Facebook’s New Link Previews: What You Need to Know About Creating Your Own

“Open Graph meta tags” doesn’t sound like a very exciting topic.

We get it.

They affect everyone, though – including you!

And if you want your Facebook links to look as good as possible, you’ve gotta know how they work.

We’re gonna cut through all the technical details and give you the short version of how OG tags work – along with an easy solution for customizing your own.

What are Open Graph meta tags, exactly?

By definition, Open Graph “enables any web page to become a rich object in a social graph.”

Which is really just a fancy way of saying it turns this

…into this:

OG tags are what allow Facebook to take a boring ol’ URL and transform it into a beautiful link preview.

Link previews are more eye-catching and clickable than plain URLs – by giving your link an image, title, description, and more, you’re providing people with the contextual information that’ll make them want to click.

(Because these days, link trust is one of the most important factors when you’re trying to get traffic from social media.)

OG tags live in the code for every page and post on your website. Here’s what they look like for that update above (we highlighted the text that corresponds to different parts of the link preview):

Not into coding? Not a big deal! There are even simpler, more user-friendly ways to customize the tags that generate beautiful link previews.

We’ll talk about those in a second, but first, let’s focus on some changes Facebook has made to link previews in 2017, and how those changes affect your options.

Facebook’s 2017 changes to link previews

In early 2017, Facebook made changes to its algorithm to fight the spread of fake news.

In summer, they introduced another new change meant to do the same thing: limiting your ability to customize link previews.

As of summer 2017, users can no longer change the image, description, or title to a link they’re sharing on Facebook.

Users had previously been able to customize those parts of a link preview after adding the link to an update, but Facebook has found that this feature is too easy to exploit, and has eliminated it from their API.

(Which is actually pretty fair. You wouldn’t want someone sharing your link, but changing all the stuff in the link preview to make it totally inaccurate.)

Now, the only person who can decide what your link previews look like is you – and you have to do it on the backend of your website, not on Facebook or via a social media scheduling tool.

If diving into your site’s metadata isn’t really your thing, there are much easier ways to customize your OG tags (and, by extension, your link previews).

All it takes is a little plug-and-play action!

Customizing your link previews with plugins

Don’t worry about coding all of your OG tags by hand – you don’t have to know how to code to customize your link previews.

Actually, we’re gonna go ahead and repeat that, just because it feels very reassuring to hear it:

You do NOT need to know how to code to customize your link previews.

You just need the right plugin!

Adding a plugin to your WordPress site makes customizing this stuff ridiculously simple. Here at MeetEdgar, for example, we use the Yoast SEO plugin. It even gives you a little preview of what your text will look like!

Seriously – so much easier than dealing with metadata.

As for the image that shows up in your link preview, WordPress gives you the option to add a Featured Image to your post. The image you choose is the one that Facebook should pull for your link preview!

(Note: The location of the Featured Image you choose for a post depends on your blog’s layout. For example, when we choose a Featured Image, it appears in the header of that post. Here’s the post we’ve been using as an example if you want to see for yourself!)

Keeping up with Facebook’s changes

So there you have it – an easy-as-pie primer on Open Graph meta tags, and why they matter so dang much.

Is it slightly less convenient to customize them than it was before Facebook’s 2017 API changes? Well, yeah. But it’s still pretty easy to point Facebook in the right direction regarding what you want – whether or not you have a ton of technical know-how!

Facebook's New Link Previews: What You Need to Know About Creating Your Own
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Facebook's New Link Previews: What You Need to Know About Creating Your Own
Facebook's summer 2017 API changes affect how link previews work. Wanna customize your own? Here's a primer on what's new, and what you can do!
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