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Let’s Talk About RSS Feeds!

Feed readers and your blog: what should you consider?

You probably will not be surprised to hear this, but I read blogs, y’all. A lot of blogs. One might even say, an insane number of blogs. If I subscribed to all of those blogs by email, I’d be overrun, so I am a devoted user of an RSS feed reader for my blog-consumption habits.

A “feed” is a stream of posts or comments that is updated when new content is published. A “feed reader” is an application that lets you subscribe to and read blog feeds.

If you use the WordPress.com Reader, you already use a feed reader, even if you didn’t know it! Other RSS feed readers include FeedlyBloglines and Bloglovin’.

Why use a feed reader?

The main advantage to following blogs in a feed reader is that you don’t need to keep checking the blog itself to see if there’s a new post or not. You also don’t need to get notifications of new posts by email, or save a ton of bookmarks. Instead, you just load your feed reader, and all the new posts from the blogs you follow are right there! One-stop blog reading.

How to find a blog’s feed

To see your blog’s feed, go to your site and add “/feed” to the end of your URL in the browser address bar. So for example, The Daily Post’s feed would be at: dailypost.wordpress.com/feed/ .

Doesn’t look like much, does it? In fact, depending on the browser you’re using, you might just get an error message. But to an RSS feed reader, what you’re seeing there is all of your most recent posts, complete with their images, videos, and other media. Subscribe to that URL in a feed reader, and you’ll see something like this:

Daily Post feed

You can modify that URL to subscribe to a feed of comments, or only to certain posts: for example, dailypost.wordpress.com/comments/feed/ (all Daily Post comments), dailypost.wordpress.com/category/beginner/feed/ (all Daily Posts in the ‘Beginner’ category), or dailypost.wordpress.com/author/eurello/feed (all Daily Posts written by yours truly).

RSS logo

RSS icon  (via Pixabay)

If you’re trying to find a feed for a site that’s not here at WordPress.com, most feed readers are now intelligent enough to find the feed if you simply add the blog’s domain. Otherwise, many sites will have their RSS feeds linked somewhere on their front page, often with the universal RSS icon.

Note: If you’d like to provide an obvious link to your feed for your readers, use the RSS Links widget!

Decide what to include in your feed

It’s smart to give some thought to how readers using feeds will experience your site. There are a couple of settings that you can control that will affect their experience. These settings are in Settings→Reading in your blog’s dashboard.

How many posts to include

The option for “Syndication feeds show the most recent _ items” controls how many of your recent posts will show up in a feed reader if a new reader subscribes. So if someone subscribes to your feed today, they’ll see, say, the last 10 posts in their reader.

Most recent

Going forward, most feed readers store all past posts, but for new subscribers, this controls how much content they get from the start.

How much of a post to include

Most important is the “For each article in a feed show: Full text/Summary” option. Contrary to popular belief, this does not control whether your posts show as full text or summaries on the front page of your blog. Rather, it controls how they appear in both feed readers and email subscriptions.

If you choose full text, obviously the full text will be delivered via email and feed. If you choose summary, the first few sentences will be delivered, followed by an ellipsis. Readers will have to click through to your site to read the whole thing.

Full text or summary

Keep in mind that people who use feed readers do so because they don’t want to load a lot of different sites. Sometimes people use them because they have poor internet connections. Sometimes they use them because they read a lot of blogs (like me). Either way, if they’re forced to click out of their feed reader to read your blog, they might just unsubscribe from you.

I will admit to you here that personally, I am very unlikely to continue to follow a blog if I don’t get its full text content in my feed reader. There are just too many great blogs, and not enough hours in the day.

However, other people find full text feeds too overwhelming — they like to skim the first few sentences and only load the full post if it catches their interest.

You have to make a decision based on the type of content you publish and the type of readers you have.

Extras you can include

Finally, there is an option for Enhanced Feeds. You can choose to include a post’s categories, tags, its current comment count, and/or sharing buttons in its feed.

Enhanced feeds

 

What about my stats?

If somebody reads your post in an RSS feed reader, that person doesn’t register as a visit in your stats, since they haven’t actually loaded your blog. However, you can still see the number of “syndicated views” of each of your blog posts, which gives you an idea of how many people are following you in a reader.

On the other hand, in the WordPress.com reader, if a reader clicks one of your posts to expand it to the full pop-up window in the Reader, that does count in your stats, just as if they’d visited your post on your blog itself.

