Advice for Beginning Bloggers: Allow Full RSS Feeds

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Because so many commenters have started their own blogs, I’m devoting an occasional post to advice for beginning bloggers. Please leave ideas for future posts in the comments.

A reader asks:
I am planning to start a blog to promote the book I am working on. Why do you allow “full” feeds instead of partial ones?

Answer: When you first set up your blog, you decide what readers will see if they get your content by email or RSS reader. With a partial feed, readers see only the first few lines of the post, and must surf to your actual site to read the rest.

(If you’ve never heard of an RSS feed or a blog reader, see the note at the end of the post.)

Many new webmasters choose partial feeds because they figure they don’t want to give everything away for free, so to speak. They think it’s better if readers will be forced to finish the post directly on their site, so they will benefit from the traffic. But there are a few reasons why I don’t recommend this.

  1. You blog because you have something to say, not to get traffic. As long as people are reading, you shouldn’t care where they do it.
  2. When I used the word “forced” earlier, I didn’t mean it. Allowing partial feeds doesn’t make people more likely to come to your site. They won’t click over unless the first few lines are compelling. Of course, even with full feeds readers might not finish the post, but you have a better chance. When I need to cut back on subscriptions, I only keep partial feeds that have top-notch content. Partial feeds mean you have to work harder to keep your subscribers.
  3. Subscribers are more valuable for traffic than casual readers. If readers come to your site, they may read one post and never return. But if they subscribe, you might entice them back at a later point (see #5). So keep them around by offering full feeds.
  4. Bloggers read blogs through RSS readers. And they want to read your whole post before linking to it and sending you some traffic.
  5. There are other ways to attract subscribers back to your site. You can link to older posts in the content of your article, encourage comments, set up a newsletter to send email to your subscribers, or include comment counts in your feed.
  6. You can set up a widget on your site to show many subscribers you have. Traffic is only one measure of influence.

Your subscribers are your most loyal readers. Don’t alienate them.

Related Posts:

Building a Blog Community

Why I Moved My Blog to WordPress

Note: You can get read any blog or online newspaper via email or through an RSS reader like Bloglines or Google Reader. RSS Readers allow you to personalize a webpage with your favorite sites. The RSS reader checks the websites for new content and reprints them for you  automatically. You check your webpage as often as you like for new headlines, with no need to visit the blog’s homepage.

If you want to get future posts from A Mother in Israel via an RSS Reader, click here. You will be given a choice of popular RSS services to choose from. After you have it set up, you can subscribe to a blog by clicking on the orange RSS symbol that appears in your browser’s address bar.

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  1. Oh, Hannah, this is great. I enjoy reading everything you write, but this has to be one of the best yet. This is surely one of my pet peeves about blog reading. I plan to send the URL of your post to all my subscriptions who provide partial feeds. First, I have to think of a nice way of introducing it to them, LOL! Chag Sameach.

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  2. mominisrael says:

    Debbie: I hope all of my readers enjoy it as much! Chag sameach.

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  3. I couldn’t agree more – I hate partial feeds, and am much less likely to click through and read them, even when it’s a blogger a like, especially if I’m short on time.

    Chag sameach to one and all.

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  4. mominisrael says:

    Thanks, Robin.

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  5. Great post. I’m a Drupal developer and I just succeeded at getting the default for RSS publishing changed from “partial” to “full” for Drupal 7. Of course in Drupal 6 or earlier you can change it from “partial” to “full” but folks who haven’t read this article don’t even think about it and so that is why defaults are so important.

    For people interested in open source process, here is the thread on where this issue got processed and settled:

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  6. Well said. Subscribers are the life blood of a blog.

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  7. I unsubscribe from partial feeds. They’re annoying. Most of the time you don’t get enough of the post to know if you want to read the whole thing. Other than preventing their content from being stolen by feed scrapers, there isn’t any benefit to partial feeds. Afterall, you can monetize feeds with ads, and it’s easy to comment after reading a post in a feed reader.

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  8. mominisrael says:

    I see I’m not alone in this one. Shai, thanks for your visit and comment. Fern, Copyblogger recently wrote a post saying how he doesn’t even mind the scrapers and they can’t really hurt him.

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  9. MIL, until now i’ve had a partial feed but your convincing argument against it made me change to full sub.

    Great post!

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