Smart ways to enhance your blog’s RSS feed

Rss feed iconFor quite some time I was wondering if it's possible to enhance the experience of rss subscribers in a non-intrusive and smart way.

As you know rss feed is usually read in an independent software without the reader actually being present on the site. What I had in mind is to find a way to improve the interaction between the blog and the reader. Information about this is scarce and hard to find on the net and that made me write this article after getting it all done.

I first discovered that it is possible to enter any data in the feed, just like you would format the content on the blog itself. That gave interesting possibility to include information about article comments, social bookmarking buttons and additional information. Adding this to a feed greatly increases the usability of your rss feed and blog potential.

I then discovered a plugin that enables this and it is called simply Better Feed. It is certainly a tool for advanced users, and allows you the complete control over the information that goes to your rss feed. While I usually like that, I was looking for a more practical and easier to use solution. And it was just around the corner...

Using Feedburner FeedFlare for feed control

You probably know that you can publish your blog feed through Feedburner (if you didn't I advise you to do so). It is a service that allows you full control of your rss feed as well as information about subscriber statistics and lot of other useful goodies. You can publish your feed through feedburner in 15 minutes after opening an account with them and using Feedsmith wordpress plugin to drive all your feeds through feedburner.

One of the features of Feedburner is called FeedFlare and is apparently most kept secret among pro-bloggers. It allows you to add any content to your feed footer through so called flares. Setting up is very easy, you select what you want to add (like comment count, social bookmarking ...) and Feedburner will automatically append it to the end of your feed! There is a selection of most popular flares and lot of third party ones just like wordpress plugins.

If you subscribe to my rss feed you can see how I used feedflare to add comments, social bookmarking links and copyright information to my rss feed. Check this image to see the feed in action.

optimized Rss feed with comments, social bookmarking and related articles

Adding Related Posts to RSS feed

Another useful feature to have in your RSS feed are links to related articles (also displayed in the example above). This allows the reader to quickly browse to other similar articles about topic interesting to them.

In order to this, I have used Similar Feed WordPress plugin. It is based on Similar posts plugin which is in turn most powerful "related posts" wordpress plugin in my opinion. Setup is quickly and automatic, as the similar feed plugin practically works out of the box.

Enhanced RSS Feed

With these two simple changes you can add a lot of value to your blog. The rss feed becomes more practical to use, resulting in better user experience which in turn increases the blog's karma.

Certainly there are other things that can be inserted into an rss feed. I leave this for your imagination...


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13 Comments

  1. Dec 25th, 2008 4:31 AM

    Vlad,

    As usual, some damn good information and insight. I'm making the updates now.

    Thanks!

  2. Nov 9th, 2008 9:47 PM

    Another great set of tips Vlad,
    Thank you, I just made the changes to my feed with feedsmith

  3. May 9th, 2008 3:59 PM

    I was looking high and low for a plugin that would include related post on my feed and I found your post.

    Thanks for the idea.

    BTW, is there any particular reason you place the email form field right at the bottom?

  4. Feb 5th, 2008 12:03 PM

    Since I displayed the Feedburner banner (which flashes the last 5 posts), and their buzz feed (I think it's that) in Myspace and Mylot profile forums, it increased visits to my blog...

  5. Feb 1st, 2008 2:08 PM

    If you are worried about number of subscribers, yes feedburner has some problems there. But other then that it is great for newbie users for simplicity of use and specially incorporating information I was talking about in the feeds.

  6. Jan 31st, 2008 3:30 AM

    I have been using feedburner for quite time, but I think their service is errornous these days. Feedburner only displayed if I only have 4 subscribers, while my statpress proves I have more than hundred already.

    I don't really recommend to use this service though, it couldn't track your rss feeds up-to-date like it supposed to be. =/

  7. Dec 16th, 2007 1:53 AM

    This is some great information. With so many people right now updating the visual attractiveness of their sites, I'm surprised we don't hear more about updating RSS for the same goals.

    Thanks for the info. I'm off to update some RSS feeds :)

  8. Dec 14th, 2007 9:08 PM

    Yesterday I had to start all over again with Feedburner and discovered Feed Flare. Another good trick is to use the Animated Headlines.

    It's a little banner (mine is Xmas theme!) that rotates your titles and when clicked goes directly to your feed subscription page.

    People should really revisit Feedburner because there are some hidden gems to work with.

    A timely post. :) Thanks.

  9. Dec 14th, 2007 4:48 AM

    I already do the related posts, but thanks for the tip on the comment count. I saw that on other feeds, but didn't realize it was a Feedburner thing.

  10. Dec 13th, 2007 5:13 PM

    Thanks for posting this. Learned many new things about what I can do with my feeds, things that I didn't know about before.

    I pasted FeedFlare on top of my post.

    Greetings and lotta loves from Malaysia.

  11. Dec 13th, 2007 4:13 PM

    Jules: Thanks for notice, fixed the image

    Andy: Yep thats a creative use for feed. I bet there are more we are not aware of yet ;)

  12. Dec 13th, 2007 11:11 AM

    that's really good info, I used a plugin to display the comment count on my feed but feedflare looks really good too, I've seen someone use the feed to display a download link to their ebook so someone has to subscribe to their feed before they can download it. I might do the same thing, thanks for the write up!

  13. Dec 13th, 2007 4:09 AM

    Great article and I may try this, but the image isn't clickable :(