RSS (Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary) is “a format for delivering regularly changing web content” (WhatIsRSS.com). Individuals use RSS feeds to read your articles in a reader like Feedly. There are also some applications that use your feed to aggregate content (Paper.li) or post to social sites like Facebook.
RSS Feeds in WordPress
If you use WordPress and a theme that meets standard you already have some feeds set up:
- http://example.com/feed/ – this is your main feed
- http://example.com/comments/feed/ – a feed of just your comments
- http://example.com/post-name/feed/ – a feed for a single post. Why? You might monitor a post to see if it changes.
- http://example.com/category/categoryname/feed – a feed for a category. Use to monitor just the information you want from a site.
- http://example.com/tag/tagname/feed – a feed for a tag.
And you can also combine categories or tags:
- http://www.example.com/category/cat1,cat2/feed – feed for two categories
- http://www.example.com/tag/tag1,tag2/feed – feed for two tags
Or view a feed of tags in a certain category:
As an example: http://beyond-paper.com/category/wordpress/feed/?tag=seo will provide a feed of my WordPress posts with a tag of SEO.
You can control a few things about your feed from Settings->Reading.
“Syndication feeds show the most recent XX items” – change this to adjust how many items appear in your feed. 10-20 is about right.
“For each article in a feed, show…” – Do you want to show the full text of the post (including images) or just a summary (the excerpt)? There are two thoughts about this. Some people like to force people to click through the excerpt, returning to the website to read the entire article and generating page hits. I personally find this extremely irritating when reading blogs. Unless the excerpt is really, really compelling I almost never click through to the article. In fact, looking through my current list of 700+ feeds, there are 3 sites with partial feeds that I consistently click through to the article. Two belong to personal friends and one is a tech site which has the knack of putting compelling info in their excerpts.
Viewing your Feed
To view what your feed looks like, you will need to have a feed reader. I recommend Feedly – you access it through your browser. In Feedly’s list view my feed looks like this, with the featured images to the left:
But the featured image doesn’t appear when I view the content because Feedly doesn’t use the featured image on the article page:
Additionally, the images show up, but because I used CSS to align them, they aren’t in proper alignment (the image above should float left).
Fixing my WordPress RSS Feed
First I installed the WordPress plugin “Featured Images in RSS w/ Size and Position“. Be sure you get the right one, the author’s name is Rob Marlbrough. From the admin dashboard click on Settings->Featured Images In RSS Feeds and choose how you want your featured image to appear. Save changes and you’re done!
The second issue of my internal images not floating left or right is a result of WordPress presenting a properly formatted RSS feed. RSS feeds aren’t supposed to have formatting associated with them – the formatting is up to the feed reader. Unfortunately this is a headache when you want your feed to look nice in a feed reader.
I tried a couple of options, both of which involved editing the feed itself, which isn’t ideal, but wasn’t happy with the result. For now I’ll continue pursuing the problem – but if you have an insight into the issue, please let me know.