As online marketers, we are always busy crafting amazing posts for both ourselves and our customers. This often leaves us little time and room for advertising on Google, Facebook, and other platforms.
Advertising on posts? With this I mean snippets with which websites are displayed on Google and social media. Below are several tips that will probably win you more users.
I will say it right away: This is not about automation or magic tricks to make you rich while you sleep. If you hold the opinion that “more is better”, save yourself the time that this article will cost you. This article is about the love for details with the aim to individually address target groups – something that can only be done by human beings: enthusiasm for your own cause.
Good, now it’s just humanistic online marketers amongst us. We love people and understand that target groups are different and, therefore, like to be addressed differently. And in order to make this possible, we do not even need a channel-oriented responsive design – all we need is a few minutes at the end of our posts.
The Google Analytics statistics help us to clearly identify the different target groups: these include numerous visitors from Google pages, many from Facebook, some from Twitter, and – depending on the topic – some from Pinterest or even Google+ and other social networks. And my experience shows that winning the interest of Google users requires tactics that are very different from those needed to win Facebook users who randomly find an interesting story when browsing through their friend’s Timeline.
And since this is how things are, we should take the time to address both users. This has both a technical and content-related aspect.
I do not wish to go much into the technology since most of us have probably optimized our systems unknowingly. Anyone who has already added the Yoasts SEO-Plugin to his/her WordPress blog is ready to get started. Similar extensions are also available for other content management systems.
Figure 1: Yoast SEO comes with everything you need for social snippets
Nonetheless, a little theory always helps: In short, we are talking about meta tags. These are elements in the website’s HTML code that are not displayed by the browser but provide crawlers with information about the website’s content. For Google, these are the title tag and meta description.
So why use these to also draw attention on Facebook and other platforms? When formulating these meta tags, we traditionally focus on Google and forget that Facebook fans are wired differently from Google users.
Twitter has equally crafted its own technical system, the TwitterCards. Facebook and Pinterest orient themselves to existing systems. Below is an overview of the meta elements that we can all take advantage of:
Looking at these from a generalized point of view automatically gives you a feeling that the whole thing is quite complex: On the one hand, you are required to add approximately four different meta tag systems on your website, which sounds like a lot of work. On the other hand, this could also be well worth it. Well, I personally no longer take Google+ to be super important and will therefore leave out Schema.org meta elements. This leaves us with TwitterCards and OpenGraph besides the normal HTML meta tags. And if you have a shop with non-informative products, you will probably want to avoid TwitterCards. I find OpenGraph to be important in almost all cases.
Figure 2: Quite a lot regarding meta tags: With TwitterCards and OpenGraph, however, you are well covered
What I know is missing are custom fields for mobile descriptions and mobile titles. This is because, for Google, nothing else is currently as important as “mobile” – and we still have to live with the same title tag for desktops and mobile phones. I find this to be absurd, both technically (different lengths) and in terms of content (different target groups). But maybe my colleagues in Mountain View have an already working…
A few more words on images: Technically, these are also different in the social network snippets. Google currently does not include teaser images in the SERPs, but Facebook, Twitter, etc. do. The social networks actually scale down the images in the posts quite well and even allow selecting an image (if many exist) when sharing a post. OpenGraph and TwitterCards also offer the opportunity to select special images for the respective network.
In turn, this can be attributed to content reasons.
So much for the technology. If you want to check if your meta tags are well integrated in your HTML code, you can test them using the validators:
We can technically now add different posts in the list for the different target groups. However, let us first look at several basic considerations that could lead to a high click rate across all target groups. In all cases, keep in mind that the snippets have to advertise on the so-called list pages and are thus in direct competition with other articles (whether in the SERPs or Timelines) – Therefore, they have to be more impressive than the headlines of a post:
A good headline does not exceed 6-7 words: Our brain cannot hold more than 7 words at a grasp. Thus, if you want to trigger a fast train of thought, you need to observe this limit.
The description of the post may be longer, but the main focus should be on the actual message: The description of a post is mostly used as a lead paragraph. This is often okay, but the allowed maximum number of characters on Google and Facebook is about 150 (or 120 for “mobile” versions). You should therefore make sure that the message is within the first 100-120 characters (as a supplement of the title).
Conversion boosters also work in snippets: Formulating snippets, such as in accordance with the buying modalities, helps you improve the click rate. This means that you should not just try to address a single target group (in the form of a persona) – but rather try to at least target all four web types (competitive, spontaneous, methodical, humanistic).
Bonus tip: You can always try to play around with special characters. Arrows, checkmarks, and many other characters are not only effective on SERPs, they also work well on Facebook. However, avoid overdoing it since this can quickly work against you…
Now on to the differences and finer details of the various target groups:
A lot has been written about good title tags and descriptions. Below is a summary of the main points:
Clear, simple language: Google covers the largest target group. That’s why the language you use needs to be simple, clear, and understandable.
