Feed “best practices”

Having engaging, useful content is the surest way to drive
subscriptions to your feed and page views to the site proper. However,
producing a high-quality feed will influence how much time users will
be willing to spend on assessing your content. Therefore, we recommend
paying attention to the following:

  • Write engaging and descriptive headlines. Many feed readers
    only display the titles of articles, so the title ultimately determines
    whether a user will read your content. “10 tasty recipes for
    Thanksgiving” has more appeal than “Yummy yummy”.
  • Include pictures. Feed readers ignore most of the
    formatting from the original site, so images are an important way to
    make your content stand out.
  • Don’t overload your users. Most users will not want
    more than a few high volume feeds such as Digg or the New York Times.
    For most publishers, aiming for 1-10 articles a day will make your feed
    more manageable. If your site publishes more content than this,
    consider providing a feed of top entries, or multiple subfeeds
    pertaining to specific topics.
  • There’s a steady debate on the issue of full-content feeds vs. partial-content feeds.
    While there are good reasons to choose either option, the user
    experience is better with full-content feeds, as the user no longer
    needs to click through to read an article. Be aware that some users
    choose not to subscribe to partial-content feeds because of the extra
    effort involved in reading them.

Implementing feeds

It is equally important to pay attention to the technical implementation of your feeds.

  • Google Reader supports all versions of RSS and Atom. We recommend using either Atom 1.0 or RSS 2.0,
    preferably not both. Offering multiple formats can confuse users and
    has little benefit since most feed readers support all major formats.
  • If a feed is incorrectly formatted or does not obey
    standards, it can result in duplicate entries and render poorly. To
    avoid this, validate your feeds using the feed validator. It is also a good idea to test your feed in major feed readers to make sure it behaves appropriately.
  • Pay attention to character encodings and escaping. Follow the
    specs and test in a feed reader to ensure that tricky characters like
    & and < display correctly.
  • We recommend the use of the Atom and RSS 2.0
    elements to unambiguously identify items. An item that is updated
    should keep its original ID, and a new item should never reuse the id
    of an older item. Changing ids unnecessarily may result in duplicate
    items, and reusing ids may cause some items to be hidden. “Tag URIs” make good ids, since they don’t change even when you need to reorganize your links.
  • For more information about our crawler, please consult the FeedFetcher FAQ.

Using feed “auto-discovery”

Most modern browsers provide built-in functionality that makes it easy
to subscribe to feeds. For this to work, your site needs to notify the
browser of the location of your feed(s) through appropriate tags.
Auto-discovery tags are also used in search engines like Google
Reader’s “Add Subscription” search. Find out more about feed auto-discovery tags.