When people arrive at your Facebook Page, where do you think they first look? I'll give you some hints. It's a visual piece of content that sits at the top of your page. Its dimensions are 851 pixels wide by 315 pixels tall. It takes up almost a quarter of the screen on most desktop browsers.
That's right -- it's your Facebook cover photo.
Since it's one of the most noticeable parts of your page, it's crucial that you follow Facebook cover photo best practices. Whether you're using Facebook to generate leads, close your next sale, or create a customer community, knowing how to make and optimize your cover photo is very important. Read on to learn what you should (and shouldn't) do in your cover photo.
(You'll also get cover photo templates for Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Google+ with your cover photo template download!)
8 Best Practices for Effective Facebook Cover Photos
1) Do abide by Facebook's cover photo guidelines.
It seems like a no-brainer, but obeying Facebook guidelines is crucial to your Facebook Page existing in the first place. I'd highly suggest reading through the full Page Guidelines, but here are a few important things to keep in mind for your cover photo:
- Your cover is public.
- Covers can't be deceptive, misleading, or infringe on anyone else's copyright.
- You can't encourage people to upload your cover to their personal timelines.
If you get caught violating the above terms, Facebook could take action against your Page. And while Facebook doesn't explicitly say what will happen if you violate their Page guidelines, it's probably not smart to get your Facebook Page taken down over a cover photo infraction, so read the guidelines in full and adhere to them.
2) Do make sure your Facebook cover photo size is right: 851 px wide by 315 px tall.
You don't want to spend all this time designing a cover photo ... only to have it look weird when you upload it to Facebook. Make sure your cover photo will look fabulous from the get-go by making sure it's the right dimensions (851 pixels wide and 315 pixels tall). If you upload an image smaller than those dimensions, Facebook will stretch it to fit the right size, as long as it's at least 399 pixels wide and 150 pixels tall.
If you want a no-hassle way to make sure your cover photos are the right size, download our pre-sized template for Facebook cover photos here.
3) Don't abide by the 20% text rule, but try to stay visual.
A few years ago, Facebook removed any reference to the 20% rule on text in cover photos ... but that doesn't mean you should go wild with using text in your cover photo. The previous rule said that only 20% of your cover photo could be text -- and personally, I thought that was way too restrictive for marketers -- but the sentiment behind the rule was a good one. If you're going to use text in your cover photo, keep it concise; your photo will be much more informative and engaging.
4) Don't hide content behind your profile picture.
Even though you have a full 851 pixels by 315 pixels to design a cover photo doesn't mean that you have all of that to work with. Because of the way that Profile Pictures are featured on Facebook Pages, there's a section of your cover photo that won't appear unless you click on it.
See in the example below the section that's highlighted with a dotted line? That's the part of the cover photo that isn't immediately viewable to your Facebook Fans:
So make sure you're not unintentionally hiding something important in that space. If you want more information on cover photo spacing, check out this help document from Facebook.
That being said, you can also use this hidden space to your advantage -- maybe even hiding an easter egg behind the profile picture for a contest. But typically, keeping that space clear is a good best practice.
5) Do right-align the objects in your cover photo.
Since your profile picture is on left, you want to add some balance to your Facebook cover photo design by having the focus of the image be on the right. Take a look at these cover photos -- which one looks more aesthetically pleasing?
Doesn't the right-aligned cover photo look better? The biggest design elements (the profile picture, the text, and the beer) are evenly spaced. In the Samsung cover photo, your attention goes immediately to the left side of the page -- completely missing the name of the product on the upper right side.
Still not convinced? Not only is adding balance a crucial element of design, but it also allows cover photos to be effective on mobile. On mobile, a much larger portion of your cover photo is blocked out because the profile picture and the Page name are on top of the cover photo. Here's what it looks like:
So from both a design and optimization standpoint, it's in your best interests to right-align your visual elements.
6) Do integrate the cover photo design with other parts of your Facebook Page.
If you really want to get creative with your cover photo, try integrating its design with other parts of your Facebook Page. You could make your profile picture and cover photo one big canvas, or use some design elements to draw attention to different functionalities of your Facebook Page. Below are a few ideas of what these cover photo integrations can look like.
Combine your profile picture and cover photo:
With a little creativity and some design tweaks, you can make your profile picture and cover photo appear as if they're two parts of one canvas. Check out Paris' cover photo for a subtle but compelling way to do that.
Note: Since cover photos display differently on mobile and on desktop, you'll have to choose one format to design your cover photo and profile combination for. Since cover photos are much more noticeable on desktop, I'd suggest prioritizing that layout for your cover photo and profile picture combination design.
Draw attention to the buttons on right:
Following the best practices mentioned above, innocent drinks places all of its important text to the right of their cover photo -- not only achieving a good design aesthetic, but also drawing attention to the main calls-to-action on the Page: Like, Follow, and Message.
Use directional cues to get people to convert:
A few months ago, Facebook introduced a call-to-action button for pages, which can be found above your cover photo to the left of the Like button on desktop (on mobile, it's in the top menu below the number of Likes). Why not use your cover photo to draw attention to the call-to-action? Below, you can see how Guy Kawasaki does this on his Page -- the arrow draws your attention to the Facebook CTA, "Sign Up." Once you click "Sign Up," you'll be taken to his guide on entrepreneurship. Doing the same thing on your Facebook Page (aligning your cover photo and Facebook CTA) could increase your conversion rates.
Note: Just like with the cover photo and profile picture combination, you'll have to choose a format for which your design will work. To start, I'd suggest optimizing it for desktop, but once you have more data on what types of devices people are using to access your landing page, you can better optimize your cover photo designs.
7) Do include a shortened link in your cover photo description that aligns with your page CTA.
If you're going to use your cover photo to support your page CTA, also make sure your cover photo description includes a text CTA and link to the same offer. This way, any time people view your cover photo directly, they can access the download link.
And to really optimize your links, shorten them so you can track clicks on them. (You can see this in action in Guy's cover photo below.) Shortening and tracking features are available in the HubSpot software and in tools like bitly.
Want to learn how to write more compelling call-to-action copy for your cover photo description? Click here to download this ebook.
8) Do pin a related post right below your Facebook cover image.
Have you ever "pinned" a post to your Facebook Page's Timeline? Basically, pinning a post allows you to highlight a typical Facebook post on the top of your Timeline for seven days.
How does this relate to optimizing your Facebook cover photo? Well, if you're spending time aligning your Facebook Page CTA, your cover photo design, and your cover photo description copy, you should also make sure to post about the same thing directly to your page, and pin that post to the top of your Timeline. That way, you're giving people one very clear call-to-action when they arrive to your page (albeit in several different locations) -- which should help conversions. Below is an example of what this can look like:
Want to see how HubSpot uses Facebook? Like our Facebook Page here.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in September 2013, and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.