Facebook Instant Articles - Practical Guide for Implementation and Monetization
Instant Articles are a great new way to show content to your users.
by Cocsie on May 08, 2017 | 04:12 PM
Web load times are dreadfull. This has become an issue especially on the mobile web where people leave a page if it take over a few seconds to load. That's a fact.
Both Google and Facebook have started to address this issue by implementing their own flavor of a faster mobile web. Google version is called AMP - Accelerated Mobile Pages. Facebook's version is called Instant Articles.
This is how Instant Articles look like in your Facebook News feed:
Note that the Instant Article version of a page is currently only available via the Facebook App on Android ar iOS and not by using the mobile web version of Facebook. They are also not available on the desktop version.
What do you need to publish to Facebook's Instant Articles?
- First you need a website. You don't need a mobile version of if, just a website.
- Second, you need a Facebook page. Create one here.
- Third, you have to sign up for Instant Articles and agree to the terms.
If you do this right, in your page Publishing Tools you should see a new section called Instant Articles, like in the figure below:
Facebook suggests the following steps, and we will break them down in sequence, one after the other:
Add Your Team: Give your design and development team a role on this page so they can access these tools. They just mean, add more admins or editors to the page, you don't need to do this if it is you that will manage the implementation.
Get the Pages Manager App: Preview your articles and styles on iOS or Android. This here is an essential step. Only with the help of the Facebook Pages application will you be able to preview your Instant Articles and make the necessary changes before you submit them for review.
Connect Your Site: Authorize your site to begin importing Instant Articles. To do this go to the Tools section below, copy the meta tag with your page id in it and paste it in the < head > section of you page. It should look like this: < meta property="fb:pages" content="435786056756236" />. Here, in this example, 435786056756236, is the id of my Facebook Page. If you're on Wordpress, and you use a plugin for Instant Articles, you can just copy the id, without the meta tag, to the plugin's pages section.
Create Style Templates: Customize the look and feel of your articles with the Style Editor. You have to create a create a custom style and name it whatever - but remember the name because you will need it later. If you don't feel like messing around with it you can leave the styles as the default ones are, but you have to change your logo. You need a transparent PNG at least 690 pixels in width and 132 pixels in height.
How to create Instant Articles?
Create Articles: Format articles and import them to Facebook with API, RSS or CMS plugin. You will need a minimum of 5 articles formatted for Instant Articles to start. When Instant Articles first launched you needed 50, they cut that to 10 and now it's 5. Maybe publishers were not very eager to sign up and needed enticing.
You have several options here to feed Facebook your Instant goodies:
API. The advantage here is that, with good implementation, you will be able to edit / publish Instant Articles in real time.
RSS feed. It's the simplest option if you have a pre build website or one that runs none of the usual CMS. Here is my Instant Articles Feed. Build by myself. The only problem with this is that Facebook takes a little time to update it, but does so usually once every few minutes, but don't expect it to be in real time. Also, if you delete an article on your website, because it doesn't push updates, you will have to manually delete the article from the Instant Articles Production section, or it will linger around on Facebook servers for people to read until eternity.
CMS Plugins. Most CMS developers have created an Instant Articles plugin for you to use. The main disadvantage here is that you will be at their mercy each time Facebook pushes a new update or makes changes to the format. That is a thing you should consider wisely, as in my experience with Facebook it happens a lot. That is why I choose the build my own RSS Feed version.
How to pass the review Process in Instant Articles:
- Create a development feed to test your articles. Check the out in the Facebook Pages App and make sure they look right. Only after you're satisfied wth the results and don't see any errors or yellow triangles should you create a production feed and submit your feed for review.
- Update the style name you created previously (where you uploaded your logo) in the API, RSS, etc. so Instant Articles will use that style, with your logo on it.
- Make sure you have good quality original text, and original photos for your article.
