In this WordPress tutorial I intent to shed some light on Feeds and their relationship with WordPress. Feeds are a unique feature that many bloggers do not understand and therefore do not take advantage of. Feeds are viewed by about one out of four internet users. FeedBurner, a popular feed reader website, reported that over 65 million users signed up to read RSS feeds through their service in 2010 and now in 2012, those numbers are certainly much higher. If you are not paying attention to your WordPress feeds, you are potentially neglecting up to a quarter of your reading audience. People are generally busy creatures and feed readers make reading internet content quick and easy for many people today.
What are Feeds?
Feeds are syndication deals with machine readable frequently updated content from blogs and similar sources. Feeds commonly use the XML language to present content to a feed reader which in turn uses CSS styles to present it to the reader. A blog will often publish a syndication for feed readers to pick up and display to their readers.
What are Feed Readers?
Feed readers are tools used to organize and present feeds to people wanting to read content from several blogs all in one place. A feed reader will constantly check blogs for new content and when it finds new content, it publishes it and a link to the original source for it’s readers. Depending on how the blog itself is set up, the feed reader will either pick up an entire post or just the post excerpt. This can be controlled from within the WordPress admin or from customizing feed templates used in WordPress. Feed readers are most commonly used to display relative or similar content from several blogs on one page. Feeds are organized according to time where newest feeds are shown first and feed readers are constantly updating themselves with recent blog postings from whatever blogs they are asked to receive syndication from. They are most commonly used by people to track news and articles across several blogs or websites offering such information in text format.
How to use Feed Readers
To use a feed reader, look for the feed icon on any web site and click on it to view that site’s feed. The most common RSS feed symbol looks like the image to the right. The icon is usually quite a bit smaller than this image, but you get the idea. Often in WordPress blogs, you can find the image and link to the WordPress RSS feed in the page footer or sometimes in the sidebar.
Users can take the URLs of their favorite feeds from WordPress sites and others and store them in a feed reader. Then they go to the feed reader to receive all the updated content from those sites all in one place. Feed readers are a great way to keep track of the newest updates from your favorite sites without the hassle of visiting each site separately.
Types of Feed Readers
There are desktop feed readers and online feed readers. Desktop feed readers tend to organize more information and keep your feeds neater, but they take up space on your hard drive. Online feed readers are often more convenient and don’t require a download, but are not quite as organized or as fast at aggregating your information. Depending upon your specific needs, either could be right for you. Here are some brands of each described to help you decide what works best for you:
Desktop Feed Readers
- FeedDemon – is a good example of a desktop feed reader. It was created by Nick Bradley and you can check it out here: http://www.feeddemon.com/
- NetNewsWire is a new popular feed reader for iPad, iPhone and Mac users. If you want feed reader and are partial to Apple products, try by visiting their site at http://netnewswireapp.com/
- Liferea is a great feed reader for all of you Linux users out there. You can check it out at http://liferea.sourceforge.net/.
Online Feed Readers
Google Reader is a great free online feed reader available to everyone and hugely popular. Check it out at http://www.google.com/reader/view/. It is worth a try and if you already have a Google ID, all you have to do is sign in and start saving your favorite feed URLS to Google Reader and you are on your way to reading feeds on a regular basis from your favorite sites.
Feedreader.com is another option. Give any these a try or Google “feed reader” and pick one of your own, there are several more for both desktop and online use. If you are a WordPress blogger, you really should get to understand the world of feeds. Next we will discuss different types of feeds that are dealt with in WordPress.
Types of Feeds in WordPress
Types of feeds you should be concerned with for a WordPress site include RDF, RSS, RSS2, and Atom feeds. Probably most of you have at least heard of RSS feeds, so this is what we will concentrate on most since it is most popular by far.
Make Sure Feeds are Working Correctly in WordPress
One of the main concerns you should have regarding feeds as a WordPress blogger is: Are they working correctly? While researching feeds and WordPress, I read online that you should be able to find any blog or site’s feed by simply adding /feed to the end of the URL. This upset me when I tested it on my blog and it did not work! Here is how I fixed it:
Fixing WordPress Feed Links
Feed links such as yoursite.com/feed should be made to work in WordPress. Unfortunately, many WordPress sites do not work with the /feed addition to the URL. This is not good and is caused by a number of possible issues. Changing permalinks can cause issues with the feed link and so can not having a .htaccess file. A badly written .htaccess file is often the cause as well.
If adding “/feed” to the end of your WordPress URL doesn’t take you to the feed page, check to make sure feeds are working by testing another link that might work such as adding “/?feed=rss” to the end of your URL instead of “/feed”. Here is a list of alternate URL endings that might work:
If none of the above URL endings worked on your WordPress blog, then something else may be wrong other than the .htaccess and redirect fixes shown below, so check your permalinks and feed settings in your WordPress admin to make sure everything is okay.
If one of the above URL endings worked and you are on a Linux server, you can most likely fix it so that “/feed” works by adding a simple rule to the end of your .htacess file. Simply go to your blog’s main directory, download the current .htaccess file and add the following line before uploading it to your server again:
Redirect 301 /blog/feed
Be sure to replace “blog” with the name of your blog’s directory if it is not in the root directory and replace “yoursite.com” with your own domain name. Then upload the file back to where you found it and test to see if yoursite.com/blog/feed or yoursite.com/feed works as it should now. If you didn’t have an .htaccess file at all, simply open your text editor, paste in the above redirect code, save the file as “.htaccess” and upload it to your blog’s main directory and it should work fine. If you are on a Windows server, this will not work, but you can use an alternate method to achieve the same effect. To accomplish this, you need to either have access to the server’s desktop environment or you will have to request that your server administrator do a 301 redirect for you. If you have access to the Window server’s desktop, try this:
- Log in to the Windows server to access the desktop and go to Start / Programs / Administrative Tools / Internet Services Manager.
- Select the proper server then right click on the blog folder and select “switch to content view”.
- Right click on the index.php page you want to redirect and select “switch to features view”.
- Select the HTTP redirect option and create a redirect from http://www.yoursite.com/blog/?feed=rss2 to http://www.yoursite.com/feed
- Make it a 301 redirect.
Doing the above steps on a windows server is not something most readers of this tutorial should have to do since most will have a hosting provider to do it for you if it needs done. If you do have to do it yourself I hope you can figure it out from these simple instructions. Hopefully most of you will have a Linux server anyway as they are much more WordPress friendly in my opinion and the .htaccess file is much easier to edit than it would be to go through the steps to do a 301 redirect on a Windows server.
After reading this tutorial on WordPress and Feed syndication, we hope you have a better grasp on the importance of feeds. Feeds are a simple thing really. It is just a matter of getting to know and understand them. Once you understand the basics, the rest will come quickly. XML, the language most feeds are based on, is the simplest of the web languages. Feeds are crucial to SEO as well. Once you get your WordPress site’s feeds in order, you will increase your reading audience and improve your SEO right away. Learn to deal with feeds, it can only improve your site and help it gain more exposure. This was a beginner’s tutorial intending to introduce feeds to novice WordPress users. If you are ready for some more advanced information about feeds and WordPress, look for my next more advanced tutorial on editing and customizing WordPress feeds. Have a great time searching and getting to understand feeds and you will soon discover how useful they can be. I can not stress the importance of equipping WordPress blogs to correctly handle feeds enough.