How to Control What Facebook Shows When You Share Your Link

Have you ever wondered, “How do I get Facebook to use a different photo when someone shares my website?”

Or, “How can I make Facebook show something other than the first line of my blog post?”

Maybe, “Where on earth does Facebook get the pictures it shows next to my posts?!”

Or simply, “How do I get Facebook to show what I want?”

You’re not the only one! Most marketing folks and bloggers have asked the same questions… and for good reason: it’s not obvious, and there’s not much in the way of clear instruction.

If you have your site is built on WordPress, I have good news for you: with a small investment of time now, you can get everything exactly how you want it for the foreseeable future.

Build your Facebook sharing foundation

Your first task is simple: install and activate the Yoast SEO plugin.

Note: if Yoko Co built your site, you’re already good to go—we set up Yoast SEO as part of your site set-up. You can skip straight to the next section!

Yoast SEO - social settings - Facebook share settingsGo to “SEO” > “Social”. (If you don’t see “Social”, you’ll need to enable Yoast SEO’s advanced settings.)

Click on the “Facebook” tab and make sure “Add OpenGraph meta data” is set to “Enabled”.

I also recommend you set up a default image that will be shown on Facebook if the specific page or post being shared doesn’t have a usable image. For a personal (or personality-driven) site, this is the perfect place to use a photo. For a business site, the organization logo makes sense.

And that’s the entirety of the setup! Of course, the Yoast SEO plugin does a lot of other things, too, but this is all you need to get started with your Facebook share improvements.

Prepare your post

Now that you have the general settings in place, it’s time to get your post ready.

The image

I’m starting with the image because it’s probably the single most frustrating element when it comes to sharing on Facebook. By default, the images are used in a predictable-but-not-intuitive order:

  • Yoast SEO will offer Facebook every image within your post. Facebook won’t make all of those available. Specifically, any image that’s smaller than 200×200 pixels won’t be included.
  • Every image over 200×200 pixels will be put in a stack for the person posting on Facebook to choose from. They’ll be in order, meaning the first large-enough image in the post will be the default, except…
  • The first time the post is shared (unless you do the “Test!” step below), the image with the largest dimensions (in pixels) is the one that will be the default. It doesn’t matter if it’s first, last, or in the middle of your post.

However…

You can override everything for Facebook sharing

If you scroll down past the window where you’re typing your post, you’ll see a new section called (not surprisingly) “Yoast SEO”.

Here, you can edit what Yoast SEO calls your “Snippet”. It’s the text that shows up on Facebook, Google, and other sites when linking to yours. It includes a title and a description, and you can easily edit them right here.

Think of these options as an extended version of a text ad: the goal is to convince people to click on the link, whether they’re looking at Facebook or Google.

Yoast SEO - social panel - Facebook share settingsAny changes you make to your Snippet will, by default, be used across the web, including Facebook. If you want to have a different version of your Snippet specifically for Facebook, just click over the “Social” settings. There you can craft your title and description just for Facebook.

This is also where you can force Facebook to share a specific image. Adding a “Facebook Image” here changes the whole selection process: assuming the image is large enough (follow the guidelines below the upload box), Facebook will use the image you’ve selected and not offer any others, even if the post has several images.

Test!

This happens all the time: a blogger adds a new share image, or updates their Snippet, but when they post the link on Facebook, they see the same old thing as before.

Well, you’re not crazy: Facebook is ignoring your changes. But there’s a good reason.

Most blog posts and pages don’t change once they’re posted, so typically, there’s no value to Facebook in grabbing a fresh copy every time. Instead, they sensibly keep a copy unless they’re told to update it.

So you have to tell them to update it. Fortunately, this is both easy and useful, because it also gives you a chance to double-check that everything is as it should be.

All you have to do is go to Facebook’s Sharing Debugger tool, put the URL of the post or page into the box, and click the “Debug” button.

Facebook Debugger: Scrape Again button Then, check the “Time Scraped” value under the “When and how we last scraped the URL” heading. If it’s not within the past few seconds, click the “Scrape Again” button to tell Facebook to get a fresh copy.

That’s all you need to do if you just want Facebook to update the images—but I recommend glancing over all the results so you can see why they’re showing what they’re showing.

What happens after you share?

Now that you’ve brought Facebook into line, you may want to step back and ask the bigger question: how does this Facebook share impact the bottom line?

The bottom line can be dollars but it might also be something even harder to measure, like impact. At Yoko Co, we care a lot about both kinds of bottom lines. One of the tools we use to measure impact is our Full Funnel Visualization Report.


Want to get more strategic about your Facebook shares and other social marketing?

I’d love to share a free sample of the Full Funnel Visualization Report. It’s just a sample, so it’s not customized like we do for our clients, but I think you’ll find it helpful to see what we think is worth measuring, and what we do with the numbers. I hope it inspires you!

Download the Full Funnel Visualization Report!
ShareShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

24 comments on “How to Control What Facebook Shows When You Share Your Link

  1. When I link my blog on FB, I want it to show the first lines of my blog post. It is showing the general description of my blog for every link. Have you explained how to change that anywhere?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi, Kathryn—the process outlined in the post (using Yoast SEO, setting the options for the specific post, testing it, etc.) should let you control what shows up, but it can sometimes be thwarted by the theme you’re using. If you’ve followed all the steps and it’s still not working for you, leave the URL of a specific blog post you’d like to share and I’ll take a peek. 🙂

  2. Why does when I post a blog with picture it looks different on my phone? On the desktop it will be a picture above the article but the same post on my phone will be a smaller picture beside the article. It doesn’t do this all the time but I post the same each time. Do you know why?

