Guest blogging at Blogging Basics 101

Don’t worry, you won’t miss out on great blogging tips today—just not here. I’m guest blogging over at Blogging Basics 101 for the week with lots of great information on RSS features.

Yesterday, I covered how to find out how many RSS and e-mail subscribers you have. Continuing with the RSS/subscription theme, today’s post is on how your readers can get e-mail updates from your blog.

Still to come this week: how to display the number of subscribers you have and how to encourage more people to subscribe to your blog.

So, for lots more on RSS, check out Blogging Basics 101 all this week!

Creating category feeds

Do you read a blog that you love to see their posts about gardening, but could care less about their posts about dog grooming? You (or the blogger) can remedy this problem by offering category feeds, or RSS feeds (What’s RSS again?) of individual categories on a blog.

Most of us already know how to use categories on blogs—we use them on our own blogs to break the content up by major subject; we use them on other people’s blogs to learn what they write about, to navigate their content and to find posts on a particular subject.

The general convention for most blogs is “Categories” are the larger topics of the blog and “Tags” cover narrower topics or subtopics. Blogger, of course, just has to be different and use “Labels,” which usually seem to function as both categories and tags, since they don’t give you any other option.

By creating category feeds, you allow your readers to pick and choose which topics they want to read about. This could be good for you—you get to target readers who are most interested in this area of your blog, while not risking losing them because of the stuff that they’re not so interested in.

Creating Label Feeds in Blogger

from Blogger Design

To create a label-based feed on Blogger, the feed address is:

http://YOURBLOGNAMEHERE.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default/-/YOURLABELNAME

Obviously, you’ll have to change the blog name and the label name to match what your blog. This will give you the address of an RSS or Atom feed that you can offer to your readers. Note that label and category feeds can be burned with FeedBurner.

Creating Category Feeds in WordPress.com and WordPress.org

For once, it doesn’t make any difference whether you’re using a self-hosted or WP-hosted flavor of WordPress. To create a category-based feed with WordPress, the feed address is:
http://YOURBLOGADDRESS.com/category/CATEGORYNAME/feed/ (or http://YOURBLOGADDRESS.wordpress.com/). (You have the option of using something else for the first /category/—some blogs choose to use /archive/, etc.)

You’ll have to change the blog address and the category name, but appending /feed/ to any category page (or, incidentally, any tag page, too) automatically gives the address for the RSS feed. (Want Atom? add /feed/atom/ instead.)

Once again, category feeds can be burned with FeedBurner.

Creating Category Feeds in TypePad

As I generally like to say, TypePad, being evil, makes this difficult—or at least relatively more difficult than the other standard platforms. However, if you can create a new index template as part of an Advanced Template Set (does that cost extra?), then you can create a category feed.

The full instructions are available from Six Apart, and require you to cut . . . and paste (can you believe it?!) and change the listed category to whichever category you’re looking for. Follow the directions carefully, and your feed will be at the address you specified when you created the new index template.

And, one more time, category feeds can be burned with FeedBurner.

Conclusion
This is, of course, an individual choice—but if your readers (or you as a reader) really want to, they can create these feeds (and even burn them in FeedBurner) themselves.

Please note that it would be wrong to “steal” another blog’s category feed and burn it, and especially to promote your burned version of the feed elsewhere on the Internet. I don’t think that any of you gentle readers would do that, but you never know what the Internets might bring in here.

More Works-for-me Wednesday

RSS Awareness Day!

We interrupt our previously scheduled Making Mother’s day merry post for a public service announcement.

Today is RSS Awareness Day (and no, I didn’t make that up: see RSSDay.org). Tired of visiting all your favorite blogs only to discover that they don’t have any updates? Maybe it’s time to look at converting to RSS.

RSS, which is usually said to stand for “Really Simple Syndication,” is an easy way to have updates from your favorite blogs sent to you—either to your email or to an RSS reader.

If this sounds appealing to you, check out my post on What’s RSS? to learn more. Already using RSS in a reader and your blog? The post also has tips for getting more out of your blog’s RSS feed!

If RSS still sounds rather mysterious, you might want to review the video in the What’s RSS post for an easy-to-understand explanation of how it all works!

