Partial RSS Feed vs. Full Feed: Keeping your Subscribers (and Sponsors) Happy

Full Feed vs Partial Feed - Keeping your blog subscribers happy | theblogmaven.com One of the most difficult decisions a blogger makes when moving their blog to WordPress is the format of their blog feed.  Do you want to deliver your entire post to your readers via Feedburner, or should you just give them an excerpt (a partial feed), and then have them visit your blog to see the rest?  In this post I’ll discuss the pros and cons of both options so you can make an informed decision for your blog.

Full Feed Delivery – Givin’ it all away

Full Feed Example | from Wooly Moss Roots

Example of a full feed, from Wooly Moss Roots

Publishing a full RSS feed is still the most common method of feed delivery.  When someone views your posts in their Reader, they can see everything – all your words and images.

Pros:

  1. It’s convenient.  Your readers can see all of your posts in one place.
  2. It’s good for “blog shoppers” who are exploring new blogs via their reader.  If you have your full posts accessible on your feed, new readers can easily decide whether you’re a blogger they’d like to follow.
  3. It makes you appear “friendly,” like you’re willing to come out and meet your readers wherever they are.

Cons:

  1. Readers don’t have to visit your blog, so they don’t see all the beautiful work you’ve put into your sidebar to make them want to browse around and stay awhile.
  2. Readers are less likely to share your content AND less likely to comment on your blog.  This goes against the principle of building a community.
  3. What about your blog sponsors?  If readers don’t see your sidebar, they don’t see your sponsors.  That’s not sharing the love.
  4. It makes it easy for scrapers to steal your content.  That’s right – there are apps out there that can take what’s in your feed and automatically republish it elsewhere.  A full feed lends itself to piracy.
  5. Since not as many people will be visiting your blog, you’ll have lower page views, which is bad for your SEO.

Partial Feed – Being a tease

Example of a partial feed, from Gsheller.com

Example of a partial feed, from Small Things. Short and sweet.

Publishing your feed with just a small excerpt from your post is becoming more common.  Several of the major blogs I personally read (or used to read) use post excerpts (e.g., MADE, Small Things, Sew Liberated), and switching to excerpts is definitely a growing trend.

Pros:

  1. All your readers have the same experience, and they’re viewing your posts in context on your blog.
  2. Readers are more likely to share your content and interact with you via comments.
  3. Your readers can see (and click on!) your sponsors’ buttons in your sidebar.
  4. Your blog will have higher page views, which is good for your search engine optimization (SEO).
  5. Higher page views means you’ll be more attractive to potential blog sponsors, and you’ll be able to charge more for sponsorships.

Cons:

  1. It may feel unfriendly or impersonal – after all, you’re only giving them 250 words of what they want to see and then telling them they have to do something to see the rest.
  2. It’s annoying.  If you switch to post excerpts in your feed, you’ll probably get some hate mail unhappy readers (and may even lose some subscribers over it).  Yes, some readers think it’s that important.
  3. There are still people out there with slow internet connections or limited time to spend on the web.  These people like to download all their feeds to their computer, then disconnect from the internet and read them at their leisure.  Switching to a partial feed makes your blog inaccessible to some people, though it’s a minority of blog readers.

Decisions, decisions…

If you’re leaning towards changing your feed to post excerpts, it’s important to find a natural time to do this, such as a blog redesign or when you’re moving from Blogger to WordPress.  If your readers can’t see a reason for your switch, you’ll risk losing subscribers over this issue.

How do you feed your readers?  Partial vs. Full RSS Feed | theblogmaven.com

If you don’t have a real reason to switch, it’s best to keep publishing with a full feed.

If you don’t have a big event coming up for your blog that would lend itself to switching to post excerpt, it’s best to keep the full feed.  But if you’re a blogger with an eye for growth, there are still some things you can do to keep your sponsors happy and your readership growing.

A Happy Medium

If you’re keeping a full feed for your blog, my suggestion is to use a free WordPress plugin like RSS Footer or Ozh Better Feed to customize the end of your feed.  These changes won’t show up on your blog itself, but they’ll help you bring elements of your blog to your readers who are viewing you in Google Reader or another feed management service.

You can:

  1. Add your sponsors’ buttons to the end of your feed (you’ll need to use HTML to do this).  That way, even people who view your posts in their Reader can see (and click on!) your sponsors’ buttons.
  2. Add a link back to your blog, displaying the title of the post (which is clickable) and the author.  This discourages scrapers from stealing your content…because the post has the author information clearly visible.
  3. Add the number of comments on your post to the end of your feed, or invite your readers directly to comment on your blog.  By doing this, you’ll be letting your feed readers know you care about them, too.

Pick one and stick with it.

Although which type of feed you publish may seem like a minor issue, it’s really very important because it determines how your readers interact with you.  But whatever you choose, make sure you consider your options carefully, then pick one and stick with it.  No back-and-forth.  Just follow my childhood motto of: “Pretend you know what you’re doing and no one will question you.” :)

So how about you?  What do you think?

How do you feed your readers?

::

13 Comments • Leave yours below!

  1. says

    You know one reason you should have a full feed? It’s just plain kind and generous. I feel that partial feeds are stingy. I’ve always felt that way. It’s like the author is trying to control the readers by forcing them to click over. I resent that kind of attitude. Information wants to be free, right? (Right.) Let it be free. You garner more loyalty by giving things away than by being stingy. Always.

    • says

      I agree with you for blogs that are “informational” in nature, but for bloggers who are documenting their families’ lives or for people who are featuring beautiful photography, I think it’s a tougher choice. I don’t mind a partial feed for blogs that are “inspirational” in nature, because I feel like it’s a kind of art that’s meant to be viewed in the context of the blogger’s home. It’s important to not take this decision lightly, but to really consider the pros and cons – and that may mean different things to different bloggers.

