Recently an affiliate of a network using HasOffers wrote a blog post about our links not being friendly for social media sites like Facebook. The exciting part is that we actually know a few things about posting links on these sites and would love to share that with you now.
How Social Media Sites Scrape
When you submit a link to share on Facebook or another social networking website, they pre-populate data about the site. The process works like this:
- User submits a URL to share.
- Website uses server side scripting to access the URL.
- The script gets the page title from the meta – the content in the <title> tags.
- <title>Affiliate Tracking Software – Manage Your Own Affiliate Network</title>
- The script gets the description from the meta.
- <meta name=”description” content=”HasOffers, affiliate tracking software. Track and manage your affiliate program with unlimited affiliates & fast reporting. TRY IT FREE.”>
- The script gets the first image on the page. If there are multiple images on a page, which there usually are, it selects the first image on the page by default.
New HTML Meta Tags
A few months ago, Facebook adopted Open Graph Protocol as a standard for pulling information about pages. You can include these new Open Graph tags on your web pages. These new Open Graph tags allow you to specify exactly the content to share. So instead of just scraping the web page for the data, it will use the specified data instead. This gives you more control to make the connection between a web page and how it’s shared by a user on their profile or wall.
Facebook OGP implementation: http://developers.facebook.com/docs/opengraph/
More information available here: http://ogp.me/
“Share Format” for Affiliate Links
Before OGP became the standard, our engineers actually developed a way to improve how affiliate links are shared. They called it the share format. When you take a HasOffers tracking link and set the format to share – &format=share – the ad servers display an intermediary page. This intermediary page loads specific information about the offer. When social media sites scrape the link for content, they pull the data from this page instead of the advertiser’s landing page.
The intermediary share page displays the offer title, offer description and offer thumbnail. The share page then uses a meta refresh to direct the user to the landing page for the offer. Most scraping scripts don’t follow meta redirect so the websites pull the data from the intermediary share page.
Our engineers haven’t had a chance to implement the OGP tags on the share page, but I assure you its in the development queue. The current share format still works very well on Facebook as well as other sites that don’t pull OGP data.
Affiliate Links Blocked by Facebook
Most social networking sites have strict policies regarding spam. We certainly understand and respect their policies. Facebook, LinkedIn and others will implement blocks to prevent potential spam. These blocks are implemented on the domain as well as the IP address associated with the domain. If just one of your affiliates abuses these social networking sites, it will ruin it for all your other affiliates. Advertisers and networks must monitor their affiliates to ensure their domains don’t get blocked. This process is very similar to how email services block emails from sources identified as spam. Even good emails can sometimes get caught in these filters; posting affiliate links on social network sites is the same.
Affiliate programs can ensure their links aren’t blocked by Facebook and other sites by having their tracking domains operate on a custom IP address. The IANA allots Internet companies like ourselves a certain number of IP addresses. We provide these dedicated IPs to Enterprise clients only. If you are HasOffers Basic and Pro client and want to ensure your affiliate links can be posted on social media sites, you should think about upgrading to Enterprise for a dedicated IP address. This way another network’s affiliates’ activity isn’t connected to your network’s tracking domain.
I hope this helps bring some clarity to the issue of sharing affiliate links on Facebook. There will always be new filters and blocks to prevent potential spam, and we certainly understand the importance of providing the tools people need to be compliant. Keep your eyes peeled for those updates regarding OGP, and good luck.