Getting your Facebook share out of Facebook Cache HELL!

facebook-cache-HELL

Actually maybe that should be Facebook Cache Limbo? It is a mystery.

Anyway, great news, people! An issue that came up in the comments section of my previous article on Facebook thumbnails has been solved (or at least reliably worked-around).

Commenter Nélio (man, you rock!) tipped us off to the existence of the Facebook URL Linter, a tool to help developers debug their pages so that the metadata and whatnot all falls in line with FB specs.

Doing some searching, I also came up with this brief from allfacebook.com

This in itself is very, very cool. HOWEVER, the true value in our situation is that the Linter includes the necessary feature of flushing your cached page data out of Facebook‘s cache! This is HUGE.

As you may or may not know, when you attempt to share a page on FB, that page is immediately stored in FB’s cache. The downside is if you forgot to put some necessary info (such as description meta or thumbnail link) then FB stores that incorrect page and you can’t get that new info to share correctly until Facebook’s cache is flushed.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to determine at exactly what interval they flush the cache out. So if you have a timely piece you’d like shared sometimes there’s nothing you can do but sit there frustrated as your article is shared without the catchy thumbnail, definitely resulting in less clicks.

Actually there was one previous workaround. Another commenter on the same article that started this all (Jesse) mentioned that adding a random query string onto the end of your article (example.com becomes example.com?=1) will result in Facebook taking a new look at your page and getting your updated info.

I’ve tested this and in fact used it many times since his comment. The only problem is that while it works for you, you can’t really count on your readers who want to share the article knowing enough to throw that random string on the end of your url.

But it doesn’t matter now. If you just take your problem url and paste it into the Linter, Facebook will flush it out of the cache and you can go ahead and share with impunity.

I tested this right away after the comment was left.

First I set up a new page on my site. I removed almost every image from the page and then went to share it on my Facebook page (I didn’t hit the “Share” button, only the “Attach” button -that’s enough to get the url into the cache).

As expected, the url came up plain and boring with no thumbnail image. I tried it again and again, which might be your normal response (and which actually is making your problem worse by making the wait longer for the cache to refresh).

Then, I went back to my article and I added a thumbnail image to the page. I didn’t add it to the head of the page in the section, I just inserted a thumbnail and then hid it with css “display:none”. I republished the page and went back to it. Checking the code I could see that my thumbnail was indeed in the HTML but hidden by my CSS.

Now, I returned to my FB page to share the url again. No change. As usual, only the cached version of my page was shown on Facebook. Again, I tried to attach the page several more times with the same result.

Normally I’d now add that random query string to the end of the url, but this time I went to the Facebook URL Linter and put my url in there (without the query string).

So I saw all the debug and social graph info but for this instance I wasn’t worried about any of that. After running the url through there I headed back to my Facebook page and put in the correct url.

IT WORKED.

I clicked the Attach button and the article popped in there with the thumbnail I’d added to the page. KICK. ASS.

So this is a surefire way to get your Facebook share out of Facebook cache Hell. Of course, it won’t help you if you don’t realize in time that your info is wrong, but if you can get on top of it and run your url through there before it’s shared too often you can fix the problem pretty quickly.

Anyway, let me know your experiences in the comments or if you have any other issues I’ll definitely see if I can help. Until then “Facebook Share, Tweet and Stumble this thing to the fullest, people!”

Thanks for sharing!

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  1. NativePaul on Nov 6, 2010

    Thank you so much for the Linter tip!
    This just solved my issue with a flash widget I launched recently. The widget needed to go live before facebook had whitelisted my url, which meant that the cached version of the page being shared didn’t play the swf within the news feed. Thanks to your tip all future shares will now play the widget in the news feed.

    Now if only the linter removed the cache on all past times the link was shared.
    NativePaul recently posted..The Wombats Free Download WidgetMy Profile

  2. JG
    Twitter: johngarrettx
    on Nov 6, 2010

    Hey Paul, I’m really glad Nélio decided to clue me into that Linter. Saved me a ton of hassle, too!

