This is part 3 of our 3 part series on Meta data.
- Use Meta tags to increase traffic from Google and Bing
- Use Meta tags to increase traffic from Facebook users
- Use Meta tags to make your Twitter tweets more enticing
Ok, so here’s how this whole Meta data thing works …
Meta data is, in short, data about data. In the context of our discussion today, it’s information that describes the Web page that contains it. On-page, meta data is hidden in the <head> of the HTML documents and more useful to the bots crawling that page than the web surfers reading it. Off-page, however, that dynamic shifts because Meta elements control the custom crafted descriptions of web pages we all see in search results. But there’s more: for search engines like Google and Bing there are Meta tags, for social channels like Facebook and Twitter there are Open Graph Tags and Twitter Cards. In both of the latter two cases, the tags give you the ability to craft how your pages or posts will appear whenever they’re shared on Facebook or tweeted onto Twitter.
Now Meta tags aimed at search engines are old hat and Open Graph Protocol has been around so long that when their specific tags aren’t being used on a site, both Twitter and Google+ fall back to Open Graph data. So what we’d like to do is spend some time introducing you to Twitter’s comparatively new Cards.
Back at the end of June Twitter introduced so-called ‘Expanded Tweets’, which presented tweets in a more detailed and engaging way than before. For instance, tweets linking back to websites now display content previews (i.e. images or videos) of that linked to content. As you may have guessed by now, technology behind those features are the aforementioned “Twitter Cards”.
There are three basic types of Twitter Cards: Summary Cards, Photo Cards, and Player Cards. The Summary Card is used for articles and other text-based content, and the Photo Cards and Video Cards are (surprise!) used for images and videos respectively (For instance; Pinterest uses the Photo Card type). There are a couple of tags used in every Twitter Card type, and a few more that are Card-type-specific.
Here Are the Generic Use Twitter Card Meta Tags
- twitter:card – The type of card to be created: summary, photo, or video.
- twitter:title – The title as it should display in the Twitter Card.
- twitter:description – A 200 character summary of the content at the given URL.
- twitter:image – A representative image URL for the content.
- twitter:url – The URL that should be used for the card. This will likely be the same URL as the page’s canonical link.
Here Are Photo and Player Specific Twitter Card Meta Tags
- twitter:player – URL to the IFRAME’d player, must be HTTPS
- twitter:image:width – The width of the image
- twitter:image:height – The height of the image
- twitter:player:width – The width of the player IFRAME
- twitter:player:height – The height of the player IFRAME
- twitter:player:stream – The URL to stream as video
- twitter:player:stream:content_type – The content type of the stream
Twitter Cards Are Really Pretty Simple…
“Earlier this summer, we introduced the ability to expand Tweets to see content previews, photos and videos right within a Tweet. At that time, we were working with a small group of partners. Today there are more than 2,000 ways to bring more interactive and engaging Tweets to your stream –– on twitter dot com, as well as on Twitter for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry.
Twitter cards make it possible for you to attach media experiences to Tweets that link to your content. Simply add a few lines of HTML to your webpages, and users who Tweet links to your content will have a “card” added to the Tweet that’s visible to all of their (Twitter) followers.”
In other words, taking the time to create Twitter Cards for your site’s posts and pages will give you greater control over how your content is displayed whenever it’s tweeted or re-tweeted. You may also be able to drive additional traffic to your website and boost your follower numbers—because of attribution—in the process. Dropping Twitter Cards onto your website takes five minutes, applying for approval from Twitter takes another five minutes, and from that point onward, Twitter users will be exposed to additional dynamic content whenever your website’s posts or pages are tweeted.
Should you be using Twitter Cards?
Are they really worth your time and effort? Well, that depends. If you’re active on Twitter or would like to more active, the answer is “probably”. Your average Twitter feed moves so quickly that the use of virtually any tool likely to bolster your click-through-rates there can be justified. Moreover, just as with Facebook’s Open Graph Meta, since their initial launch Twitter has dramatically expanded the functionality of their Cards to include a variety of applications and media types ranging from galleries and products to apps and lead generation. Getting in on the ground floor of a new technology can be problematic, but it can also give you a leg up over your competitors once it’s established. It’s not exactly the same thing, but I’m reminded a bit of the advantage early adopters of Pinterest have over the veritable tidal wave of late comers.
That said, seeing as how Open Graph is already a thing and both Twitter and Google+ already use it as a backup Social Meta Data source, it’s difficult to infer just why the developers over at Twitter didn’t just build their “Enhanced Tweets” system on it in the first place. To use another apt (if not wholly applicable) example, Twitter’s decision to create a Meta protocol of their own is reminiscent of the HD DVD vs. Blu-Ray situation. As in that situation, it’s pretty obvious that only one of the competing formats can survive.
Unfortunately, especially given the trouble Facebook’s gotten into recently with other applications of Open Graph of late, it’s difficult to place a bet on a likely winner from where I’m sitting. So, what do you think: Are Twitter Cards something you’d be interested in having on your site?
Images courtesy of Twitter 2013