Bloggers: Check your RSS feeds

This is a public service announcement from me, your faithful reader, to all you bloggers out there.

RSS feeds rock for those of us who read a lot of blogs. It gives us a 1-stop location to see what new posts are out there in the blogosphere. I urge you to subscribe to the RSS feed of your own blog and take a look at it now and then, and think about it from a reader’s perspective.

There are basically 3 choices as to what you’re going to put into your feed: the entire post, a title and summary, or just a title. Let’s look at these options.

Putting the entire contents of a post into your feed is perfect for your readers, but of course it means no one needs to actually come to your website (unless they want to comment), which can be a problem if your site is ad-supported or you just want to analyze traffic patterns at your site.

Putting a summary of your post in your feed gives readers an idea of what the post is about so they can decide if they want to ‘click through’ and read the rest of the post. If you do this, you should probably write a custom summary, not just let your blogging software grab the first paragraph or something. If you don’t feel like writing a summary at least keep in mind that for some segment of your readers, that first graph is going to determine whether they read on or not. Using a summary forces readers to come to your site to read the entire post, which gets ad revenue and good analytics for your website.

The last option is title only. This is a bad idea, unless you write incredibly intriguing titles (I’ve yet to see an example of this). When a reader is deciding which posts to read and which to skip, it becomes really easy to skip just a title with no more information about what the post is about. Presumably your #1 goal is to get people to read your posts (if your #1 goal is go make money, you’re in the wrong business!) and by only giving readers a title, you’re working against your own best interests. You have to entice readers to read you!

This may all seem really obvious, but I have a few blogs that I follow that only offer a title and I have to confess that even though I’m interested in reading this bloggers, I often find myself skipping them because I’m not sure what the post is about. It’s so much easier to hit “Read Next” and bop on down to the next blog in my reader’s list.

For your sake and mine, at least give us a summary!

14 thoughts on “Bloggers: Check your RSS feeds

  1. I also recommend using Feedburner. In addition to tracking, you can move blogs without your readers having to change anything RSS wise.

  2. Yeah, I want to move to Feedburner but I’m worried about losing readers in the transition. Any advice there?

  3. LOL, thanks for the link. Now that I read it, the answer is pretty obvious and *something I’ve done for other sites before*. Funny how when I’m wearing my blogging hat my web developer self just gets stupid….

    Next challenge…why are your comments getting moderated sometimes and not others…. you should always be able to comment immediately. Same thing happens to Ysh. My apologies for that… I’ll have to dig into it.

  4. I have comments to moderated when the post is over 7 days old automatically. I find 95% of them are SPAM. If it is more recent posts, then I have no idea it is happening 🙁

  5. The moderation thing happens on my site now and then too Pete, but it doesn’t bother me. I’d rather be moderated than have to visit blogs where any asshat can rant without accountability.

    And yes, I totally agree about the one-line thing, or even excerpts — most of the time it *doesn’t* prompt me to visit the site to see the rest of the article. Why? Because my reader (Google) is so well set up and so plain that it only takes 2 seconds to scroll past a long article I don’t think will interest me. And actually, many times I’ll be scrolling and something in a long article will catch my eye and I’ll scroll back up and read it all — which wouldn’t happen with a title or excerpt.

    When I’ve got 50 articles stacked up in the reader, I do’nt usually take the time for personal visits. Which means the excerpters/titlers are missing out on my readership, at least in ways that count to me (people being interested rather than pure feed numbers).

    I do occasionally worry that my own posts are too long — but if I never mind other people’s long posts, and I have a few folks on my list who are almost as wordy as me, then I figure on balance most people don’t mind mine. Scrolling isn’t exactly onerous.

  6. Great post Pete. There are a lot of blogs that I used to read, but unsubscribed because they switched to title only RSS feeds. I’m not a big fan of summary rss types either, but often make exceptions if the content is good. Not a lot that you can do about it really… 🙁

  7. I have the full post running via a reader – maybe that’s being overly ‘honest’ with what I have written but honestly I only want to be as clear as I can with my wrting so I’ll doubt I’d ever do a summary – that & the fact I don’t have that kind of time to spare on re-writing!

  8. *shrug*
    I’m completely unapologetic about writing long posts, though I usually break them up with a “Continue Reading” link to make my front page trimmer. That said, WordPress has recently included a summary option, so I do use that when relevant. Either way, my first paragraph and title usually give an accurate enough sense of what the rest of the article contains. To me, that’s just good writing style, practiced through high school and college.

    What does a RSS reader do when it hits a “Continue Reading” link?

  9. It just stops at that point, I believe. And of course clicking the link will take you to the page with the full text of the post. I haven’t tested this recently but I seem to recall that’s how WordPress handles it.

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