Fix Facebook Shares with the Debugger Tool

Ever share a web page to Facebook with totally unexpected results? Post a link to a blog and see a different title or image than what you intended? Edit a page, but see the old content when you share it?

Problems like these can often be fixed, even when you’re sharing someone else’s content, by using Facebook’s Debugger tool.

To understand how, first you need to understand how Facebook decides what to display when you share a link.

When you share a page, Facebook tries to show three things: a title, a short description, and an image. Ideally, the page uses meta tags defined by the “Open Graph” protocol to specify each of these elements. If you omit the tags, Facebook does the best it can, but the results can vary widely depending on your content.

open graph tags

Click image to enlarge

When you’re building a page, you should add the appropriate tags. If your site runs on WordPress or a similar platform where you can’t edit the HTML code, there are tools that can generate the tags for you.

Problems occur because Facebook caches pages the first time someone shares them. After that, Facebook displays the page from the cache in order to speed up load times.

If you get the tags right the first time, there’s no problem. Whenever someone shares a link to your page on Facebook, the title, image, and description display as intended.

But if you need to change a page after Facebook has cached it, Facebook may still display the old version from their cache even after you’ve made the changes.

To fix this, you can use the Facebook Debugger tool to force Facebook to reload the cache. You do that by opening the Debugger tool, pasting your link into the appropriate field, and clicking [Debug] to load the Open Graph data from your page. You’ll see the data currently in the cache. Now click on the [Fetch new scrape information] button and Facebook will rescan your page and load the new version into their cache.

This same technique often works for other people’s pages, too. So anytime you share a page and you don’t see what you expect, re-scrape the page using the Debugger tool to update the cache and get Facebook up-to-date.

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