Answer the question: Everyone who sees your snippet on Google must have searched for a specific term on Google. He/she is therefore searching for something and has summarized the question in one keyword. So answer this question – or use the snippet to promise him/her the answer on your website.
Use the keyword: Of course it would be good if you knew the keyword used to summarize the user’s question. If you do, this should definitely be in the title and description.
Be trustworthy: The biggest problem that we all face when selecting a search result from the SERPs is trust. This alone is reason enough to write your brand in the title tag and also show that you are trustworthy.
Figure 3: Comparison of mobile and desktop snippets
In the figure above, the mobile version (right) shows more of the title than the description. Furthermore, Zalando beautifully conveys its USP and even using special characters.
When comparing Facebook to Google, it is not just the target groups that are different. The situations are also very different: Unlike on Google, where you’ll meet users searching for answers, Facebook users will find you on their friends’ Timelines – if anyone shares your content.
Two thoughts on this:
1. Sharing your content has to be worth it: Your content might be quite amazing, but no one will share it if they do not get anything out of it. Therefore, think of how you can tickle the admiration of your friends (which is what often happens on Facebook). How YOUR post sounds when it’s on their Timeline. One good remedy for this has always been “Opinion”. If you formulate a snippet where you “take the words right out of their mouth”, users are more likely to share it since they feel affirmed and are willing to share YOUR opinion with the world from an “objective” third point of view.
2. The trust already exists: You must not include your brand in the title. And you also need fewer references or other signals that stand for trust. This means that you can easily and dynamically get your message across.
3. No keyword necessary: Instead of “buy lady’s shoes online”, Zalando could do without the keyword on Facebook and instead write something funny or a seasonal headline and description.
Looking at the color, OnPage.org comes quite close with Facebook. Otherwise than that: Short headline (even in the picture), a quick promise in the description, and of course the image – an absolute eye-catcher ;-)
Figure 4: Facebook post by OnPage.org
Facebook also offers you the chance to play around with images. In some posts, it could actually prove very helpful to select a specific image for the social network – or even come up with one just for this purpose. In order to accommodate a bit more text, a landscape layout could be a good idea if the image should include text that is not too small. And something that always works: people, animals, or both.
With Twitter, you have to think outside the box. We are not just talking about Tweets but also about that which is displayed on shared pages. What do we want to communicate there? If we once again look at the target group: This often includes professionals, mostly media professionals. People who have already subscribed to your page – people whose Timeline quickly glides by. This is why you most certainly need a simple, clear language with an objective tone.
Since many readers often display an image without any text, an image which is linked in TwitterCard is definitely a good idea for Twitter.
Figure 5: A Tweet with a linked image generates attention
The headline should be rather short for a reader to see the brand. The description in this snippet probably should have also been shortened.
Every social network has its strengths and peculiarities. If you are a Google+ user, you probably know best why you prefer it and will quickly learn to use its very flexible features.
As for Pinterest, the important thing is clear: You can achieve much more with a strong, portrait image. However, Pinterest supports all usable images…
Figure 6: Extensive portrait images are the hit on Pinterest. The texts are often just overlooked...
A request to all inclined readers: Avoid headlines like these:
“A man insults a fat lady. What happens next is beyond words!” These are headlines that are intensively tested through Facebook ads and then used on the website. Clearly: These are headlines that get clicked on!
And yet: Keep away from such. For two reasons: One, because this kind of headline-scam appears cheap and is extremely annoying to quite a large portion of the intelligent Internet users (regardless of whether they click on them or not). The second reason is that these headlines are REALLY cheap!
I once conducted a test and captioned my SEO week on the SEO book with this headline, “The week was quite okay until Monday morning. As to what happened next, you can read for yourselves here:” I thought it was funny and was curious.
The result: This title was clicked on way more times than ever before. So far so good. There were however two comments – and these were with regard to the headline (e.g., “How can you post such stupid headlines?”) And it gets worse: The average dwell time for the post was much shorter than for any of the previous SEO weeks.
Conclusion: These headlines get clicked on like crazy – but once the joke is over, the user’s interest disappears faster than you can imagine.
Here’s the link to our OnPage.org Snippet Optimizer. Give it a try! :)
Published on 05/23/2016 by Eric Kubitz.
... aka “Contentman” is founder and head of CONTENTmanufaktur. He also lectures in SEO at two colleges, offers various SEO and copywriter workshops, and is a frequent speaker at conferences (for example SEOkomm, SMX, SEO-Day). The experienced journalist writes mostly for contentman.de, and has compiled his knowledge in a training video for SEO beginners.