When the web first appeared to the general public back in the early 1990’s, people where amazed with the amount of information available online. Some of us might remember the spider crawler, an early search engine that was run by AOL. With a few clicks of our mouse button, we were off and running on the super informational highway with Bill Clinton playing his saxophone in the background on CNN headline news!
The web at that time was defined by individually created web pages containing a wealth of scientific and general purpose data about anything and everything! To get listed in these early primitive search engines, you just needed to make sure you had a title to your webpage and perhaps a few keywords.
Zoom ahead 20 years and what has happened? There are now 20 billion webpages and 700 million websites. Consider that if you are starting a brand new website or updating an old one, you are probably going to start out at the bottom of that 700 million list.
So you say you want to Meta-tag your site and Search Engine Optimize it to hopefully get listed high in the Google search ranks? Forget it. The newest and best way to get listed in the search engines is through Facebook’s Open Graph Protocol. Leverage your already existing network of friends and websites to get recognized and listed higher in the search engines by providing Facebook with a few details of your website.
This will also allow your like buttons on your website to better interact with Facebook, providing the title, image, and description in a neatly formatted “Like” post on your profile for thousands to see. After all, who wants to see a long URL and a random image from your webpage? Think of Open Graph Protocol as a way to format your Facebook page like posts.
But wait, there is more. A funny thing happened when we at Celtic Radio formatted our pages to utilized Open Graph Protocol. Our search engine rankings dramatically increased over night. And that’s the beauty of Open Graph Protocol. By providing a few details on what a particular page represents, it seems that not only is Facebook watching, but the almighty search engines appear to be using this information to categorized and rank webpages.
Here is what Mark Zuckerberg has to say about Open Graph Protocol:
“Today the web exists mostly as a series of unstructured links between pages. This has been a powerful model, but it’s really just the start. The open graph puts people at the center of the web. It means that the web can become a set of personally and semantically meaningful connections between people and things.”
Implementing Open Graph Protocol is extremely easy given the following code example:
As you can see from the above example, there are only a few meta tags to the open graph protocol, but these important tags allow facebook (and search engines) to better understand your website. The image tag is a really powerful addition as it will allow for a thumb nail version (instead of a random image on your site) to appear on Facebook. And all roads lead back to Rome! That is exactly what Mark Zuckerberg is creating by Facebook Like buttons and the implementation of open graph protocol. By providing a simple way to categorized webpages to end users who run websites, by leveraging an already existing network of friends, family, colleagues and businesses – Zuck is indeed creating the roads that lead to Rome, or in our tech world – Facebook.
You might hear people of a technical background say this is completely evil and should not be supported, but the truth speaks for itself. Facebook is the new Google and it is just a matter of time before Facebook becomes the new defacto search engine for social networking and more!
My advice to all webmasters and musicians; implement Open Graph Protocol on your websites and reap the benefits. The nay Sayers will be left in the dust and their websites will be at the bottom of the barrel of 20 billion websites.
Read more about Open Graph Protocol and how to implement on the Open Graph Protocol website.
While Open Graph Protocol can be used on static HTML pages that do not change, the real power comes when you are running your website using a database and creating dynamically driven webpages! A few additions to your scripting code and you could implement Open Graph Protocal in 5 minutes. Just a word of warning that Open Graph Protocol does still seem to be in a state of development, so you might find the tags to function intermittently at times, but usually this will clear up in a few hours.
Understand that it takes Facebook a while, just like search engines, to crawl your webpage for the Open Graph Protocol Tags. Don’t fret though because you can speed up this process by using the Facebook Linter program to have your page quickly read and updated (wish Google had this feature). You can find the Linter program here.
If you have any questions or comments about Open Graph Protocol, we would be happy to answer them. Just remember that this type of project for your website is probably an intermediate level of web design, so if you find yourself struggling to understand the concept, just forward to the webmaster that runs your site.