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Avoid Clutter in Your RSS Feeds

Posted By Darren Rowse 13th of February 2007 RSS 0 Comments

RssOne trend that I’ve noticed lately among some bloggers is to stuff their RSS feeds with a lot extra information cluttering the end of posts on their RSS feeds.

RSS Extras

This ‘extra’ material can include:

  • Ads – some bloggers are including multiple ads – text links, banner ads, affiliate links and more
  • Feed flares – (services like Feedburner offer a large array of different things including ‘digg this’ links, copyright notices, delicious bookmark links, comment counters, email to a friend links, technorati counters, alexa rankings, feed circulation counters, buttons, stock tickers, trackback counters etc etc – Feedburner have lots of them.)
  • Related Posts – a list of related posts
  • Recent Comments – the latest comments on a post (I’ve only seen this once)

The list could go on and I suspect we’ll see more and more bloggers experimenting with different ‘extras’ to include in their feeds.

I have no problem with bloggers using their feeds for advertising or to leverage traffic back to their blog and I’m also in favor of people pushing the boundaries of how RSS can be used. However, when the ‘extras’ at the bottom of each post are bigger than the actual posts you write – then you’ve got clutter than will annoy many of your subscribers.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Those subscribing to your feeds are generally loyal readers. They’ve made a decision to subscribe because they’ve seen your blog somewhere and are probably familiar with it. While there’s nothing wrong with driving traffic back to your blog from your feed – you probably don’t need to educate them on every aspect of your blog on every post.
  • Also remember that RSS subscribers are going to see your posts every day – variety is the spice of life but seeing the same long list of links at the end of your posts every single day could cause readers to get a little bored.
  • Multiple posts per sessions – some of your subscribers will only read your feed every few days (or less frequently). As a result they might have to scan through 10 or so of your posts in a session – seeing the same long list of ‘extras’ 10 times in a row.

Once again – I’ve got nothing against bloggers experimenting with a few extras (I have a handful myself) – but keep asking yourself whether they add to or detract from your feed. In isolation (or in small numbers) extras can add a lot – but all together they can get a bit much.

One way to tell is to subscribe to your own feed and try to read it objectively. Does the way you’ve set it out frustrate you? If so it could annoy your readers also.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  • This is a great thing for all publishers to remember!

    I have problems viewing some feeds in Bloglines (including the ProBlogger one, sorry!), as the Digg this / x comments links often load slower than I can scan the list – so I go to click on a link in the post for more info, only to miss the link because the page has shifted down while I was clicking.

  • I have a lot of clutter, and I will probably add more

    I run a commercial blog, and some of the clutter is for legal reasons
    My content gets syndicated in various way, including various kinds of legitimate and illegitimate ways, and having more links helps)

    I haven’t got related posts – I need to add it again because it was providing a useful reference, especially for newer readers. Using UTW allows me to define what really is related.

  • p.s. the 101 FeedFlares is the ideas page for new feed flares. Many of those have never been created. There are different pages for user created and official feed flares that do exist.

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  • I’ve encountered a lot of these extras rather frequently as of late…

  • Spot on!

  • My favourite example of feed clutter is Search Engine Land. Hit the SEL feed on Bloglines and you will get say 10 articles. You then play catch up with the links, as all of the feed flares kick in and you page scrolls further and further down.

  • thanks Andy – have updated that link to the page I was thinking about when I included it :-)

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  • One thing that gets me hitting the unsubscribe is not clutter in itself, but clutter that results in feed readers (I use BlogLines) deciding that the message has been updated, thus displaying the message yet again. For example, one person had a comment count in his rather active site, so it got rather tedious seeing the same message every day, so I had to unsubscribe.

  • I’m guilty of including a splatter of related posts in my blog feed. I don’t think my readers are really upset about it because it is functional and helps readers to find other relevant content which might be deep in the archives.

    But I do understand how some readers might be irritated..

  • Maki I am a subscriber to your blog, and have personally clicked through on your related links in the feed.

    I know the slowest loading part of my feed are not things like feed flares, but the images I often use that are quite large, and an integral part of the post

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  • Darren, another kind of feed clutter: Feeds that are pushing through the same posts, over and over, convincing subscribers to pay less attention, because they assume the content is duplicate.

    I’m speaking of course of this blog, where I see the same article five times in Bloglines. It’s been driving me nuts. I know that if I already read Problogger today, and it has fifteen new items in Bloglines, to just skip it, even though it may contain one new item, since almost all of them are always duplicates. I don’t know why it happens, but its annoying, You should talk to the Bloglines team.

  • This seems to be a growing trend and a huge annoyance for sure. Hopefully people realize and STOP doing it.

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  • Nathan – yeah it’s frustrating isn’t it.

    I actually switched from Bloglines to Google Reader for this very reason – I’ve not seen a duplicate post since.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked feedburner and bloglines to look at the problem of duplicate posts – neither seems to be able to work out why it happens here (and on many other blogs).

    All I can say is sorry and to assure you that it’s not something I’m doing at my end.

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  • I have a lot of clutter, and I will probably add more…

  • The only stuff I have in my feed right now is a block of FeedFlares at the bottom. After reading this I’m considering running a poll to see which one people like the least and removing it.