Beginners Guide To WordPress RSS

Photo by n0seblunt
Photo by n0seblunt

I thought I would write a beginners guide to RSS for WordPress, this is designed for new comers to WordPress and RSS.  The post will talk about what RSS is, it’s benefits and how to monitor your feed with services such as Feedburner.

What Is RSS

RSS stands for really simple syndication and it is a way to publish your blog posts as a syndicated feed.  Your posts are translated into an XML file which can be pulled into other applications.

WTF is a Syndicated Feed

This is a cut down version of your posts without your theme, widgets and doo-dahs which can be syndicated from your site and republished elsewhere.

Your Not Selling This Very Well

It is a way to allow your true fans to subscribe to your site and pull your new posts to them on-demand to a feed reader (see below) without the need to visit your site, so they are always up to date on your latest content.  Trust me when I say you want RSS, it’s going to replace news papers in the not too distant future, and you want your blog to have this function.

Why Do People Want to Syndicate Your Site

If you engage a reader with your content and they know about RSS, they do not want to bookmark and return to your site every few days to see your latest stuff.  They want to subscribe to your RSS feed and aggregate your content to a central point from which they can read your work at their pleasure.

People using RSS ususually follow a numnber of blogs, and they pull all their feeds into one place to read at ta time convinient to them.

You’ve seen the Symbol

Nearly every blog will have symbol like this on it:


This is the generally recognised RSS feed symbol and I know if I click on this I can subscribe to a site and have all the past and upcoming posts added to my feed reader.

If you are serious about getting your writing out there, your blog should have an image like this somewhere.  Mine is at the top right in a jolly green colour, feel free to click on it.  You may need to edit your theme to add the logo, but get one on your front page and in a prominent position.

WordPress Does It By Default

You will be very glad to hear that WordPress provides an RSS feed by default, if you type one of the following URLs into your browser you will see what the XML file of your RSS looks like (NB don’t do this on my site, I have plugins in place and you will not see the raw RSS feed).

  • http://example.com/?feed=rss
  • http://example.com/?feed=rss2
  • http://example.com/?feed=rdf
  • http://example.com/?feed=atom

As you can see there four different flavours of feed going on by default, since this is a beginners guide to RSS  I will not bore you with protocol details, I will simply tell you that these are four very similar methods to distribute your RSS feed.

Tweaking Your Feed Settings

There is one settings you need to conisder  when setting up your feed over and above the default and that is how much of your post you will push out.

From the dashboard click on settings->reading . There is a settings marked For each article in a feed, the options for this are full text or summary, meaning send out the complete text of your post versus a summary with a link back to the original source.  You may think that you want people running back to your site to click on your adsense or to view your banner ads, and a couple of high profile bloggers swear by this approach (I am thinking Aaron Wall’s seobook.com or Yaro Starak’s entrepreneurs-journey.com) but if you are reading this article it is unlikely that you are a AAA blogger to so I would go with a full feed to stop annoying people and preventing unsubscription. Full text is set by default.

RSS Syndication Services

So you have an RSS feed, there is a highly visible rss feed link on your site, now what?  Well you will probably want some stats on how many subsribers you have, what content they are reading.  Step forward the RSS Syndiation service.

These third party services take your feed and wrap them with statstics and other services to make monitoring the usage of your content away from your site easier.  The majority of these services are free with some sort of for a fee additional advanced services.

I use the Feedburner, a company which was aquired by Google. I am going to stick my neck on the line and say it is the most widely used feed service.  Feedburner recently made some big changes and there was a blip in their service with the ususal twitter (@wpdude) outcry.  That aside I still think it is an excellent service.  It tells me how many people have subscribed to my feed, what they are reading, and clicking through onto.

Alternatives to Feedburner are Feedblitz and Rapidfeeds.

A word or warning checking your RSS stats can become addictive don’t get hung up on your reader count.

Feed Readers

Many people use feed readers to get updates from their favourite blogs.  Using a feed reader, you add their RSS link to your reader and as new content is added, it is pulled into your reader of choice.

A small list of RSS readers could  include

Some of the readers are clients you install on your machine, whilst others are internet servces you access from a website.

I use Google reader, it allows me to categogorises feeds into different interest sections, and to mark favourite  articles.

RSS Plugins

As with any problem in WordPress there will be a multitude of plugins to solve the issue.  Here is a link to the various RSS plugins from the WordPress plugin directory

The ones I use are the Feedburner Feedsmith which pushes my feed into Feedburner without too much configuration, I also use RSS Footer which I use to put a link back to my site in case anyone is scraping my content.

Get Your RSS out There

Get your RSS feed sorted, place a link to subscrive about the fold on your front page.  Belive me when I say it is the future of publishing.  It allows reader to select the content they are really interested in and pull it into a personalised steam of content, a DIY newspaper.

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