Tips for Publishing RSS feeds – Part 3

In my first two posts in this series, I discussed four different tips for publishing RSS feeds. If you missed either of the last two parts, you can find them here: part 1, part 2. Let’s continue on with the next three feed publishing tips.

5. Make your feedâ??s title and description meaningful

This tip has two related components. First, when creating your feedâ??s title, make it descriptive. When this feed is sitting in a list of many other feeds (hundreds likely) will the reader understand the topic or know the author? I regularly have to edit a feedâ??s title in my feed reader so I know what content is actually there. Why require additional steps from your readers? A feed title doesnâ??t have to be long and wordy. Just make it descriptive and to the point. In this case, think less in terms of search engine optimization (and adding every related term you can think of in the title) and more on the lines of “how can I make sure a subscribed reader will know what my feed is all about.”

As a side note and personal wish, it would be nice if on single author blogs (or company/product blogs) the authors would add their name in addition to their title. For example, when someone titles their blog “Very Witty Blog Title”, that means absolutely nothing to me when deciding what feeds to prioritize (or remove for that matter) in my reader. I often rename a feed’s title in my reader to the author’s name. A useful suggestion would be to append something more detailed to the title like “… by John Doe” or “… a product blog for …”

The second, related part of this tip is to add a meaningful description to the feedâ??s description tag. Ok, that sentence was a bit circular. Let’s try again. The actual RSS 2.0 spec refers to the feed description as a phrase or sentence describing the feed. For something so straightforward, I regularly find feeds that leave off the description or don’t take the opportunity to provide a relevant description for their feed. As only one of three required feed elements in RSS 2.0 (title, link, and description), take the time to make your feed’s description accurately reflect the content of your feed.

6. Be consistent (permanent) with your feed URL

If you subscribe to enough feeds, youâ??ll eventually encounter this scenario â?? after a few weeks of inactivity on a particular feed, you decide to visit the site and see why there is no new content. Lo and behold, there is a message on the site stating that the feed URL has changed and everyone needs to re-subscribe. This is the case if youâ??re lucky. Unfortunately, you often end up seeing a broken feed icon (or some similar type of indicator) in your feed reader. Worst case, you never receive any message at all. This is frustrating. This will make you lose readers. Remember, with todayâ??s information overload, your readers will not hesitate to remove your feed for good. Donâ??t give them a good reason to do so. The moral of the story is donâ??t change your feed URL and not tell your existing readers.

The best part about this tip is how easy it is to implement. If it becomes necessary to change your feedâ??s URL for any reason (usually new software-related), simply publish a feed item with specific instructions (and apologies) for your existing readers. Provide them the new URL, explain why the change was necessary, and offer an apology for the inconvenience. If you do these three steps, your readers are much more likely to follow the feed to its new location.

In addition, despite the popularity of services like FeedBurner, you may want to consider owning your feed URL completely. For example, this blog uses FeedBurner yet the feed URL listed everywhere on this site is www.tmarkiewicz.com/feed/  I use a WordPress plugin to give FeedBurner a randomized feed URL that forwards all the feed traffic through them. If I ever decide to use another feed service, I can move my feed without any friction whatsoever. My readers will never see the change.

7. Ensure your feed URL is accessible

Make the feed URL easily accessible and readable â?? donâ??t place it in a JavaScript popup (for example: weblog.podnova.com) or hide it behind multiple web pages. If potential subscribers have to click through numerous pages just to find the link to your feed, chances are they may never subscribe at all. This is related to feed publisher tip #2 â?? donâ??t hide your subscription URL. So, in addition to making your feed URL easy to find, make sure that the link is accessible. Donâ??t promote a link on the front of your web site that makes the average visitor jump through hoops until they finally can find the actual feed URL. Simple and prominent should be your mantra when promoting your feed’s subscribe link.

More posts in the series:

Tips for Publishing RSS feeds series – Part 1, Part 2

Tom currently works in developer relations for IBM Watson. A serial entrepreneur, he's been the founder of numerous startups including Investify and StatsMix, a Techstars alumni company. Tom lives outside Boulder, Colorado and in his free time he's an avid rock climber, skier, and trail runner.

2 comments On Tips for Publishing RSS feeds – Part 3

Comments are closed.

Sliding Sidebar