Feeds are one of the most powerful features you can add to your blog.
You have two options with outgoing feeds in WordPress: full feed and excerpt. There has been a lot of debate over which is better. In general, it boils down to personal preference and the feed reader you use. Many people are setting their feed readers to show only excerpts, while others are taking advantage of their feed reader’s ability to only show titles, making the scanning process even faster if they are covering a lot of incoming feeds.
Feed length is controlled first by the blog owner. In WordPress, your feed settings are found in Options > Reading > Syndication Feeds. Then the user can set their feed reader to read your blog’s feeds as titles, excerpts, or full posts, if full post feeds are available.
The feeds on your WordPress blog come built-in and are fairly customizable. Most feeds on your WordPress blogs are automatically detected, but many bloggers want their feed links out front and visible.
To set your feed links on your WordPress blog manually, so they are visible, or you would like to showcase specific category feeds, the following are your basic feed links for those using permalinks, though your version might be worded slightly different:
- WordPress Full Blog Feed: http://example.com/feed/
- WordPress blog comments feed: – http://example.wordpress.com/comments/feed/
- WordPress Categories: http://example.com/category/category-name/feed/
- WordPress Tag/Categories: http://example.wordpress.com/tag/tag-category-name/feed/
The feed links for WordPress blogs not using permalinks are:
- WordPress Full Blog Feed: http://example.com/?feed=rss2
- WordPress blog comments feed: – http://example.com/?feed=comments-rss2
- WordPress Categories: http://example.com/wp-rss2.php?cat=4 (category ID number)
There are several different types of feeds, though the most common and popular is RSS. The most recent versions of WordPress automatically detect which version is being sought.
For more information on the feeds available on your WordPress blog, see the WordPress Codex on WordPress Feeds.
Adding Category Feeds to Your Feed List
Category feeds are not auto-discoverable in most WordPress blogs. You must add those links in the head of your WordPress Theme or add the category feed links anywhere else on your blog.
To add them to your WordPress blog so they are automatically discovered, add the following to
head of your WordPress Theme
header.php template file, adding a separate link for each category feed you want automatically found by feed readers:
<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="RSS 2.0" href="http://example.com/category/category-name/feed/" />
You can add category-specific feeds to your WordPress Theme’s header, sidebar blogroll, or even in the footer.
WordPress.com blogs can add category-specific feeds to their blogroll very easily, using:
You can see the feed here for the WordPress Tips category on this blog.
Some WordPress Themes include feed links next to the list of categories in the sidebar or header. They come in two versions:
- Category Name (RSS)
- Category Name
To add the RSS text version link to your category template tag in your WordPress Theme (full version only), change the category template tag parameters to:
In older versions of WordPress, you would use:
<?php wp_list_cats('sort_column=name&feed=RSS'); ?>
In WordPress 2.1x, you would use:
<?php wp_list_categories('sortby=name&feed=RSS'); ?>
To use the RSS feed graphic with your category list, change the category template tag parameters to:
In older versions of WordPress, you would use:
<?php wp_list_cats('sort_column=name&feed_image=http://example.com/images/rss.gif'); ?>
In WordPress 2.1.x, you would use:
<?php wp_list_categories('sortby=name&feed_image=http://example.com/images/rss.gif'); ?>
For a list of feeds outside of your category template tag list, and for manually created custom feeds, such as category or search feeds, you can add the feed graphic directly to your feed links.
<a href="http://example.com/category/category-name/feed/" title="Category Name feed">Category Name <img src="http://example.com/images/rss.gif" alt="RSS Feed" title="RSS Feed" /></a>
There are a variety of ways you can create custom graphic icons for your feeds such as using the easy icon maker, Kalsey’s Button Maker – Custom Feed Icons. Or you can download standardized feed graphics from Feed Icons. See Mozilla Firefox – Feed Icon Guidelines for more information on the standard usage for feed graphics.
Customized Keyword Feeds
You can also customize your feeds to restrict what your readers see to specific keyword search results. The following two examples are for those using permalinks on a WordPress blog and not:
This is an excellent way to add a very specific feed to your WordPress blog. For example, if you are running a series of articles but you don’t want to add a new category for only 8 posts, you can create a custom feed for your readers to follow along in their feed readers during the ongoing series.
I wrote a series called Know Before You Go that covered several months. The custom feed for the series is viewed at Taking Your Camera on the Road – Know Before You Go article series feed., created with
The key to creating such a customized feed is to use enough of the right combination of words to generate results fairly strictly related to that series. Not every post in the series feed list may be directly related to the article series, but the more specific and unique your keywords are, the more specific the articles will be included.
Adding Custom Feeds to Your WordPress Blog
In addition to offering feeds to your readers, you can also include incoming feeds on your WordPress blogs, including WordPress.com blogs.
You aren’t limited to another blog or news service’s feed. You can customize the incoming feed and help your readers find specific related content off your site. For example, if your blog is about “digital photography”, then you can have an incoming feed from Yahoo! News for articles only about digital photography to help your readers stay in touch with the latest news on digital photography. See Customizing RSS Feed Links for WordPress.com and WordPress Sidebar Widgets for more on how to customize your incoming feeds on your WordPress and WordPress.com blogs.
There are also a variety of WordPress Plugins which will help you add feeds to your full version WordPress blogs which can be found on the WordPress Codex Syndication Plugins or WordPress Plugin Database Export and Output WordPress Plugins lists.
The Feed Length Debate
Excerpts or full feeds? This has long been debated. Still, it’s a two-way choice and a tug-of-war between blogger chooses and what the reader wants.
Many readers have discovered the ease of feed readers, and have added many blogs to their list. For them, they may only use the feed titles to quickly scan through 20-50 different incoming feeds. Readers who typically get most of their information through feeds, want the full length articles in their feeds.
Some blog owners have switched from full to excerpt feeds to restrict splog scrapers ripping off their content to use in place of their own.
Blogs like this one, which often feature very long technical articles rather than short pithy commentaries, get many requests from readers to keep the feeds as excerpts so they can read only the technical information they want, when they want it. It’s not always appropriate as a daily read.
So, it depends upon your needs and one way isn’t better than the other. The best choice serves the needs of the blog owner and their audience.
Either way, in most feed readers, the full article is one click away.
- Don’t You Know What a Feed Is Yet? Get To Know Your Feeds!
- Sidebar Widget enabled WordPress Themes
- WordPress.com Widgets – Customizing Your WordPress.com Theme Sidebar
- Customizing RSS Feed Links for WordPress.com and WordPress Sidebar Widgets
- Creating Custom Feeds For Sites Without Feeds
- Feed Fatigue
- Writing Effective, Attention-Getting Headlines and Titles on Your Blog
- One Year Anniversary Review: What are Feeds?
- Do You Need Permission to Use Feeds
- Creating Attention Getting Linkable Content
- Feeding on Lorelle on WordPress
- The Bitacle Battle of Blogs
- Link Referrals – Linking to Site Search Tags
- Create RSS Feeds on Any Web Page
- Using Your Feeds for Story Ideas
- Benefits and Uses of Website Feeds
- Customizing Your Feed Titles
- Adding RSS Feeds to WordPress
- FeedBurner Announces New Interactive RSS Service
- Ads on Feeds
- The Birth of RSS
- My Daily Tasks With WordPress
- Blogging Tips – Hundreds of Resources for Finding Content for Your Blog
- Like Owner Looks Like Dog, Do You Look Like Your Aggregator?
- Beauty is Only Skin Deep: Designing Blogs For Feeds, Search Engines and Audience
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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network