Tag Archives: Bloggers

Best practices for bloggers regarding their RSS feeds

I seem to be on a roll today regarding RSS. I was going through Google Reader today clearing out a bunch of inactive RSS feeds or RSS feeds I no longer am interested in reading content from. I was absolutely shocked at how many RSS feeds from websites I discovered that were actually “broken”. Broken meant a variety of things ranging from the feed completely not working and the site gone, to feed just broken, to blogs or websites that have changed their RSS feed for whatever reason and I never knew it.

The majority of broken feeds I discovered were the result of blogs or websites that have changed their RSS feed or did something to their RSS feed that resulted in me not seeing any of their content for the last few months or even over a year.

If you are a blogger or website owner – the first best practice is you should be subscribed to your own RSS feed and checking it regularly. This is a good way to see what others are seeing when they subscribe to your RSS feed. If it breaks or is not updating correctly – you will likely see this behavior yourself and be able to respond and fix.

The next best practice is that if you absolutely have to change your RSS feed for whatever reason, you should look at putting in some sort of redirect that will redirect users automatically who are subscribed to your old RSS feed URL to the new RSS feed URL. This will result in no user action for folks subscribed to your RSS feed and they will continue to see updates as expected without knowing your feed even changed.

Of course there are also SEO (search engine optimization) issues if your RSS feed is busted too.

And just posted about how bloggers are (and should) be using RSS to push their content out to social networking services like Twitter and Facebook. If your RSS feed is busted, guess what? You’re content isn’t hitting these services and you’re likely losing exposure to the stuff you write.

Why RSS is still important (today)

I hear a lot about how RSS is no longer important (e.g. subscribing to an RSS feed of a blog) now that everyone gets their information from Twitter or Facebook these days. While I agree that most people get their information from social networks like Twitter today than they do “subscribing” to an RSS feed – I do disagree that RSS isn’t important, at least today. It’s just less important for the average person visiting a blog (or website) but its still very important to the existence of a blog. Let me explain why.

The problem with RSS was that it never quite got to the point where it was something easily understood by the average person visiting a blog. My mom would never understand the concept of “subscribing” to an RSS feed of a blog or “subscribing to a blog”. It was easier for them to just add that blog to their Favorites (or Bookmarks) in their browser so they can revisit in the future. Along comes Twitter and Facebook which makes it extremely easy for people to consume information and easy for bloggers to push their blog posts out for people to read. The average person understands the concept of following someone on Twitter. Following someone could mean following a person or following a website. Most websites today automatically push their blog posts out to at least Twitter. And that’s where most people consume the content people blog.

But with bloggers pushing their content to Twitter – do you really think there is someone manually tweeting when a new post is published?

No.

At least not likely.

This is where RSS comes in.

Social networks today have become quite good at aggregating information from a variety of sources – including RSS. It’s almost a standard option. There are a bunch of services offered in Twitter’s extensive ecosystem that will take your blog’s RSS feed and automatically tweet it. My favorite is Twitterfeed. And both Facebook and Windows Live offer the ability for you to configure an RSS feed to bring in anything you publish to your blog and display it in your news feed. As a blogger and someone who runs a few blogs, I want to be able to push my content out to the major social networks for people to consume and as easily as possible. Today RSS allows me to do that.

RSS today is more important to content publishers like bloggers than it is to anyone else. It is very important for pushing blog content out to important services like Twitter, Facebook, or Windows Live for people to consume their content. It’s just no longer important for bloggers to recommend people “subscribe” to their blogs. Instead, the recommendation is to follow them (the blogger or blog) on Twitter.

Side note: The advantage to Twitter that is really exciting to me as a blogger is that its much more interactive. My Twitter feed is a place I can push my content to people that follow me but also interact with them and discuss my content beyond the comments section of my blog.

Now I say RSS is important today. It may not be very important in the future though. Actually, it probably won’t. If you look at Twitter, Facebook, Windows Live, and other social networks like Foursquare – they are all developing APIs that web developers can use to tap directly (and more integrate more deeply) into their services. Blog platforms are beginning to take advantage of this. Blogs and websites in general are looking at becoming more integrated into these services. In the future, it is likely a simple RSS feed won’t be enough. Actually – it won’t.

It will be interesting to watch this space in the next year or two.

Anybody know of a major website that is no longer publicly offering an RSS feed but instead asks their readers to follow them on Twitter or “like” their Facebook Page?