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.