What Are Facebook Instant Articles?
Facebook Instant Articles is a publishing format specially developed for improved viewing of article content on Facebook’s mobile app. When viewing an Instant Article, users can expect the content to load as much as 10 times faster than standard mobile web articles.
How Do Facebook Instant Articles Work?
Facebook Instant Articles work in the same way as Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages Project, otherwise known as AMP. AMP is basically a stripped out version of HTML, making the page extremely lightweight by removing all the complex styling that is within standard mobile web pages. The AMP content is then stored in Google’s AMP Cache, which is a proxy-based content delivery network, which they can then delivery to viewers at a lighting fast speed.
To find out more about AMP and how it works, visit https://www.ampproject.org.
Facebook Instant Articles was released shortly after AMP and is basically Facebook’s version of it. All the complex HTML elements are stripped out of the page and this scaled down version is saved as a copy on Facebook’s content delivery network. When someone then shares an article that has an Instant Articles version available, Facebook will deliver that version to the user when using the official Facebook mobile app. If the user were viewing on a standard desktop computer, the standard HTML copy of the page would be delivered.
At the current time of writing, both AMP and Instant Articles are reserved only for article content. This means it is not currently possible to have scaled down versions of your main website pages, so is typically used for just blog and news content.
Facebook Instant Articles Example
When browsing through your news feed on Facebook’s mobile app, it is easy to spot whether an article someone is sharing is a standard mobile web page or an Instant Articles page, due to a little lightning bolt icon that is shown under the article title.
In the below example, taken from the official BBC News Facebook Page, they have shared two different posts; a standard article shown on the left, and an Instant Article shown on the right (denoted by the lightning bolt):
When you click on an Instant Article, the first thing you will notice is that it loads instantly. Secondly, the article will look a lot cleaner and easier to read in the mobile viewpoint. Just compare the below examples of the same article. The version on the left is the standard mobile web version, and the one on the right is the Instant Article version:
As this example shows, the standard mobile version has many features that take up a lot of valuable space in the mobile viewpoint. This includes things like; search box, notifications panel, main site navigation and social sharing buttons. Because of this, you have to scroll down beyond the fold before you even get to the main article content.
With the Instant Article version, you get a single header image, a ‘like’ button to the Facebook page and that is basically it; there are minimal distractions, so the reader can get straight into reading the post. They can also share the post from the top bar and even scroll left and right to easily access other recent Instant Articles that page has shared.
Do Facebook Instant Articles Offer Any SEO Benefit?
Like AMP pages, Facebook Instant Articles do not offer any direct SEO benefit. This means, if you have AMP or Instant Article versions of your posts available, search engines will not favour them over standard mobile versions. With Instant Articles, they are only designed for Facebook viewing so will not directly show up in search engine results pages.
However, both AMP and Instant Articles do offer one main advantage – they improve the user’s experience. The faster a page loads and the easier it is to read, the more likely that person will stay on the page for longer and interact with the content. Instant Articles are trackable with the likes of Google Analytics, and if a search engine sees that users spend more time on your pages and are actively sharing that content, you will stand a much higher chance of being pushed up search results.
Facebook Instant Articles WordPress Plugin
Okay, so we have now answered the question on what are Facebook Instant Articles and we have seen examples of them in action. But, how do we implement them into our website?
The first step is registering your business for Facebook Instant Articles. Once you are registered, you need to create a style for your brand, connect up your website and upload a handful of articles to be accepted by Facebook’s Developer team. To get started, follow the Instant Articles Quickstart Guide.
One of the easiest ways to turn your standard mobile posts into Instant Articles is to use WordPress, with the Facebook Instant Articles WordPress Plugin. This can be downloaded here and installed onto your WordPress site in the same way that you would install any other plugin: https://en-gb.wordpress.org/plugins/fb-instant-articles/.
Once installed, you simply link it up with your Facebook Page and make sure you have the Facebook Pages mobile app installed on your phone. The plugin puts a new box on the right side of the edit screen of your posts. If there are any issues with your coding, whereby the plugin cannot create a valid Instant Article copy, you will be notified in this box. Simply follow the instructions given to correct the issues.
Once your article is verified, save the post and the plugin will automatically create an Instant Articles version and upload it straight to Facebook for you. Now, each time someone shares that article on Facebook, the Instant Article version will be used, where available.
If you want to take a look at all the Instant Articles you have available, load up the Facebook Pages app and go to your page. From the icons across the bottom, click the three dots to view more settings then under ‘Sections’ click ‘Instant Articles’. From this screen, you can view both your live Instant Articles and those in production, as well as some examples from Facebook themselves.
Get In Touch For More Information
If you would like more information on Facebook Instant Articles or would like a hand in getting this setup for your own website, get in touch with us. We can usually set this up in just a couple of hours and can be on-hand to answer any questions you may have, helping you to make the most of this new technology. Remember to also check out my post Our Top Blogging Tips For Engaging Content for more hints and tips on writing effective blog articles.