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!