My readers’ most popular feed readers are Google Reader, which is what I use (you can also use the iGoogle personalized homepage under this one) and Bloglines. To receive updates from MamaBlogga in your RSS reader or email inbox, click on the image or text links to the right!

Back to your regularly scheduled blogging, already in progress.

Full feeds: the full story

Last week, I gave some advice on RSS to mom bloggers. In that post, I advocated full RSS feeds as opposed to partial or summary feeds. I wasn’t trying to be less than candid nor was I trying to assume the attitude of “I’ve thought about it with my superior Internet marketing intellect, so don’t you worry your pretty little heads.” I was just trying to be brief, and in doing so I gave that topic short shrift (go figure).

So, let’s take a look at the myths about partial and full feeds. Yes, there are advantages to both—but I truly do feel, as I said before, that the advantages of full feeds outweigh the disadvantages.

The scarier myths about partial feeds
Partial feeds keep my content from getting stolen
If people really want to steal your content, they will. Scrapers don’t just attack RSS feeds. It may be slightly easier for them to get your content to come to them with RSS, but it’s also not hard to visit your site and cut and paste. Scrapers attack feeds, sites and even search engine results pages. When Lorelle on WordPress addressed the issue of stolen content, she said:

I didn’t say “if” someone steals your content. That was on purpose. With the glut of information on the Internet, it’s now a matter of “when” not “if”.

The first step in learning about what you can do when someone steals your content is to know that it will happen, so the more prepared and informed you are, the better your chances of prevention and having a plan in place when they steal. (read more from Lorelle)

Yes, it’s scary and dark, but the truth is that anything that is published—online or offline—can be stolen. Scrapers can use partial feeds just as easily—only then, it might be considered “fair use”—and, therefore, much harder to stop with the force of law.

There’s nothing you can do if your blog’s content gets stolen
There are always recourses; stealing blog content is against the law. First, put copyright notices on your blog and your feed. Next, look at Lorelle on WordPress’s post on what to do when someone steals your content. You can invoke the power of the law without a lawyer.

Also, for both of these issues, there are a few things that you can do to try to prevent and catch content theft (via). You do have to be vigilant, but I’d recommend checking up on this issue whether you publish full feeds or none at all.

Less scary myths, but things that bloggers must take into consideration
Partial feeds make people click through to see my site
We all want people to see our beauteous sites. We work hard on their design. FeedBurner CEO Rick Klau said a few weeks ago, “We’ve seen no evidence that excerpts on their own drive higher clickthroughs.” Speaking for myself, I’m far more likely to click on a well-written full post (whether to see or make comments, or to blog about it myself) than the first 40 words. For most bloggers, the first 40-100 words aren’t a hook; they’re a warm up.

It’s not asking that much for people to click through to read my post.
In marketing, we have to treasure every opportunity someone gives us to contact them. It’s illegal for us to “cold e-mail” people who haven’t given us their permission to contact them. People are very reluctant to hand over their private information—even just an e-mail address. Every subscription—RSS, e-mail or otherwise—must be regarded as hard-won. Somehow, you’ve instilled enough trust in that person that they’re willing to see more of what you have to say. You have to be careful how and when you ask them to do more.

Asking one of your precious subscribers to click through every time you post may seem like a small thing to you, but to me, a blog reader, it is not. I read more than 100 blogs every day; Google Reader tells me I’ve read nearly 4000 posts in the last 30 days. What if everyone expected me to click through to read their stories?

In the same post I just referenced, Rick Klau put it this way:

As people subscribe to feeds, they subscribe to more feeds. And that means they’re consuming more content, which means that each click out of the feed reader is taking the reader away from more content. In other words, feed reading is consumption oriented, not transactionally focused.

When someone subscribes to your blog, they are saying, “I like what you talk about; I’d like to read it at my convenience.” My convenience, personally, is reading it at the same time and the same place that I read all my other blogs. I’m not reading only what you have to say; I wouldn’t bother with a feed reader if I only wanted to know when you’ve posted something new.

It’s not “just one click” to a reader. To me as a reader, “one click” is the button I clicked when I subscribed to your blog. To ask me to click dozens, hundreds or thousands of times a month really is asking too much.


