketer should understand Open Graph tags

Nadine Long

July 2017

Oh, Open Graph tags – they’re beautiful little things that are essential to any digital marketer’s toolkit. These guys make your content work harder and smarter, and they’re pretty easy to deal with, too.

If you’re not familiar with the Open Graph protocol, I’ll break it down: these tags are similar to title and meta description tags that we know and love so well from search, except they’re created specifically to help you optimize your content for social sharing. Just like search tags, Open Graph tags go right between the <head> tags on your site (or, using some of the tools listed below, they can be even easier to incorporate).

So when you see an awesome post – like the one below – with image, headline and description in your Facebook (or Twitter or LinkedIn) feed, it’s most likely due to a savvy marketer understanding, and optimizing, their Open Graph tags to make their content hyper-ready for social sharing.

open graph tags on facebook

We find that these powerful tags are easy to overlook, especially in content strategy-related projects like blogs, or even bigger projects like web redesigns. Depending on your business and content types, including and optimizing these tags on your site could make a huge difference in your social referral traffic.

There are lots of Open Graph properties, but you can cover a lot of ground with just these four basics from the Open Graph protocol:

  • og:title – The title of your object as it should appear within the graph, e.g., “The Rock.”
  • og:type – The type of your object, e.g., “video.movie”. Depending on the type you specify, other properties may also be required.
  • og:image – An image URL which should represent your object within the graph.
  • og:url – The canonical URL of your object that will be used as its permanent ID in the graph, e.g., “http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117500/“.

So why go to the trouble of incorporating Open Graph tags into your content? Are these extra tags really necessary? Here are a few reasons that marketers should be sure and embrace them.

Open Graph tags were built for social media

What makes you click on a social media post? The photo, the headline, the description? The fact that someone you trust shared it? The Open Graph protocol was built specifically to deliver content previews within the social graph, which means that it uses some different content sections than what you’d get by sharing a page without them.

Social previews and search previews shouldn’t be the same.

Search and social are both essential to great marketing, but they definitely have different needs. While the debate about search vs social traffic rages on, smart marketers don’t have to be divided: these two marketing channels are vital, and actually work hand in hand (here’s a personal favorite Moz post about the importance of them working together).

Open Graph tags solve the age-old issue that search optimization can create: some not-so-lovely titles and descriptions pulled into social post previews. By separating out your page title and meta tags from your open graph title, description, URL and image tags, you can get the best of both worlds with content that’s optimized for both search and social.

Open Graph tags let you control how your content is seen on social – whether you share it or someone else does

You might point out that Facebook makes it really easy to customize your post in their post editor. So what’s the point in taking the extra step to create and implement these tags? Even if you love to customize every post you share on social, most users aren’t going to take the time to make sure your content preview looks fantastic. Optimizing your Open Graph tags means that anytime an outside user shares your content, they’ll be sharing a well-curated image, title and description with their followers.

All of the major social networks recognize Open Graph tags

You can still get really fancy with Twitter-specific card tags, but if you don’t have time to optimize to that degree, Open Graph tags are a great option. Every major social channel recognizes the tags, so you can create social-specific titles, descriptions and images to your heart’s content.

Open Graph tags give you a chance to feature optimized creative

Although each social channel’s creative preview pane is a little bit different, Open Graph tags allow you to point to a specific image for your social preview. That means that you’re not stuck with whatever first image shows up — you get to choose. That way, when someone shares your post or page, you’re able to serve up something pretty, enticing, or just plain clickable.

Ready to get optimizing?

Here are some tools to help you get started with Open Graph tags.

  • The Open Graph Protocol breaks down all the elements of Open Graph tags
  • If you use WordPress, the All in One SEO Pack makes it really easy to optimize tags right within your page or post editor
  • This Open Graph tag tester will let you double-check your site’s tags before you set it out into the wild for sharing