  2. says

    Jeni, This is so interesting. Usually I just visit blogs by going directly to their website. But whenever I go to my blogger \”dashboard\” it shows each blog\’s new posts, but only a small portion. You need to click on them to read the post, which takes you directly to their site. It\’s never shown a full post there before. I thought my blogger dashboard was where I saw the RSS feed?What is the RSS feed and where do you view it? I have a lot to learn!Good food for thought for when I move to Word Press at some point.Thanks for the info (and for linking to me!)Love, Taryn

      • says

        Hi Taryn, your blogger dashboard IS an RSS feed reader, but it’s one that’s only accessible to Blogger folks – the reader I use is Google Reader, although there are several other ones, as well. The settings I’m talking about are ones you set in Feedburner, and they control what everyone who uses a regular “reader” sees from your blog.

        Sorry about the crazy marks in your first comment – I (literally) just installed a new plugin for my comments, and I still have a few kinks to work out. :)

        I’d love to join you for Gratitude Sunday sometime – I think it’s a wonderful idea…but this “tech” type blog isn’t really the right place for it. But I’m with you in spirit!

        warmly,
        Jeni
        jeni recently posted..Blog Sponsorships: Finding a Match Made in HeavenMy Profile

        • says

          Hi Jeni,
          I appreciate that you always take the time to answer my questions so thoroughly. Thank you!
          I’m glad you wrote about this. It will be a good opportunity for me to make some changes on my blog when I switch over to WordPress. I’m getting more excited about WordPress all the time.

          I’d love for you to join Gratitude Sunday too, in the meantime you could always leave a list in the comments. :)

          Love, Taryn
          Taryn Kae Wilson recently posted..Our favorite baby "stuff"My Profile

  3. says

    I use Ozh Better Feed and I love it but it says you can also set it to show only excerpts in your feed but for the life of me I can not figure out how to do that! (Do you have any idea?). If you set Feedburner to send only excerpts then it doesn’t send photos (unless there is some way around it that I don’t know) and I think photos in the RSS feed are very important.
    Shelley recently posted..Walmart, Box Tops For Education And A GiveawayMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Shelley, there are a few solutions for doing that. Have you tried using the tag in your posts? You drop that into the HTML in your post, wherever you want it to cut off, and that will create an excerpt for you. That’s the easier option, so see if that works first. The second option is requires FTP access to your files:

      You go to plugins > ozh-better-feed > wp_ozh_betterfeed.php
      Find the line in the code that says this:
      add_filter(‘the_content’, ‘wp_ozh_betterfeed’, 9999);
      and drop in this code:
      add_filter(‘the_excerpt_rss’, ‘wp_ozh_betterfeed’, 9999);

      (but when it’s in your text editor, go through that new line of code and erase, then retype each quote mark, because WordPress is going to display “smart quotes” here, and they’ll mess up your code.)

      Hope this helps – unfortunately, you’ll have to get your geek on to make this work. :)
      jeni recently posted..Blog Sponsorships: Finding a Match Made in HeavenMy Profile

      • says

        Thanks for taking the time to respond to my question.

        The first option would cut the posts on my blog to excerpts, right? (I want full posts on my blog. )

        I think I understand what to do with the FTP option but do I not have to specify a number of words I want the excerpt to be?

        But I don’t understand what this means:: “(but when it’s in your text editor, go through that new line of code and erase, then retype each quote mark, because WordPress is going to display “smart quotes” here, and they’ll mess up your code.)”
        Shelley recently posted..Walmart, Box Tops For Education And A GiveawayMy Profile

        • says

          It means that since I displayed the code you should use on a web page (and not as “code” in a text editor), if you just cut and paste the code from my page, it might not work. There are two kinds of quotes: regular quotes (which are used in code) and smart quotes, which are styled for web browsers or word processing programs. I don’t think you’ll run into a problem with that code, but if you do, try deleting each quote and then typing it back in, inside your text editor for the code.

          I see you’re using Thesis – this might be something you can do right inside your theme’s functions.php code. You might try writing in to the Thesis support forum and see if they can help you. I know what you’re trying to do, and I know how to do it in Genesis, but not in Thesis.

          Sorry if this isn’t terribly helpful!

          …I just thought of something. Have you tried setting a “Post Image” inside the post? I read in this article that Thesis may add your Post Image into the RSS feed. (?)
          jeni recently posted..Blog Sponsorships: Finding a Match Made in HeavenMy Profile

          • says

            Gotcha! I understand now. I think I may have fixed it, we will see when the email is delivered tomorrow.

            I will read that article and see what it says if this doesn’t work maybe that will….and if this works I will be doing the happy dance because I have been trying to figure this out for months!

            Thank you so much!
            Shelley recently posted..Walmart, Box Tops For Education And A GiveawayMy Profile

  4. Jessica says

    Thanks for writing this – just what I was looking for! It’s such a tough decision to make, but I appreciate you laying it all out for me.

  5. says

    I had no clue this was an evolution in the RSS feeds. In the book blog world, we usually send the full feed so that’s what we’re used to. Since I don’t have sponsors – it’s a hobby :) – I’m going to stay full feed. But sometime I need to find the feed that a friend of mine does that summarizes her last 5 posts at the top and goes into details at the bottom (another project on the list, ugh!)

    Great post! Thanks for all the great info!!
    Kristin recently posted..Review: The Vengeance of the Vampire Bride by Rhiannon FraterMy Profile

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