Sunday, 29 June 2008

Your blog, feeds & Feedburner: summary & practical guide - 12 steps

This is a short practical step by step introductory howto on feeds for beginners.

For much more info and reference, part 1 of my introductory feeds basics 101 series where I covered the basics on feeds, and part 2 how to activate and publicise (in a basic way) your blog feed, my part 3 on Feedburner, and my intro to podcasting.

Use of feeds

Using feeds helps promote and publicise your blog. Rather than having to keep visiting your blog on the Web, people can "subscribe" to your blog's "newsfeed" or "feed" (or "RSS feed") to get your latest posts in their "feed reader", "news reader" or "aggregator", which can be software on their computer or an online service they login to, and which "aggregates" the feeds from the various blogs and news sites they want to keep on top of. They can even subscribe to feeds by email. (Feeds can also be read in most modern browsers, but in older browsers look terrible and are virtually unreadable.) See my my basic introductory guide to feeds for more info.

If you use the free Feedburner service you can track statistics (web analytics) for how much your feed is "fetched", and you can also get tools to promote or enhance your feed or blog in other ways e.g. grab an email or message board signature that will rotate through the titles of your last 5 posts, get code to add social bookmarking links to your feed not just your site, etc.

Some bloggers don't like feeds because it means users don't visit their website or blog, they read the feed instead, and so they won't see ads on the blog (though you'll be able to include ads in your Feedburner feed soon). Also, if you put out a full feed (containing the full text of all your posts, rather than a partial feed which has just an extract or excerpt from each post), it does make it easier for swines and swindlers to steal your content wholesale for us as Adsense fodder or to pass it off as their own (so I keep an eye out for copyright villains and try to stop them when I catch them). Personally, I think the advantages of having a feed outweigh their disadvantages and risks - but it's entirely your choice.

12 steps for Feedburner feeds

If you decide you want to use feeds with your blog, my personal recommendations on the minimum basic steps to take are:
  1. Activate the production of feeds by your blogging software (this should be activated by default anyway e.g. with Blogger and WordPress)
    • Blogger: Dashboard>Settings>Site Feed>Allow Blog Feeds (Full, Short or None) - obviously None means it's not active, full means full text feed, short means excerpts only
    • WordPress: Settings (top right)>Reading - set number of posts in syndication feed, and full text or summary

  2. Check that your blogging platform outputs a full or short/summary feed as you prefer (see above for where the settings are)
    • I prefer to output a full feed, but it's your choice if you want a partial feed only

  3. Check the maximum number of posts your blog's original source feed will contain is what you want, and tweak if necessary (see item 1 for where the settings are) - it's not necessarily the same as the maximum number of posts on your blog's main page (and in a future post I'll explain how to tweak that for Blogger blogs)

  4. Burn your original source feed to Feedburner (ticking all the boxes) and note the URL of your Feedburner feed. UPDATE: for Blogger users you might want to add "?orderby=published" at the end of the original feed URL (Edit Feed Details, the Original Feed line) to make sure that your subscribers always get your posts in the order published, and not the most recently updated posts (including old posts you've edited), e.g.
    Note: Remember, Feedburner can only work with the original feed you give it. So -
    • If your blog's source feed is summary or partial only, Feedburner can't deliver a full feed
    • If your source feed only contains X posts, Feedburner can't provide more than X posts in its feed
    • If your source feed goes weird, so will the Feedburner feed - garbage in, garbage out..

  5. Tweak your Feedburner options - check them out and have a play, but some initial Feedburner settings I recommend are:
  6. Redirect your blog's source feed to Feedburner if possible (how to redirect in Blogger; TypePad redirection, and self-hosted WordPress feed redirection using the FeedSmith plugin - feed redirection doesn't seem currently possible for MySpace or free users, don't know if paid upgrade does it)

  7. Make sure your blog's feed autodiscovery points to your new Feedburner feed URL (with Blogger blogs, redirection will fix auto-discovery automatically; users seem to be out of luck, again - another reason why I use Blogger, myself)

  8. Publicise your Feedburner feed URL, particularly:
  9. Activate FeedFlare for your feed (Optimize tab) - go to the FeedFlare page and under the Feed column tick your options such as Email This, Comments Count, Save to, Digg This! Share on Facebook and Stumble It! (NB. Email The Author doesn't work properly if you're on Blogger, see more on FeedFlare); consider using FeedFlare to add social bookmarking links etc to your blog post Webpages too, though you don't have to.

  10. Subscribe to your own Feedburner feed via your newsfeed reader of choice so you can keep an eye on it; and subscribe for FeedBulletin similarly (UPDATE: FeedBulletin is temporarily suspended during the switchover of FeedBurner to full Google hosting, but will be restored in the future).

  11. Also consider:
  12. And of course, don't forget to login to Feedburner from time to time to check your statistics and settings, and see if there are any new features you might want to use.
(Full disclosure: Feedburner asked me to become a Feedburner Community Expert (unpaid volunteer in their Feedburner help group) a couple of months ago. Any mistakes are of course mine alone!)

1 comment:

Addiction Drug Abuse Articles said...

I have a blogger blog and I clicked in setting the short feed which means first paragraph should show, but when I check the rss feed url, it only shows the title. Do you know if this is working wrong? It works right if I click the full feed in settings though. Thank you for this great tutorial.