“View Source” of most news websites’ pages, and you can expect to see some tags that begin with OG. Tags that start with OG tags are Open Graph tags.
Open Graph tags enable the article posted on social media platforms to become a “rich objects” in the social media timelines or pages. That is, posts will be displayed with the headline, description and photo of the publisher’s choosing.
It is not uncommon to hear editors’ commenting on tweets and posts that don’t have the right picture, for instance. That happens because the image of choice is not mentioned in the OG tag for images, or OG tags were missing altogether. Thus, digital news teams handling the social media accounts need control over what image goes out with each post. The need becomes all the more important because studies have shown that posts accompanied by an image have better engagement than plain vanilla posts.
Open Graph or OG metadata are thus meant to make social media platforms to “understand” what content is about and how publishers want it displayed.
Since Open Graph is supported by some of the big platforms, it is widely used. Twitter prefers Twitter Card Tag, but their absence uses OG Tags. schema.org, a Google, Bing, and Yahoo! backed structured data markup, is also commonly used by most news websites, but it is not meant for social media platforms.
Apart from schema.org, RDFa, Microdata, and JSON-LD are the other metadata formats used by websites to make the content available for semantic processing of unstructured data.
Since social media, despite the increasingly testy relationship with publishers, remains an important source of traffic for most news websites, it is not surprising to find most sites implement OG.
The tags that are good to use for a news website include:
- og:title – Displays the title of the article.
- og:description – The description of the article.
- og:image – This URL provided to the tag is used to display the image that is shown with the post for the article.
- og:url – This tag specifies the URL of the article’s web page.
- article:published_time – This tag is used to show the date and time the article was published.
- article:author – The byline of the article goes here.
- article:section – Sometimes the section the article belongs to on the website is useful to know. The section is for that.
One argument in favour of OG tags is that in their absence, platforms are free to choose images, titles, and descriptions randomly from the provided link.
OG will continue to be useful, since Mastodon recognises OG tags. Mastodon is the Fediverse’s most popular platform. It’s exponential growth since the Musk Madness began is unlikely to make the Open Graph Tags implementation in news websites redundant anytime soon.