Do you use a feed reader? Where do you land on the full post v. summary issue? 

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  1. I didn’t use the WordPress reader until I started following more blogs–my email became so overrun that I usually ended up not reading anything at all! So the Reader’s been a lifesaver for me. My only problem with it the stats issue. I think it’d be nice if you were directed to the actual site when you click the link to a post from the Reader. When I read a post, I’d like the blogger to know I read it, and have the stats to back that up. It bugs me when I get ten likes on a post but only one view. I didn’t know that you can see syndicated views, however, so I’ll be checking that out! Thanks for posting this! :)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Excellent and so helpful, giving much needed clarification for someone who thought “RSS” Feeds was some kind of special grain blogging farmers gave their chickens. Question: do you think it matters what number you put in the blank that asks how many recent items should show up for a new subscriber? Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Personally, I don’t really. I guess if it was too many, it would be less likely that the subscriber would read through them, and if it were too few, they wouldn’t get a good sense of your blog.

      But most of the time, when someone subscribes to your feed, they’ve already looked around on your blog and decided they want to follow you on an ongoing basis, so I don’t think it really matters how many recent posts appear in the feed from the get-go, if that makes sense. :)

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I’m changing my mind on the topic of how many recent items ought to show up, after reading this post and some of these comments. Mine’s set to 10, but I’m going to up the count. I publish frequently, and I’m considering how I use Feedly (my favorite way to follow blogs and other sites)—I may not check in to each blog every day, but when I do, I want to see lots of posts at a glance. Thanks for asking this question, Little Miss!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Keep in mind, though, that this only applies when they first add your site to their feed reader. After that, all your new posts will come in on an ongoing basis, same as they would to an email subscription.

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      2. Yes, you made that point in your article, glad you reinforced it. So basically, it’s not a big deal one way or another what you choose—though if you want a new subscriber to stick with you, you’d want to show them all your great stuff!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I love following blogs by RSS, it is the easiest and most efficient way to read posts. I use WordPress.com Reader to follow some blogs, most of them on WordPress.com, but I follow a lot of blogs more and need organized my feed in folder to read better too. Looking for simple solutions and trying several feed reader, finally I am reading blogs using extensions for Firefox. At the moment I am using one of them: its name is Brief.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s just if you want to see what your feed looks like, but it’s code. To actually read the feed, you have to add it to a feed reader. :)

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  4. Yet again I learned something new on WordPress. Just saw my blog’s feed for the first time. I’ll have to go into my Settings and make modifications to best accommodate feed readers. Thanks much :)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good stuff Elizabeth!
    I use Feedly because I like the option of saving posts to read later, grouping posts by individual blog, and “must read” alerts.
    Agree 100% on the full vs preview issue. I have to REALLY like a blog to continue subscribing if they only offer previews.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Scanning down Reader is like the view from 40,000 feet.

    It’s an overview – and when I see an interesting post I want to dive in and look at the original.

    I know many bloggers prefer to present a summary. The reason is simple – they want people to come to their blogs to see the posts in context, with the ‘About’ page, the beautiful header image, the previous post that ties in with the current one, and many other valid reasons.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. “Keep in mind that people who use feed readers do so because they don’t want to load a lot of different sites.” Actually, that’s not why I use feed readers. Feed readers are curated lists of posts with summaries.

    Feed readers save me having to go hunting in my bookmarks for sites I like, and they save me having to check individual blogs to see whether any new posts have been written.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m endlessly nurturing the look and extras that are evident only only blog site. Personally, I’d love for my readers to take all that in by visiting my site: http://austindetails.me.

    That said, I use Feedly nearly exclusively because its UI is so clean and easy to view feeds I’ve gathered into my custom categories at a glance. I’m never shy about clicking on to the full website; often I’ll open the site in Safari (so that I’m not constrained by reading it inside the Feedly interface), and that allows me to get the feel of the site (that’s how I verify its worthiness, frankly) and (most importantly) to bookmark it in my Safari list to read later.

    I’m sorry to complain about the WordPress Reader here, but allow me a moment: it’s limited and almost juvenile in its design and functionality. I only use it because my blogs, and those I follow on WordPress, show up here at a glance (usually—not always). If the blog is really important to me, I add it to my Feedly Reader.

    Thanks for explaining several key points about how feeds and stats, work on WordPress.com.

    Liked by 1 person