- I was once disapproved for my Instant Article for not matching exactly with my web version. This means that any content in Instant Articles has to be on par with the body of the article, no more, no less and applies for: text, headings, photos, author, author bio, not the comments and other widgets you might have.
- Do not leave empty < p > < / p > tags or empty tags in general - reason for failure.
- Do not put play buttons over your photos click bait style, like you're faking a video to incite people to click on your photos - reason for failure.
- Do not add a lot of ad placements, just one every 250 words or more or Facebook will automatically cut it out. (this was previously every 350 words, but money talks)
Explore Audience Network: Monetize your articles with Facebook's Audience Network. You can monetize Instant Articles in two ways. Either you run your own ads. A lot of ad networks are supported, as is Google's Double Click for Publishers, or you run Facebook's Audience Network.
You probably aren't a big time publisher selling your own ad inventory, so like me and many others you probably use Facebook's Audience Networ, Adsense, Media.net or some other ad network. As far as I can tell, most ad network should be able to play nice with Instant Articles except Adsense unfortunately. The ads will probably work and generate impressions, but you will be serving them off Facebook's platform instead of your own and in an IFRAME which is totally against the Adsense Terms and Conditions. And it will get you banned fast. So remember, Adsense does not work with Facebook Instant Articles.
Fortunately there's a another very good option. Facebook's own Audience Network which we will explore next:
How to monetize Instant Articles with Audience Network:
- Check the box where it says "Monetize your Instant Articles with ads from Facebook's Audience Network" in your Configuration options and off you go. In my experience, developing for a few websites, I was almost always approved instantly - pun intended. Then it's smooth sailing from there on.
- Facebook automatically creates a new app accessible from Facebook Developers called "[yourpage] - Instant Articles".
- Go to the Placements tab of the Audience Network Section in your app settings and copy the Placement ID it auto generates in there in your RSS feed, API, or plugin. (see image below)
- Create a new company in the Payout Section, link it to your application and update the tax forms. If you don't do this and accumulate more than 100$, Facebook will stop ad delivery until you update it. Trust me it will, it happened to me.
- Go to filter and turn on or off ads in some sections. I don't know why you would do this, but it might come in handy not to show ads from your competitors.
- You're all set. Facebook will create automatic placements for your ads in Instant Articles. You can manually choose the location yourself but from my experience, Facebook's own engine is better at selecting the best spots for the ads, and has always beaten me in terms of CPM and total revenue.
- Payment will come depending on your preference trough PayPal or directly to your bank account.
As far as revenue goes, Facebook's Audience Network has been on par with Adsense for me. The TOS prohibits me from disclosing the exact sums, but I will say that these are the top two revenue generating sources for me, followed by Media.net, at a large gap unfortunately.
Do Instant Articles Work better that the regular Mobile web?
Well Facebook seems to think so, and in my opinion as developer of several high traffic web sites, Instant Articles have added a lot to the traffic and Facebook's Audience Network contribute to almost 80% of the revenue on said sites.
Facebook states that:
Instant Articles get 20% more clicks than mobile web articles on average.
People are 70% less likely to abandon an article while waiting for it to load.
And shares are up 30% on Instant Articles vs. the Mobile Web, which translates to more exposure on Facebook, more traffic to you site and ultimately more revenue.
New Developments to Instant articles in 2017
Facebook has launched Call to Action Units for Instant Articles. You can enable and/or pause these units in the Publisher Tools section of your page. These call to action units consist of just two separate widgets.
First, a Email sign-up form where websites will get the email address you signed up to Facebook with if you want them to send you updates. Ths type of unit can be slightly personalized.
And second, a Page Like form, where users can like your page. Pretty straightforward this one, a note though: it has to be the page that has the Instant Articles on it, you can not choose any other page.
One side note for both Google AMP and FB's Instant Articles: since they cache your page to serve it extra quick, your server load will decrease substantially, so there are potential cost cutting benefits to implementing either method or both on top of the improved traffic metrics. Let me know how Instant Articles worked for you or if you had any problems implementing it.