The decision of whether to offer a full RSS feed or only excerpts from your blog is an important one. I’m still dealing with sorting out my own feelings on the subject because I’m not sure of the value of either one. Therefore, I’ll present both arguments and let you decide for yourself which option works better for your needs.
Why You Need to Offer an RSS Feed
First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: RSS, which stands for Really Simple Syndication (don’t you just love how these acronyms sound complicated but really aren’t) is a way to send out your blog posts to your readers without their having to visit your site.
This helps you to engage with your readers much more effectively than if you were to simply go ahead and run a blog without offering a feed.
The Advantage of a Full Feed
Offering a full feed means that more people are likely to sign up for your RSS feed. This means that ultimately you’ll build a better audience for what you have to say and you’ll ultimately be able to build up page rank for your website.
It also means that people will be more likely to read your RSS feed because of the fact that they don’t have to worry about coming back to your blog to read what you had to say. Instead, they can simply read your feed and then, if they want to, they’ll come back to comment.
The Disadvantage of a Full Feed
The disadvantage of course is that fewer people will visit your blog to read what you have to say there. After all, if they can read what you have to say in your feed, why would they come to your blog, where they will click ads and hopefully make some money for you?
Worse, if you offer a full feed, you are making it easy for scrapers to steal your content and put it up on their own sites with the intention of monetizing the material (i.e. the infamous “Made for Adsense” websites).
The Advantages of an Excerpt Feed
You eliminate all the disadvantages of a full feed by offering excerpts only. Those who truly want to grab your feed in its entirety will go to the trouble to design a script to grab it and those who are more lazy will not bother. Of course, the question then becomes, will they read what you have to say to begin with?
I think it comes down at least in part to why you have a blog. If the blog is an end unto itself to let you sell advertising, I’m not sure that giving away your full feed is the best practice you can engage in. On the other hand, if you are just trying to build brand awareness, then putting out a full feed can be quite useful, even if you get scraped.