Tuesday, 21 June 2011

How to Make Facebook Comments SEO Friendly

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

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I’ve been looking at Facebook comments lately and I think they’re great. There is one problem, though. As far as I can tell they’re not very SEO friendly.

So while Facebook comments are generally higher quality and less prone to trolling, they don’t offer much value to websites that leverage comments for SEO.

Of course it’s an interesting time for publishers as their platforms become more and more Facebook dependent. Most will confirm that referral traffic from Facebook continues to grow, so it makes sense to continue investing there. However, it’s still important to maintain some control over how The Google sees and processes your pages, and even more so if your content is the type that generates long comment threads. All those comments help to send a lot of good signals to The Google; all the right signals actually like relevancy, freshness, and perfect organic keywords.

Google likes signals.
I reached out to Facebook’s unofficial (?) SEO guy Alex Schultz on Twitter to ask about better SEO support for Facebook comments. I didn’t hear back, though. I was curious if they planned to address this issue in future iterations of their social plug-ins. Ideally they would offer a version of comments the bots could read well, along with some form of a permalink for each comment.

At the same time I also wondered how Disqus, another large comment engine, handled this issue. Disqus CEO Daniel Hu confirmed via Twitter that they serve up a plain-text version within an invisible DIV layer, which is something the Google-bot can easily crawl. Upon doing some test searches, this does appear to work well for most (but not all) sites using Disqus.

Google is never crazy about hidden text, but they do allow it in some cases where Javascript is used. It’s very important, however, that you show EXACTLY the same content a normal user would see. Obviously if you change or manipulate the content, Google takes issue with that. In the case of Facebook comments it might be best to simply render the comments as they appear through the Facebook APIs (minus some of the UI and buttons).

To be honest, though, I’m not exactly sure what’s the best way to handle something like this. I thought it might help to get things started and publish some easy code to render Facebook comments in plain-text. From there I’m hoping others adapt the code and improve upon it. So down below you can download the code to get started or click here to see it in action. If you load that page and view source you can see the comments rendered in a hidden DIV.

Publishers implement Facebook comments in many different ways.  So I’m hoping to get feedback in the comments on whether this worked for you. Please let me know if it did, or if you find a better solution.




13 comments:

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