Really Simple Syndication, or as we call it – RSS, is one of the easiest methods of distributing and curating tons of content, across the Internet. From the reader’s perspective it’s a matter of adding the feed URL to the RSS reader and that’s it.
For the publisher who’s using a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress, it’s actually little or no work. The RSS feed generation and upkeep is handled internally by WordPress. All you have to do is display a RSS feed icon in your sidebar or footer or other areas in your site to let your visitors know that there’s an RSS feed there. Even that’s optional.
But there’s a problem.
For quite some time now, there’s been chatter about duplicate content in relation to RSS. As we all know, Google or any other search engine for that matter heavily penalizes sites which promote duplicate content. That’s a common misconception.
According to the Google Webmasters Tools Help page, Google does not actually penalize a site for having duplicate content unless it believes that the site is using deceptive practices to manipulate search engine rankings. If this is the case, the site may actually be banned from Google and not indexed for inclusion in any Google search results.
Matt Cutts – Google’s messenger to the outside world, reveals that there may be duplicate content and it’s not always bad. Consider this situation:
You find an excellent article on a particular topic and want to cite that in your site. We’ve done it before. In fact, I’ve done the same in my Is RSS Dead article. I found a perfect paragraph for the conclusion and copied it verbatim. I also mentioned the author’s name and website.
That’s perfectly acceptable. In fact, that’s one of the best ways to gain a +1 from Google in terms of SEO scores. Get that in an .edu or .gov site and you’ll find your page rank soaring through the roof.
Check out this article on Search Engine Watch to learn more about duplicate versus spammy content.
Does Google crawl my RSS feeds?
The answer is both yes and no. The content of an RSS feed is not accessed by a search engine crawler – all they will see is the XML code that created the RSS feed, and the HTML of that wraps or displays the XML.
The content will be detected as being syndicated, which is not a bad thing as long as that’s not the only content on the page. What’s more is that all links in RSS feeds have a ‘rel=nofollow’ tag attached to it, thus obliterating the problem of too many outbound links from a single page.
RSS feeds in themselves will not fuel better rankings as their content is not unique. However, the increase in traffic that is generated as a result of your site being the place to go for information on a particular niche, will help considerably. This is exactly where the WP RSS Aggregator plugin becomes indispensable.
Example: Psyhcology Blog
Let’s say that you’re running a Psychology blog. You start off with some brilliant content, but it’s not always that you get the time, or better, could come up with engaging content all the time. You readers become frustrated and ultimately unsubscribe from your site.
One of the best ways to keep your readers engages is to display relevant posts from your favourite psychology blogs. How do you do that? Simple! With WP RSS Aggregator.
You select a particular feed pertaining to your niche (or go for the whole site’s feed) and display it on a page. If your blog was on relationships, then you could use WP RSS Aggregator to parse all the articles released under Phycology Today’s Relationship category.
You could open the page with:
Hey, check out these awesome psychology articles on relationships I’ve found on the Internet. I read them every day and so should you:
- Article 1
- Article 2
- Article 3
- Article 1
- Article 2
- Article 3
The WP RSS Aggregator plugin will keep updating the page with new content as and when they’re released in their respective RSS feeds. Generally, RSS feeds contain an excerpt or a summary of the post that it links to. Personally, I think it’s unwise to empty the whole bucket in the RSS itself. If the summary is attractive enough, then people are bound to read the rest of the article.
There is certainly no punishment for having RSS feeds on a page – which, in theory, is duplicate content from elsewhere. Google encourages good content to be shared like this, as it improves the user experience and accessibility of information online.
For example, consider Reuters, or any other news website. They publish their original stories and a number of media outlets (in the order of thousands) pick the stories up, without incurring any duplicate content penalties from the search engines.
There has been some speculation on “RSS and duplicate content” on Moz’s Q&A forum. There were two similar questions but each had a slightly different solution.
Here’s what we can learn from them.
When should you not use RSS feeds?
RSS feeds are meant to be dynamic in nature. People usually subscribe to websites with a high publishing schedule – such as news websites or productivity cum technology websites like Lifehackr or TechCrunch.
If you have a static site, i.e. when content is not updated regularly or on a weekly basis, you shouldn’t promote your RSS feeds. Not only does it depreciates your user experience value, it also turns stale in a fellow subscriber’s RSS reader and they end up abandoning your site.
Instead, you could promote other websites or blogs under the same niche using the WP RSS Aggregator plugin as we explained in the psychology blog example.
That way your readers always have something new and interesting to read when then they visit your site.
Cutting the long story short, let’s take a quick look at what we’ve learnt so far.
- Promote your RSS feeds if you have a high publishing schedule
- Use excerpts instead of the full content in your feeds
- Make heavy use of interlinking in your articles
- Promote others’ RSS feeds in your site if your site is mostly static/stagnant
- Promote your own RSS feed if you have a static site
- Promote external RSS feeds in a page without any other content
Always remember, content is king. It is one thing to get the horse to the river, but it’s another thing to make it drink.
RSS feeds will get readers to your site (provided you’ve written a magnetic headline and/or a catchy summary). That’s as far as it gets. From there onward, your content is your only friend to win the reader’s trust.