If you have a blog or other content source, 1/3 of the functionality is its ability to handle RSS feeds (syndicated news feeds). RSS is a vital part of the blog ecosystem, and if you are neglecting it, you are giving up 30-50% of the return on investment you should be expecting from your blog. Isn’t RSS automatic? Well, yes and no.
Most blogs have some kind of RSS publishing capability (an RSS feed is part of what makes a blog a blog), and most have it turned on by default, the problem is that most blogging software have horrible defaults settings that result in your RSS feed being useless to everyone other than desktop news tickers.
When you neglect your RSS feed:
- You minimize the search engine optimization effect. You aren’t getting backlinks from people republishing your article, and therefore, aren’t getting any link juice.
- You diminish your site’s ability to harvest traffic from social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and niche sites on Ning and Groupsites.
- People may be stealing your articles without sending traffic back to your site or crediting the author.
If you want your content republished, have an RSS feed.
So what does “republishable” mean?
- The full article text is included. If you have a WordPress or Typepad blog, chances are you are set for the summary feed which gives exactly 200 characters of each article, which is good for exactly nothing. Go to Settings… reading and change your feed from summary to full article.
- Links and picture sources are fully qualified. That means all links and images point to to “http://yoursite.com/super-cool-content.whatever” and not to “/super-cool-content.whatever.” It also means that when your article is republished, the links work. If your site runs Joomla, you’ll have to have someone who is comfortable with PHP make a change to the code that generates your site’s RSS Feed.
- An about the author block is included. This way, you will always be credited. Don’t do a lot of crazy styling – just keep it simple as many RSS aggregators (the software that grabs your feed and includes it in another website) strip most formatting out, leaving links, and basic HTML intact (stuff like the bold and italics tags). Include your name, a one line description of the author, and it is a good idea to provide a link to your blog, and even your LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook page.
- A copyright statement is included, if needed.
- Turn photos off in your feeds. Photos sized and selected for your blog are often not edited correctly for other people’s websites. If you use Typepad, you’ll have to make a settings change.
- Make sure your logo is set. Some sites will publish your logo next to or above your site’s headlines. Joomla site owners, chances are right now your logo is the Joomla logo.
- You have a clear set of rules on your site that tell others how they can use your content. A lot of blogs use Creative Commons licenses that make it a snap for people to understand your intent and their legal obligations.