    BTW I went and checked out your link and that’s a kick-ass site you’ve got there. Keep it up!
    JG recently posted..Preventing downloading of your Facebook hi-res imagesMy Profile

  3. Joe J on Nov 9, 2010

    JG. Linter is the trick. I do not save many favorites but your work and efforts deserve it
    JJ

  4. JG
    Twitter: johngarrettx
    on Nov 9, 2010

    Joe, this is what it’s all about, helping other people so they don’t have to go through the same crap I do :)

    I put this stuff up here in case another hapless Googler might stumble onto it and find some help. Spread the word about that Linter!

  5. Ben Bruner on Nov 29, 2010

    Very useful information. I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out how to clear that.
    Ben Bruner recently posted..Choosing Keywords to Improve ConversionsMy Profile

    • JG
      Twitter: johngarrettx
      on Nov 29, 2010

      Ben I’m glad you found this helpful. I wrote this up to spare others from similar headaches. Thanks for the comment!

  6. Micah on Dec 7, 2010

    No such luck clearing the “normalized url” from their cache via linter :(

    I recently went to add a “like” button to a page and I copied and pasted some previous code I’ve used but for got to change all of the parameters. Facebook now links that page to another like button. I’ve since fixed the parameters but the like button is still linked to the wrong page :(

    running linter shows that I have the correct parameters now but it also says shows the wrong, old url, as being “extracted from our normalized version of the url” and I can’t clear it :(

  7. John Kohl@How to get YouTube views
    Twitter: zoombo
    on Jan 9, 2011

    Thanks for the info on Linter and reference link…it’s help me greatly!
    John Kohl@How to get YouTube views recently posted..Get YouTube ViewsMy Profile

    • JG
      Twitter: johngarrettx
      on Jan 9, 2011

      Yeah that Linter is awesome. Facebook should promote it more, I think. It could help a lot of frustrated people.

  8. Kenneth on Jan 25, 2011

    stumbled onto this page by chance while looking for a solution for the facebook attach link problem. And there I was thinking my page coding had some problem when it was just a cache issue. Thanks for sharing this solution. =]

    • JG
      Twitter: johngarrettx
      on Jan 25, 2011

      Hey no problem Kenneth. Glad you got it sorted out.

      Do me a favor and pass on this solution to anyone you see having the same problem. It sure is frustrating :) Thanks for commenting!

  9. theComplex on Apr 22, 2011

    The Linter definitely comes in handy now that for whatever reason, every post on my site is improperly cached. And not just new posts, old posts as well. I’ve even had to use the Linter on a URL multiple times which is a huge headache.
    theComplex recently posted..Nneka Unplugged at SOBs in NYC May 13My Profile

    • JG
      Twitter: johngarrettx
      on Apr 26, 2011

      Do you think it’s because of all the Facebook graph info that’s supposed to be on every page now? Do you have all that stuff in there?

      I haven’t take the time to really sit down and look at all the ever-changing specs but I need to do that. At least the Linter is working for you. Thanks for commenting!

  10. Wisdom on Jun 23, 2011

    This has to be the greatest post ever! (Maybe a slight exaggeration). But I was having this issue after getting back to consistent blogging after some time off. This had be bugging me for 3 DAYS! till I noticed it was a Facebook cache issue. Thank you so much!
    Wisdom recently posted..RIM summarised?My Profile

    • JG
      Twitter: johngarrettx
      on Jun 23, 2011

      It’s my pleasure, Wisdom. We’ve all be there when dealing with Facebook’s cache issues.

      man they should publicize that Linter more to help people out. it would save a lot of frustrating google searching. Thanks for commenting!

  11. Mike Smedley on Aug 5, 2011

    Great post, had a client suffering this problem, got it solved in seconds thanks to this!!!

    • JG
      Twitter: johngarrettx
      on Aug 5, 2011

      Very glad to help out, Mike!

      As I’ve said before, I wish Facebook would publicize the Linter a bit more. I’m not sure how they would do it but it could cut down on some frustration out there…

  12. Sasha on Sep 1, 2011

    Great post… Thank you. You just saved me lots of time.