    1. Hi, Corey—I’m not surprised to hear that Facebook is displaying the picture differently based on what kind of device someone is using to view it; mobile phone real estate is at a premium. Facebook is likely trying to show as many stories as they can on every screenful, to make sure viewers constantly see “another interesting story” that keeps them scrolling.

      As for why it’s happening on some articles but not others… I’m not sure on that one off the top of my head, but I can tell you the clues I’d look for when comparing two articles that are treated differently:

      1. Are the articles’ pictures both landscape- or portrait-orientation? Or are they different?
      2. Are the articles’ pictures both large images? Or at least, roughly the same dimensions?
      3. Is the Snippet roughly the same length for both articles?
      4. If you run both articles through the debugger, are there any other obvious differences when comparing them?

      Bottom-line, Facebook undoubtedly has their own set of rules for how pictures are displayed within stories, but it might be possible to figure them out. Maybe! 😉

  3. Hi, Violet,

    It looks like Facebook updated the process just slightly since I wrote the instructions about their Sharing Debugger tool—now you have to manually tell it to “Scrape Again”. I tested it on the blog post you mentioned, and it worked, so I’ve updated this post with the new information.

    Thanks for the question and best of success with your blogging!

  4. Hi, I renamed a Google Play Store app.
    When look up my app on the Play Store, tap Share > Facebook, the Play Store URL of my app appears as a post in my Facebook wall
    …so far so good.

    1) When my phone (or Desktop Facebook account is set to german), …then the OLD title of my app shows on the post that’s on my Facebook wall.

    2) When I set Facebook back to english or spanish the title of the post shows the new and correct app name.

    Why does this happen? I already scraped the URL and the problem persists.

    1. That is a good question. I haven’t experimented with multilingual debugging, so I’m not sure I’ll be much use to you on this one. What’s the URL of the app’s Play Store page?

  5. Last year we where able to use dynamic content sharing, like the title, description, and image. I always used this on image galleries so people could share the picture they like from the gallery. I made a custom script which swapped the image each time.

    Now it always seems to grab the info in the header of a page.

    Do you have any tips?

    url is http://www.amnesiacuracao.com

    1. Hi Rombout – Apologies for the delayed response. I see you’re using the appropriate og tags in the site which is the first thing Facebook will look to in order to pull the preferred thumbnail image. Once it’s pulled it from your site it will cache it within Facebook. As Sarah mentions in this post you can use the Facebook debug tool and request it scrape the site again to pull a new image. We haven’t had to create a tool that changes that image automatically, but I believe if you can automate the re-scrape request you’d be able to do it. Good luck with it!

  6. Hello!

    I used the Yoast SEO Plugin and uploaded the image that I want as a thumnail. However, when I share my website, it still shows any image.

    How can I solve this?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi, Juan—if you check the Facebook Sharing Debugger tool, does it show any errors (like “too small”) in relation to the image you uploaded? That’s where I’d look first.

    1. Hi, Shawn—when I go to share the link on Facebook, this is what I see:

      That’s what I’d expect based on what I see in the debugger. If that’s not what you’re seeing, it’s possibly your browser cache is the culprit—you can check by using a different browser. Let me know if you need more details on that!

  7. Hello! On the FB debugger, it’s showing my og description as “Featured Content Who Are We? NEON OWL x GROOVE CRUISE Neon Owl’s Dance. Give. Inspire. charity show AFTERMOVIE is here!” which are all titles for each columns on my site (https://neonowl.co/). However, I’ve already written a description in the Yoast plugin in an attempt to override the original og description, but it’s not working even after I re-scraped it. Do you know why that might be?

    1. Hi, Ray—looking at the source code of your site, you’ve got two og:description meta tags:

      With most web technologies, if there is a conflict between two settings, priority goes to the last one, and it looks like that’s what’s happening here.

      Now, why is the second description there at all? That’s a good question. I can’t tell specifics from the source code, but it’s going to be either the theme or another plugin. You may be able to track down the culprit by looking in your theme code (if you’re comfortable doing that) or by switching themes temporarily, or by disabling other plugins and checking if it’s gone away.

      Good luck, and give us a shout if you can’t find it!

  8. Great post, totally saved my bacon.. One of the things that happened in my case is that my client’s theme (Avada) actually ALREADY had a setting called “Open Graph Meta Tag” – and the theme setting takes precedence over the Yoast plugin settings.

    So if things don’t behave as expected with Yoast, I’d suggest investigating if your theme has a setting like this, and turning it off completely.

    Screenshot: https://www.screencast.com/t/ZihLatGzImZ

    1. Thanks for sharing what you found, J. I bet that will help a bunch of people currently banging their head against the Facebook wall!

  9. Ok, but what If I want to use some particular picture when I paste my blog homepage to FB?
    Now, when I do this FB takes an image from my the most recent post so it’s looks weird sometimes.
    I have tried to set a logo but it looks like FB ignore it and still shows images from my last post…

  10. I recently downloaded Yoast primarily to manage my facebook links. Sadly this feature of Yoast is no longer available in their free plugin. Only in the premium version.

    1. My impression is that the premium version has added a new feature where you can preview the outcome, but the core features are still in the free version. If you don’t mind running through the debugger, updating, and checking again a few times, the free version should still work okay.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *