Working with RSS Feeds

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RSS feeds are a great way both to deliver and to subscribe to content. WordPress supports both the old 0.91 version, the 1.0 version, and, more up-to-date, the 2.0 version. There is also Atom support, but keep in mind that you need to activate Atom from the settings page should you want to use it.

Most themes have feed links built-in, and while the Web browser will tell your visitors discretely that there is a feed available, you really want to push it a bit harder than that. Take a look at just about any successful professional blogger and you'll see nice RSS graphics, often incorporating the feed icon, and promoting the subscription services in premiere positions.

You should, too, if you want to gain subscribers. That's lesson 1 on RSS really: position it well on your site, otherwise people will neither see it nor use it.

Lesson number 2 is to seriously consider full feeds. You can choose whether you want to send out a full feed or one just featuring excerpts. Feeds containing just excerpts will have fewer subscribers, since people using RSS prefer to get the whole story. You'll find that a large number of these readers will click the links and visit your site anyway, but they may just opt out if you're not publishing full feeds. Then again, if you really, truly, definitely have to get people to your site, and having them read the content in a feed reader is a disaster, then fine. Just make sure you know what you're doing, and why, if you're strapping your feed.

The third and final lesson is to offer alternative subscription methods. The most popular one would be e-mail subscriptions, usually delivered by Feedburner (feedburner.com), which is owned by Google. What it does is put together a daily digest from your RSS feed, delivering it to subscribers via e-mail. This is good because RSS feeds are still something mainly used by the technical crowd. Offering other subscription options is a good idea.

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