Tighten Up Your Blog RSS Feed

why buy the cow?
Why buy the cow when the milk is free?

Of all the things we tweak on our websites and blogs, rarely do we think about our RSS feeds. Fact is, though, depending upon how your RSS feed is set up, you may be losing valuable traffic to your site.

I subscribe to many RSS feeds myself in order to keep up with topics I care about from entertainment to business and also to stay abreast of topics that are of interest to my clients. Rather than performing manual searches, I simply subscribe to feeds and they’re delivered right into Outlook where I check them out at my convenience.

A great number of RSS feeds I subscribe to contain the entire article and I am rarely tempted to visit the site unless I’m inspired to leave a comment. And I’m just one person. Imagine how many subscribers are doing exactly what I’m doing – checking their feed, scanning it and never visiting the site from which it came. This is one of those areas where, “Why buy the cow when the milk is free?” is fitting. You want your visitors to have the convenience of an RSS feed, but with a little tweaking you can give away less content in your feeds and invoke readers to visit your blog to read what you’ve taken the time to research and write. But first, let’s get some examples up.

This feed from CEO.com is brief and gives me just enough of a teaser to know what the article is about. I’ll have to visit if I want to read the rest.RSS-full CEO Mag
This feed from Inc.com is structured so that I receive the entire article and don’t need to visit the site at all to read it in its entirety. Convenient for me, but no traffic for the owner.RSS-full INC Mag

You’ll see in the Brief Feed example that subscribers only receive a teaser – just enough information to invoke a reader to visit and read further. In the second Long Feed example, the entire article is in the feed so I don’t have click over to visit the site unless I have a comment I want to make.

If you already have a WordPress website (and you should) you can easily modify how your content is shared in feeds. Just head over to Settings in your WordPress Admin Dashboard and click Reading. There you’ll select Summary and then save your changes. Going forward your feeds will consist of short excerpts of your posts. Now be sure to make those excerpts effective.

Depending upon the WordPress theme you are using where you enter your excerpt will vary but scroll down below your writing window to see where your options are. Mine are in a window that looks like the screenshot below.Excerpt
If you still do not see the section for excerpts check your Screen Options at the top right of your Dashboard window and see if the option is there to show excerpts or SEO. Escreen optionsven if you do not see the area, rest assured that by selecting Summary in Feed Settings WordPress will automatically pull an excerpt from your article to send through feeds. It will normally be the first xx characters of your blog post (which also may vary by theme). The bottom line is no more giving the milk away free. Make subscribers come to your site to get the valuable content you publish with them in mind.

And one last tip. I always recommend looking at your site as a reader and not the owner, which I know is difficult. In this case, it’s easy. Subscribe to your own feed and see what it looks like. If you’re happy with it, you’re done. If not, tweak away until you like what you see. (You’ll have to unsubscribe to your feed and then resubscribe after a few hours to see what the new feed looks like if you make any changes to individual post excerpts, number of posts per feed or change from summary to full text.)

For more information about how WordPress uses excerpts and how you can manage yours check this out!

Happy blogging!

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