If you’re still not comfortable with full feeds, I might suggest writing an engaging post summary and posting that on your feed instead of whatever excerpt might come up. I’m really getting tired of reading excerpts that don’t even have enough words in them to make sense.

What’s RSS?

RSS is an important acronym in the blogosphere. It’s usually interpreted as Really Simple Syndication, so we’ll start with the really simple and work our way up. I think we have something for even the most seasoned blogger here.

Basic
First, an excellent explanation of the easiest way to keep up with dozens (hundreds!) of blogs from Common Craft:

Also under “basics,” your blog generates an RSS feed automatically (unless you’ve disabled this feature).

Novice
FeedBurner “burns” your blog feed for you, making it easy for your readers to subscribe in any feed reader. If you click on the green “Subscribe” button in the sidebar, you’ll be taken to a page to choose your feed reader.

FeedBurner can also add a lot of cool features to your feed. You can add information at the end of messages in a feed reader like copyrights, number of comments, social bookmarking stuff—there are more than 100 “FeedFlares.” FeedBurner can also track visitors to your site and show you how many subscribers you have.

Intermediate
Many people use only partial feeds for their sites, sending only excerpts or summaries to their readers. There are a few reasons for this; among them is the legitimate concern about unscrupulous people republishing your blog with zero effort—and making money off your hard wraught writing.

However, the benefits of full feeds outweigh the risks. [UPDATE: the full story on full feeds] Also note that many people publish excerpt feeds believing that more people will visit their site to read their full posts—but FeedBurner CEO Rick Klau says they’ve seen no evidence to support that. See Partial Feeds Don’t Draw Visitors at Marketing Pilgrim for more on the subject.

In Blogger, you can switch from excerpts to full feeds by going to Settings > Site Feed. From the pull down menu, select “Full.” (If you’re in Advanced Mode, the second and third options are at your discretion.)

bloggerfullfeedsss.jpg

In WordPress, select Options > Reading.

wpfullfeedsss1.png

Under “Syndication Feeds,” for the option “For each article, show,” select “Full text.”

wpfullfeedsss2.png

See Semantically driven for details on how to switch to full feeds in TypePad.

Advanced
Make sure your readers find your FeedBurner feed (instead of the default, less user-friendly feed Blogger, WordPress or Typepad creates). You may have to code it into your site. For example, in Blogger, go to Template > Edit HTML. In your code, find the line:

<b:include data=’blog’ name=’all-head-content’/>

Delete it and replace it with the following (after you’ve customized it):

<meta content=’text/html; charset=UTF-8′ http-equiv=’Content-Type’/>
<meta content=’true’ name=’MSSmartTagsPreventParsing’/>
<meta content=’blogger’ name=’generator’/>
<link href=’http://feeds.feedburner.com/YOUR FEEDBURNER FEED NAME HERE’ rel=’alternate’ title=’YOUR BLOG NAME HERE RSS Feed’ type=’application/rss+xml’/>

Blogger now offers integration with FeedBurner. Here are the instructions on integrating your FeedBurner feed with your Blogger blog. TypePad also features this capability.

WordPress has a handy FeedBurner feed replacement plugin to do that heavy coding for you.

Total pro
If you’re comfortable in Apache, consider Daniel’s strategy for making sure that your subscribers are using the correct feed even if you leave FeedBurner (from Daily Blog Tips). (To tell the truth, I can only vaguely understand this one.)

Also, look at another post from Marketing Pilgrim (and no, this one’s not by me, it’s by Jeremy Luebke) on why you should not use click tracking on FeedBurner (read on the comments to see how to fix that).


Anybody out there quite proficient in MT/Typepad? I started on Blogger and had to learn WordPress for work before I made the switch to WordPress here on MamaBlogga. If anyone can give some pointers on the same issues on TypePad, it would be appreciated!

UPDATE: A big thank you to Jen once again at Semantically driven for explaining how to set your feed to full posts on Typepad. She had got screenshots and everything. Man, I should’ve thought of that. I’ll have to fix this. Screenshots added. Thank you, Jen!!

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