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Understanding, Using, and Customizing WordPress Blog Feeds

Information on WordPress feedsFeeds are one of the most powerful features you can add to your blog.

and blogs come with feeds built-in. You don’t have to do anything except control how those feeds are viewed by your readers.

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.

WordPress Options Reading - Controlling feed length

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:

The feed links for WordPress blogs not using permalinks are:

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="" />

RSS feed graphics on WordPress blog category listYou can add category-specific feeds to your WordPress Theme’s header, sidebar blogroll, or even in the footer. 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 RSS feed image graphic

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='); ?>

In WordPress 2.1.x, you would use:

<?php wp_list_categories('sortby=name&feed_image='); ?>

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="" title="Category Name feed">Category Name <img src="" 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 ?s=travel+know+before+you+go:.

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

Example of incoming feed in WordPressIn addition to offering feeds to your readers, you can also include incoming feeds on your WordPress blogs, including blogs.

Incoming feeds are easily added with the WordPress Widgets, sidebar accessories which include incoming feed Widgets. I explain how to use these in Playing with New Sidebar Widgets.

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 and WordPress Sidebar Widgets for more on how to customize your incoming feeds on your WordPress and 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.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

Member of the 9Rules Blogging Network


  1. Posted January 24, 2007 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    You’re as great as always, Lorelle. Woderful post. So many simple tricks that I take for granted while others don’t even know they need it – especially the category feed thing.
    Ever considered publishing a WP book? I would buy it 😉

    I have a feedburner question – I recently noticed Feedburner takes a long long time to reach many of my readers – sometimes as much as 12 hours after posting – and they’re complaining about it :\ .
    I wanted to know if that ever happens to you as well? I know Feedburner handels a lot of traffic, so I was just wondering what it’s like for others.

  2. Posted January 24, 2007 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Only like the posts of one author on a site?

    Don’t like certain categories?,-5,-6,-8 (WP 2.1 or required for multiple category exclusions)

    Sometimes it takes a little trial and error to find the category IDs (although you can probably get them from looking at the source of a well-coded theme), but if you’re clever you can really trim a feed down to only the stuff you want to read.

    Sarit, FeedBurner normally takes 30-60 minutes to update. Anything longer is unusual and something to look into.

  3. Posted January 24, 2007 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    What I did was merge both my content and my comment feeds together. That way people will know how active the participation of the post is.

  4. Posted January 24, 2007 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    This is my take on full vs partial: with partial feeds you are completely annoying readers and only marginally annoying scrappers. They’re going to scrape your content anyways, the best way to handle it is to always be linking back to your archives so that their scrapes basically end up being a walking advertisement for you.

    Except for exceptional circumstances, I give up reading all blogs that have partial feeds — they’re too annoying and break me out of my reading style.

    I’ve been trying several feed strategies — one was where I broke my blog into four major types of content (how to guides, opinion pieces, blogging pieces and links). People still prefer the full feed almost exclusively. The only thing I’ve seen work for multiple feeds is series… like if you do a comic strip, or an infrequently updated series like my theme review. Users don’t care for the additional complexity.

  5. Posted January 24, 2007 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    Mark: Thanks for the great tips on other feed types. Wonderful! And thanks again for all your incredible hard work on the new release of WordPress. Brilliant.

    Engtech: I’ve read both sides of the issue, and there is no definitive research or evidence, though a lot of conjecture and assumption, on which is the “right” method. Just like people taking sides in a two party system, the side you are with is the “right” side. Darren Rowse of ProBlogger recently covered this issue and he found that from his informal tests, he’s increased readership on different blogs with and without full feeds. He couldn’t really find a direct connection that was consistent across the board between full feeds and excerpts. I have to admit that after turning off full feeds here, feed levels didn’t waver. Maybe I lost some radicals, but it’s growing by leaps and bounds.

    I don’t think it’s indicative of traffic levels. I do, however, firmly believe it is indicative of the content and audience characteristics, as I explained.

    If your content is good enough, or has the “right” answer for your question, people will read you no matter how they get your information.

