Have you heard of Facebook Instant Articles?
Want to publish your own Instant Articles on Facebook?
Unlike most new Facebook features, Facebook Instant Articles isn't something that you'll be able to use as soon as it becomes available in April. You're going to need to do some prep work.
In this article you'll discover how Facebook instant articles work and what you need to do now to prepare for the release on April 12.
How Facebook Instant Articles Work
If you've ever clicked on an article link in the Facebook app, you know that no matter how well the website is optimized for mobile, you always have to wait for the site to load before you can get to the content.
Facebook Instant Articles solves this by allowing publishers to optimize their content so readers can access it instantly. The following video shows the difference between two Huffington Post articles. The first goes to the Huffington Post website, and the second goes to content optimized for Facebook Instant Articles.
As you can see, the Facebook instant article loads immediately, giving content users exactly what they want with minimal wait time. Note that if desktop users click on a link to your content, they'll be taken to your website as usual.
When mobile users share Facebook instant articles, people who click on the shared link will go to the instant article or the website, depending on whether they're using a mobile device or desktop browser.
In terms of referral traffic, mobile users who view your content as a Facebook instant article won't actually visit your website, and therefore won't be counted as referral traffic from Facebook. But you can use standard web analytics tools like Google Analytics to track traffic to Facebook instant articles to retain your overall visitor counts.
How to Prepare for Facebook Instant Articles
The prep work you'll need to do depends on the platform you use to publish your content, the amount of content you publish, and your technical expertise.
That's why I suggest that if you're interested in using Facebook Instant Articles, you take the following steps immediately.
#1: Know What You'll Need for Facebook Instant Articles
There are a few things you'll need to use Facebook Instant Articles:
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- A Facebook page.
- The Facebook Pages app to preview your instant articles on your mobile device (iPhone or Android).
- An RSS feed that displays the full content of your articles if you want to automate publishing your content to Facebook Instant Articles.
- Facebook Instant Articles markup on your blog or website. WordPress users will be able to use an official plugin that's currently in development or the PageFrog plugin available now, which also enables support for Google Accelerated Mobile Pages.
- A minimum of 50 articles to submit to Facebook for approval into the Facebook Instant Articles program.
- Facebook Business Manager if you need to contact support for Facebook Instant Articles.
This is why it's important to start preparing now. If you don't have 50 articles yet, I don't suggest rushing to get a large amount of content out there that isn't quality just so you can use the new Facebook feature. But it's something good to know if you only have five posts on your blog and only publish once a week.
#2: Check Out Facebook Instant Articles From Beta Publishers
Certain publishers are already publishing Facebook instant articles. Check out what they have to offer to gain insight into whether you want to get your content into the same format.
According to the official Facebook Instant Articles page, the following publishers are already using the feature.
I've found that most of these publishers use Facebook Instant Articles for some, but not all, articles. As shown in the video earlier, there's a distinct difference between Facebook instant articles and the articles on publishers' websites. You'll just need the Facebook app for iPhone or Android to see them.
Browse the articles from these publishers to get a good idea of whether Facebook Instant Articles is a good fit for your content. For example, if you publish 5,000-word blog posts that are filled with complex tables, charts, and other content that is best suited for desktop display, Facebook Instant Articles may not be a good fit for your content.
#3: Sign Up for Facebook Instant Articles
If you're sure that Facebook Instant Articles is right for your content, sign up for more information. After you sign up, you'll receive an email that links you to the Facebook developer's guide for Facebook Instant Articles and the closed Facebook group for media publishers.
#4: Consider PageFrog if You Use WordPress
If you already have all of the things mentioned in step #1 and publish your content on a self-hosted WordPress website, you can prepare your content now with the PageFrog plugin. It has the added benefit of optimizing your content for Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which is similar to Facebook Instant Articles but for Google mobile-search users.
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Change WordPress Settings Before Installing the Plugin
While experimenting with this plugin, I found that it's crucial to make the following changes under Settings > Reading for your WordPress website before installing the plugin.
Note that doing so might affect how many posts are displayed on your homepage and archive pages. But it's currently the only way to get 50 items in the Facebook Instant Archives RSS feed that you'll need to submit for approval to the program. This might change as the plugin is updated in the future.
When you're ready, go to your Plugins menu and search the plugins directory for “PageFrog” to find the plugin. Once installed, you'll find the settings for the plugin in your Admin menu.
Click on Setup to get the following guides for Facebook Instant Articles and Google Accelerated Mobile Pages.
When you click Begin Setup for Facebook Instant Articles, it will recommend that you sign up for access (as suggested in step #2). It will then show you where to go to access Facebook Instant Articles when the feature is released. Most importantly, you'll get an RSS feed that's optimized for Facebook Instant Articles and find out where to submit it for review.
From here, you can do the following:
- Click on Styling in the plugin menu to learn how to style your Facebook instant articles using Facebook Instant Articles Publishing Tools (once released).
- Click on Analytics to connect web analytics, including Google Analytics, Chartbeat, Parsely, and other providers' tracking codes. (This is optional.)
- Click on Ads to add your Audience Network ID to monetize your Facebook instant articles with Facebook ads. If you don't have one, you'll need to apply. (This is optional.)
- Click on Settings to enable Facebook Instant Articles for your old posts.
Once you're finished setting up Facebook Instant Articles, you should also set up Google Accelerated Mobile Pages. Optimizing your content for Google AMP can help you reach the top of search results for mobile users.
#5: Know Your Options if You Don't Use WordPress
If you don't use WordPress (the self-hosted version that allows you to install plugins), your options will depend on the platform on which you publish content.
If you use a platform where you have no control over coding, such as a hosted network like Medium, Tumblr, or WordPress.com, you'll have to wait to see whether the platform decides to optimize for Facebook Instant Articles.
If you use a platform that allows you to install extensions (similar to WordPress plugins) like Joomla or Drupal, you'll have to wait to see whether they'll develop extensions or support for Facebook Instant Articles.
If you use a platform where you can modify the coding of your framework or template, you may want to see if you or your web developer is able to add the markup for Facebook Instant Articles.
Or you may want to decide whether using Facebook Instant Articles is worth moving your content over to a platform that's certain to offer easy-to-use support like WordPress and its official and third-party plugins.
#6: Prepare to Optimize Your Website's Overall Mobile Experience
Another thing to take into consideration with Facebook Instant Articles is your overall mobile strategy. Even if you don't optimize your content for Facebook Instant Articles, publishers that link to your website might.
This means that more people will be clicking through to your website with expectations of a superior mobile experience. If your website is not currently providing that kind of mobile experience, you should be looking into ways to do so.
As you can see, Facebook Instant Articles requires a lot of preparation work for publishers that want to be ready for the new feature when it becomes available, and businesses that want their website to be optimized for Facebook app users who click through to their websites from Facebook instant article mentions.
What do you think? How do you plan to prepare for Facebook Instant Articles? Let us know in the comments below!
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