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Are You Ready For Facebook Instant Articles?

Are you looking for a faster, richer content reading experience? Or are you a publisher in need of a new way to create fast, interactive articles? You’re not the only one, and Facebook Instant Articles is already on it!

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As of December 2015, Facebook had 1.59 billion active monthly users. Nearly half strictly use the social network on their mobile device. The purpose of Instant Articles is to give publishers a better way to present their content in the Facebook  app, thus creating a fast, immersive reading experience for all those mobile users.

Back in May 2013, Facebook announced the launch of a new way to read and consume content. Web articles were taking a shockingly long time to load in their mobile app – on average eight seconds. To improve the user experience, the company introduced Instant Articles, a tool that can load articles up to 10 times faster than before. It also offers features like interactive maps, auto-play video, tilt-to-pan photos, and embedded audio captions.

Major publishers such as Buzzfeed, National Geographic, and the New York Times are already using Facebook Instant Articles but on April 12th, 2016, during their F8 conference, Facebook will open it to all publishers, “of any size and all over the world.” With this program, Facebook hopes to position itself as a leading source for web referral traffic and as a first-party home of content.

Before jumping into Instant Articles, take a look at what is required and how it might affect your website’s SEO.

Facebook Instant Articles

How Instant Articles Work

For Users

Instant Articles allow publishers to share a link to the original article which appears on their website. When Facebook mobile app users click on said link, they are taken to the Instant Articles version of the post. On a desktop, users who click on the same post link are taken to the original article on the publisher’s website. When people share Instant Articles from the Facebook app, the link to the original article on the publisher’s website will be shared.

For Publishers

Ultimately, Facebook is solving issues of slow-loading times, which has been a huge problem for publishers (particularly when audiences are in areas of low connectivity). What is this going to look like for media organizations and journalists?

Instant Articles is an HTML5 document that uses standardized markup language. It can be applied automatically or manually and is convenient for publishers because they will have the freedom to use the tools they already use while still having access to the tools Facebook provides. Facebook will allow publishers to sell ad space privately in their articles and keep 100% of that revenue. Or, you can choose to use Facebook advertiser to sell ads.

However, don’t expect Facebook to give publishers who are using Instant Articles preferential treatment when it comes to placement in the News Feed. The company says there are no plans for that. Instant Articles are ranked in the News Feed by the same rubric that Facebook uses for standard articles, including the amount of people who interact with them and how much time folks spend reading them. This means that Instant Articles won’t impact your organic reach.

We know it’s all about data and analysis, so don’t worry: publishers can track ad data through their existing measurement systems. You can even use existing analytics systems to track article traffic. Facebook will provide analytics insight into reader engagement or you can hook it up to third-party tools (although it’s unknown yet if Google Analytics will be an option).

Oh and there will be a plugin! For all you WordPress users, Facebook is teaming up with WordPress’ parent company, Automattic, to develop and build a free WordPress plugin for Instant Articles. It will allow WordPress bloggers to seamlessly share their content on Facebook Instant Article.

Finally, publishers won’t have to create new unique content. Facebook can use your RSS Feed and HTML markup to convert pre-existing articles into Instant Articles.

Changes You Will Have to Make

Unlike many of Facebook’s updates and new features, this isn’t something that everyone will use immediately. While, as mentioned above, Facebook can convert old materials, publishers will have to update website coding or create/update RSS feeds to meet Instant Articles guidelines.

Another setback: Facebook has to approve you as a publisher by checking a minimum of 50 past articles. This clearly favors high-volume publishers over smaller businesses who only blog occasionally.

Publishers who want to leverage Instant Articles will need to focus on content creation (if they weren’t before). One post a month probably isn’t going to cut it anymore (particularly since it takes a minimum of 50 posts to get approved.)

You will also need to get serious about content formatting. Facebook will be looking for headers, image and video captions, proper author attributions, and related article links.

Besides the boost in performance, a main highlight of Instant Articles is the opportunity for publishers to create rich media experiences. By supporting images, videos, gifs, audio, interactive images, maps, slideshows, you name it, Facebook is prepping readers to be more engaged with content. So try different media, diversify your content and expand your reach.

How These Changes Might Affect SEO

All of the aforementioned things are beneficial for SEO.

If you use the right keyword optimization in each article, the addition of more articles to your website will lead to more keyword visibility in organic search. Focus on keyword optimizing article titles, subtitles, captions, et al. Giving proper credit to various authors will potentially gain organic search traffic when people search for those names. All in all, a positive effect on SEO!

To ensure that Facebook Instant Articles work properly, publishers may need to clean up their website coding or RSS feed, improve mobile-friendliness and performance. Once people adapt to the functionality and high performance of Instant Articles it goes to reason that they will expect every website to have the same attributes so get ready and stay ahead of the cusp by making the necessary changes now. On the whole, when you optimize your website for mobile-friendliness and high performance, it is going to do better in search rankings anyway.

Facebook Instant Articles photo

April 12th is right around the corner so, if it interests you, hop to it and begin preparing your website’s content for this new program. Not only is Instant Articles a new way for publishers to create fast, interactive articles on Facebook but the changes that you make can help your website’s optimization and help you to monetize with Facebook Ad Network.

Early analysis suggests that people engage with interactive content and share Instant Articles with people more often than they do standard web articles. If you’re looking to boost Facebook user engagement and reach, this could be the way.

To sign up for more information, go here.

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