  6. Posted January 24, 2007 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for throwing a hint, Mark.

  7. Posted January 24, 2007 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    I too was overjoyed when I had discovered the feed flexibility. The feed goes through the loop, so we can use all the parameters that we can use with the WordPress URLs.

  8. Posted January 25, 2007 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Lorelle, thanks much for your wonderful posts!

    One of the missing features in WordPress is that the RSS feeds do not obey the “more” tag. You can choose between Full and Summary (Summary = 40 words I think) for RSS feeds, but you can’t customize the teaser cut-off. Besides that, WordPress doesn’t insert a “more” link at the cut-off.

    I (finally) found a plugin that cuts off at the “more” tag –> Better Feed ( It’s not that well documented, but it does what it has to. I use it on my site now and love it. No, I am not affiliated : )

    It would be a nice feature to include in the base WordPress install – no reason why not.

  9. Posted January 25, 2007 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    That’s a popular WordPress Plugin, though the last few times I’ve tried to access the site, it’s been down.

    If the issue of controlling the excerpts in feeds is important to you, I recommend you read Writing With Post Excerpts and Feed Excerpts in Mind. It might help.

  10. Posted January 27, 2007 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    Yeah, sorry about the frequent downtimes these past weeks. I’m right now under the process of moving my blog to another host so hopefully things will improve a bit 🙂
    Hey Da Vinci, “not that well documented”, you must be kidding man 🙂 I write amonsgt the lengthiest plugin pages and my plugins source is always full of examples and explanation ! 🙂

  11. imagiscape
    Posted August 31, 2007 at 5:16 am | Permalink

    This code is … wrong.

    We need, but the code begets

    In various combinations, I tried adding %2F, the [__] for a slash:

    but I don’t know PHP, and none worked.


    (I’m using 2.2 on my self-hosted blog.)

    Please help!
    Thank you.
    (My site, if you want to see it, is

  12. Posted August 31, 2007 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    imagiscape: Your category feeds appear to work fine.


    So, what’s the issue you’re having?

  13. imagiscape
    Posted September 11, 2007 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Hi Otto and all,

    The code:

    <?php wp_list_categories(’sortby=name&feed=RSS’); ?>

    but we need

    categoryfeed is not a feed,
    category/feed is a feed.

    How do we get the php code to produce the missing forward-slash?

    (Yes Otto, the feeds I manually entered work, but the “feed” links in the category list generated by the code above does not.)

    (I’m using WP 2.2.1 on a LAMP server (Linux Apache MySQL PHP).)

    Thank you for your help,

  14. Posted September 11, 2007 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    imagiscape: On your Options->General page, make sure that the blog and site urls both have the ending backslash in them.

  15. imagiscape
    Posted September 16, 2007 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Otto and others,
    Good suggestion Otto – On the Options->General page, I tried setting the blog and site urls to have the ending slash in them, but upon saving changes (“Update Options”), WordPress automatically cut the trailing slashes . (I tried / (forward slash) and \ (backslash, I believe).)
    Thank you.

  16. imagiscape
    Posted September 25, 2007 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    This bug has been fixed for version 2.3.

    I didn’t find this issue on, but Ryan Boren did, under the title
    “Category RSS feed function broken with URL rewrites”

  17. Kalpana
    Posted November 21, 2007 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Thanks a lot. This is very useful article. Never knew that you could add RSS feeds for categories in WordPress

  18. Posted November 28, 2007 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    Very helpful. Except that the icons display under the respective category names, not alongside them. Looks odd so I’ve taken them out. Would love to know how to fix that – maybe a function of the theme, Brian Gardner’s Silhouette 3 col

  19. Posted November 29, 2007 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    I don’t know as I’m not familiar with that Theme. The odds are that the sidebar is too narrow.

  20. rationalist
    Posted December 6, 2007 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    How would one create a list of *just* the RSS links to categories? Using wp_list_categories with the “feed” or “feed_images” parameter creates a list of categories with the category name linked to the category archive, *as well as* the rss label or image linked to the corresponding RSS feed for that archive–which is confusing if one wants to separate display of the category links and the category-feed links (in my case, because of a large number of news categories, I have the category links displaying in a drop-down in the sidebar, and want to display the RSS category-feed links – just the feed links – on a separate page).