  13. Andrew Walker on Sep 26, 2011

    Hi JG. I just passed by your article here. Nice share. And by the way, Facebook has changed its interface. What do you say? I don’t like it thou.
    Andrew Walker recently posted..New Hotel Americano in New YorkMy Profile

    • JG
      Twitter: johngarrettx
      on Sep 27, 2011

      Hey Andrew, I barely notice Facebook updates anymore. I only do a few specific actions on FB anyway these days so all the other stuff is just fluff to me. I’m enjoying that they feel the need to roll out these new features. Hopefully G+ is spurring them on…

  14. Nélio on Sep 27, 2011

    Hi JG! I confess that I don’t follow your blog, hence my silence since last year when I suggested you to use Facebook’s URL Linter (which has now been moved and renamed, but still works).

    A friend of mine who had the same caching problems bumped into this article and gave me a heads up. I want to thank you for giving me credit. :-)

    I must say I’m surprised that the Linter is barely mentioned in Facebook’s documentation. Every person wanting to publish things on Facebook runs into this problem and it’s strange that there’s not much info on how to solve it. Last year I found the solution by reading through blogs, after having given up on FB’s developer pages.

    Well, thanks again!

    • JG
      Twitter: johngarrettx
      on Sep 27, 2011

      You’re welcome, Nelio!

      Yeah the nature of a lot of this blog had to do with solving a specific problem, so a lot of people don’t come back after they get it figured out. As long as I can spare some people some pain that’s cool with me.

      Anyway thanks for dropping back in here and commenting!

  15. pete on Oct 27, 2011

    Hi,
    I have read your text and tried the now “Debugger” called function of FB but it doesn´t flush the cache somehow. If I click on my share button the old text ist still present and not the new one. I would be glad if you have any suggestions.
    Thanks,
    Pete

    • JG
      Twitter: johngarrettx
      on Oct 28, 2011

      Hey Pete,

      are you using Joomla, WordPress or some other system?

      If you’re using a plugin, make sure it’s up to date with the latest Open Graph Protocol info in there.

      If you did it by hand, make sure you implemented the OGP with all the tags Facebook will be looking for.

      Also, are you using an kind of caching service on your site? Like wordpress has the W3 Total Cache or if you’re using CloudFlare or another service that can hold your site in a cache. there’s gotta be something blocking or serving the old data.

      try starting along those lines first. good luck!
      JG recently posted..WordPress Dynamic Headers with your Genesis ThemeMy Profile

  16. Scott DeathBoy
    Twitter: deathboy
    on Nov 29, 2011

    This was exactly the information I needed to sort out my cache hell.

    I released an album and FB only grabbed the thumbnails for PREVIOUS albums, so all links to my new product looked (at first glance) like they were to years’ old material, which people were duly skipping past. Yikes!

    Thanks again, much obliged :)

    • JG
      Twitter: johngarrettx
      on Dec 5, 2011

      You’re welcome Scott! I think Facebook need to refresh that cache a lot sooner. Now that we know the trick people like us will be fine but there are plenty who don’t. Thanks for commenting!

  17. Deb
    Twitter: debhollismin
    on Feb 7, 2012

    Great article… but it’s still not working for me. What do you do once you’ve tried the debugger and you get this message: Error Parsing URL: Error parsing input URL, no data was scraped.

    So I’m still not getting the thumbnail whereas I used to get it everytime.

    Any ideas?

    • JG
      Twitter: johngarrettx
      on Feb 10, 2012

      Hi Deb,

      I found this link here:

      http://stackoverflow.com/questions/8538596/linter-gives-error-parsing-url-error

      where essentially if any of the “og” meta tags other than “og:image:secure_url” have “https:” in them then you’ll get that error.

      Also the OP of that one suggested that his permalink url was wrong on his site. I’d make sure you don’t have any redirects or crazy link re-writing going on that could be causing Facebook to fail to get the correct url.


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