Should You offer a full RSS feed or only excerpts?

RSS button

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?

Bottom Line

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.

7 thoughts on “Should You offer a full RSS feed or only excerpts?

  1. Nice article Eric , I think it really depends of the blogger’s goal, obviously, it’s better to offer a full text rss feeds for a better user experience, but if you want to drive traffic to your site, you might consider offering only excerpts, however, you need to consider that there are many services out there to help users get full content from excerpts rss feeds such as http://www.feedsapi.com , so at the end , it’s probably better to offer the full text rss and try to drive traffic to your site with a message or insert ads in your feeds for revenues

  2. True — if someone wants to get a full RSS feed, they’ll do so regardless. However it’s always a trade off as to which is more important — preventing scrapers or getting more readers.

  3. Thanks for the post. I personally prefer excerpts only RSS feed from my blog as I want more visitors for my site on diseases conditions and wellness.
    Subrata at ideaas.eu

  4. I subscribed to my feed in google reader to see how it was displayed and turns out I’m only offering a partial feed.

    How do offer a full feed? Any help will be appreciated.

  5. Yeah, it’s a constant balancing act and trade off. On the one hand, you want visitors to your blog. On the other, you want people to sign up for your feed. I personally agree with you, but I can see the other side as well.

  6. Assuming you use Feedburner, you simply go into the settings for your account and set it to full feed. If you use some other service, you may need to tweak the XML settings to make it a full feed.

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