    Is there a wp template tag or a programmatic loop that does this? I’m stumped.

  21. Posted December 7, 2007 at 11:27 am | Permalink


    You are asking two questions here.

    1. You want a template tag to display feed only links in your sidebar? Right? Most people are not confused by the link to the category followed by the RSS link. They “get” it in one. I’ve not found a template tag that will create a feed list for categories only, but there might be a Plugin somewhere, or you could make one. A Widget would be most helpful in this case.

    My feed list in my sidebar is created manually. Simple and easy and no additional hits on the database.

    2. A Page can easily be created called Subscribe with a listing of all your feeds, categorized however you want, with the feed links created manually. You could also include links to automatically subscribe to Google Feed Reader, Bloglines, or other feed reader services to help your readers process your site feeds easier.

    I like simple stuff. Why make this complicated?

  22. rationalist
    Posted December 7, 2007 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Actually, I figured out how to generate both unlinked category names and linked category-feeds, by using get_categories and then

    1)iterating “single_cat_title” to display each category name, unlinked; and,

    2) separately, appending “feed/” to the end of generated category-links to create an RSS feed link. That way, I avoid the problem of using the internal “feed” parameter of wp_list_categories, which creates both the category-link and the feed link side-by-side.

    Keeping things simple *is* the goal – but, simple for them to maintain, not for me to create 🙂 The site will be maintained by non-tech-savvy folks, who will be changing/adding/deleting categories (it is news related to social advocacy issues, and the hot topics change over time), so I needed a way to automatically generate and maintain category and category feed links. Because of legacy information architecture issues, I needed to display the category links in a separate section from the category-feed links.

    Anyway, thanks for a great site – I learn something new every time I visit, which is often, though I rarely comment.

  23. Posted January 14, 2008 at 12:52 am | Permalink

    excellent guide, i have find the solution i needed.

  24. Posted February 8, 2008 at 1:24 am | Permalink

    This was a fantastic read, thanks very much for the post – I learnt a lot (from the comments too). I’m trying to accomplish a task with RSS where I’m not sure if the reason why I can’t seem to find any info on it is because it’s impossible, or because it’s such a no-brainer that it goes without saying.

    I want to feed content from particular categories of my WordPress blog (which is on its own domain) to various pages of my company’s commercial site. I don’t code, but the webmistress of the commercial site does, and though she’s not familiar with blogging coding, she’s sure she can figure it out.

    All the info I’ve found so far seems to be married to WordPress, as in feeding content FROM blogs and TO blogs – I haven’t seen anything that specifically says ‘yes, you can feed to a regular website, here’s how’. I know a bit about DBs, and it seems to me that it shouldn’t be difficult to do – but I need a shove in the right direction to read up on how to do it.

    As I said, I’ve found this post very helpful, but I would be most appreciative if anyone could steer me in the direction of an answer. Thanks in advance.

  25. Posted February 8, 2008 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    There are ways of using a full feed to replace original content on a blog (or website) but I do not support such activity, whether or not you own the content. It is in violation of the guidelines set by Google and other search engines on the issue of duplicate content and can result in SEO and page ranking penalties. It is also confusing to others to find duplicate content in searches – as well as by readers.

    If you are just adding titles or excerpts, the article above describes how to do that and lists references to help you do so in the sidebar and such.

    The fact is that it is TOO easy to put a feed into a blog or website. I wish it was harder so fewer would be tempted.

  26. Posted February 8, 2008 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Oh wow, I totally didn’t know that. Thanks very much for the reply, and for that info – I didn’t know enough to know it wasn’t OK.

  27. Posted February 10, 2008 at 2:12 am | Permalink

    now, I know how to display the category post.


  28. clockwork59
    Posted June 11, 2008 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    why the theme code:

    dosent work?

    i had try lost of themes and added the “feed=rss” tag to sidebar.php, but the sidebar hasn’t change to ‘category(Rss)’

    PLZ tell me how can i debug it?

