Friday, April 20th, 2007...9:05 am
Full Vs. Partial RSS Feeds
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Rick Klau, VP of Publishing Services at FeedBurner has made an interesting comment about partial feeds on the official FeedBurner blog. According to Rick there appears to be no significant difference in clickthrough rates between full and partial RSS feeds. This is particularly interesting because one of the major arguments for using a partial feed was the assumption that it would drive more readers to your site.
As people subscribe to feeds, they subscribe to more feeds. And that means they’re consuming more content, which means that each click out of the feed reader is taking the reader away from more content. In other words, feed reading is consumption-oriented, not transactionally focused. We’ve seen no evidence that excerpts on their own drive higher clickthroughs.
He doesn’t go into any more detail regarding the numbers but considering FeedBurner manages over 660,000 feeds it’s safe to assume he does have the raw data to be able to make such an observation.
The main issue I see with publishing a full feed is the risk of your content being used by scraper sites. For those of you unfamiliar with scraper sites their sole purpose is to generate income through advertising by republishing content stolen from RSS feeds.
It’s bad enough someone is trying to make money off your hard work, but to add insult to injury the duplicate content on these scraper sites will hurt your search engine ranking too. Understandably some people who have been hit by scrapers have opted to only offer partial feeds and I can’t blame them.
You can however take measures to protect yourself from scraper sites and limit the damage they can cause.
- Use internal linking. Not only is it a good practice for SEO, it has some benefits if someone is republishing your content. Most scrapers are too lazy to remove links from a post so the resulting pingbacks will help you track down the offending scraper site. You may get the odd visitor following a link too.
- Install the Feed Copywriter plugin and add a copyright message and return link to the bottom of your feed.
- Regularly check Copyscape to see if anyone is using your content. If so, take steps to have it removed. Contact the person running the site, contact their hosting service, and if that doesn’t work get in touch with their advertisers.
Here are some things to keep in mind about full feeds.
- People are more likely to subscribe to full feeds. There is the odd person who prefers partial feeds but they are in the minority.
- Full feeds will help you to grow your subscriber base. The more subscribers you have, the greater the chance of someone linking to one of your posts.
- Feed advertising is a way you can offset some of the revenue you may lose from people subscribing to your feed and not visiting your site. The current offerings are underdeveloped and the payouts aren’t great, but they are bound to improve. I can’t help but think the next big explosion in online advertising will come through monetizing RSS feeds.
- Subscribers make up a large percentage of your loyal readership. As such, it is in your best interests to keep them happy.
If you take a look around you’ll find most blogs, including the larger ones, use full feeds. As both a feed reader and a publisher, my preference will always be full feeds. Which do you prefer?