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Social structured data and rich snippets are powerful tools for attracting extra attention and clicks when your content is shared or appears in search results.

For the uninitiated, social structured data is essentially the annotations that appear when a link is shared across social networks. It gives a summary of the information so the user knows what they’re letting themselves in for.

It’s a topic we’ve covered before in posts looking at the value of rich snippets and how ‘rel=author’ impacts SEO.

And at Brighton SEO Firecask co-founder Alex Moss gave an insightful talk on the importance of using social structured data and how to implement it.

The incentives for adding social structured data are clear:

  • It can improve your CTR.
  • You can tailor content for each social network.
  • It gains you extra real estate and exposure.
  • If you don’t use it the resulting data can look a bit messy, as a computer will have to work out which bits of information you want to show.

So, here’s a quick guide to the three types of social data that Moss ran through...

Google+

If you haven’t taken the time to sort out the Meta data on your site then Google+ will simply pull through the title and the first 200 characters of page content, which in most cases is unlikely to be an accurate summary of your work.

Google+ Meta data allows you to tailor the:

  • Type.
  • Title.
  • Description – up to 200 characters.
  • Thumbnail image.

It stands to reason that if you take a bit of time to present your content in the best light then it’s going to improve your CTR.

If no G+ data is set then it will look for Facebook Open Graph data, and if that’s missing it will use standard Meta data. Moss predicted that G+ will soon expand its own Meta data, following suit from Twitter and Facebook’s Open Graph.

Example of Google+ code

Facebook

Facebook’s Open Graph is vast and can be tricky to get the hang of, however the potential benefits means it’s worth the effort.

According to Moss, if a page doesn’t have meta data then Facebook will take the title and the second paragraph, but by using Open Graph you can tailor the:

  • URL.
  • Title.
  • Image – at least 200x200 px
  • Description – up to 300 characters.
  • Site name.
  • Type.

Moss displayed this example of Open Graph code, which can also be viewed in his slide deck.

Example of Faceobok Open Graph code

Twitter 

Twitter Cards are a new development that allow you to custom publish your content.

A normal tweet will just include a shortened link and nothing else, however by using Twitter cards you can tailor the:

  • Site – Twitter username of the website.
  • Creator – Twitter username of the author/owner of that page.
  • Title.
  • Image – at least 200x200px.
  • Description – up to 200 characters.

There are currently six types of Twitter Cards:

  • Summary Card: Default card, including a title, description, thumbnail, and Twitter account attribution.
  • Photo Card: A tweet sized photo card. The photo doesn’t have to be located at the shared URL.
  • Gallery Card: A tweet card geared toward highlighting a collection of photos. Again, the images don’t have to necessarily be located at the shared URL.
  • App Card: A tweet card for providing a profile of an application.
  • Player Card: A tweet sized video/audio/media player card.
  • Product Card: A tweet card to better represent product content. It allows you to include up to two different variables.

In order to use this service you need to apply to register your site with Twitter. The process can take several weeks, so it’s worth planning ahead as it’s not something you can do at the last minute.

Example of Twitter code

And if you don’t have time to add them all...

If you’ve got limited time and resource then Moss recommended that you should just use Facebook Open Graph. 

At the moment if the G+ or Twitter Card data is missing then they both seem to revert to Facebook Open Graph rather than the Meta data, however this could all change in future.

David Moth

Published 16 April, 2013 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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