  29. Posted June 11, 2008 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    @ clockwork59:

    Are you trying to add a feed from another blog into your own WordPress blog’s sidebar or adding a link that will allow your users to link to your blog’s feed? The article points to resources to help with both issues, and you can find more help in the WordPress Support Forums that may be more specific to your blog’s needs.

  30. Posted July 2, 2008 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for all the great information, but there is one thing that’s not working for me in feeds. Under settings>reading>”Syndication feeds show the most recent” I have put “2” in the box. But when I later went to subscribe to my own feed to test it, I was shown 26 posts in my reader! Something is causing WordPress 2.5 to ignore whatever number is set there, or else I don’t understand something. Is there a way to manually change the number of posts send out in a feed in the code?

  31. Posted August 1, 2008 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    What I need to find is a way to integrate my feeds into my main wedding photography website! Anyone? Thanks ;D

  32. Posted August 1, 2008 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    @ Photographer:

    There are many ways of adding feeds to any blog. This article describes many of those options.

  33. wecandobiz
    Posted February 7, 2009 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    Really helpful. There is no obvious way to find your RSS feed within WordPress so this proved invaluable.

  34. Posted February 17, 2009 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    There is a local newspaper who has 15 new articles a day, but their RSS only provides the default latest 10.
    I had to install rss2email in order not to miss anything. So, heavy posters beware…

  35. Tom
    Posted March 5, 2009 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the great article!I was wandering though, is there any simple way to create a feed for a single post?

    • Posted March 6, 2009 at 12:11 am | Permalink

      Do you mean a feed for a post’s comments? A feed to a single post would be a single post wonder. If you are using WordPress, the post meta data usually includes the link for that post’s comment feed.

  36. Posted October 13, 2009 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    I couldn’t figure out how to get the full feed to appear for subscribers. This is exactly the info I was looking for. Thanks a ton.

  37. EC
    Posted May 24, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    I am looking for something to do the opposite. I have incoming feeds on my site. I want them to automatically only put an excerpt on the main, front page, then the read more tag to take the reader to the full text, within my blog. they can link out from there, if appropriate. Credit goes to the appropriate source, of course. I am using FeedWordPress. Any idea how to set this up or a plugin to do it so that it displays like regular content and won’t link out till the reader gets to the full text on my site?

    • Posted July 6, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

      I do not work with autobloggers, scrapers or those who do not use original content on their sites. Please consider this a valid sentiment by millions of bloggers.

  38. Posted October 10, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    I am trying to get my feed to appear like my results page which has two lines in each post. WordPress is stripping out the line break in the feed. Does anyone know in what php file I can change the code.

    • Posted October 10, 2010 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

      It is recommended that you never change core code. There are a variety of Plugins that will help you control the look and feel of feeds, and you can always use FeedBurner or a similar feed service or Yahoo Pipes to reconstruct the feed.

  39. calvy
    Posted August 3, 2011 at 3:57 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the insightful article.

    I am facing a different problem altogether regarding feeds, please help! I am unable to access the feed for my blog.

    • Posted August 3, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

      You will need to contact support directly through the Administration Panels (or the bar at the top of the screen) for help. The issue is probably due to either your WordPress Theme or some of the odds and ends you’ve put into the sidebar and footer. Those can cause code issues if they aren’t done exactly right.

  40. Posted April 30, 2014 at 2:09 am | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle, I’m desperately searching for a solution to my RSS feed challenge and this blog post came up even though you wrote it a long time ago and I’m hoping you can help.

    The website for the Business Success Factory is not enabling the auto detection of the podcast category feed I want it to /category/business-success-podcast/feed/ It only shows the general site feed and the comments feed.

    So on finding this post I added the following code into the header:

    [Code stripped by WordPress for improper formatting]

    And now it does appear in the auto detection but when I click to view the feed link in my reader (Feedly), it is not showing just the category posts but ALL the posts for the domain.

    I don’t understand why 😦 I just want it to display the category posts for that feed which is correct when I check it on feed validator.

    Can you help?

23 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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