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.
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:
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).
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.
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.
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.
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?