Some people will tell you that RSS is dead and that most people only rely on social media to get their stories. And these people would be wrong. Many of us still subscribe to our favorite websites and we sift through the posts in an RSS aggregator of our choosing, like Feedly or the Digg Reader. Way back in 2006, John wrote about why he offers a full feed RSS for this blog and up until recently, I did the same for my blog too.
However, after dealing with too many scrapers and issuing too many DMCA notifications, I just got tired of dealing with that mess and decided to switch to an excerpt RSS feed (sometimes called a summary feed) instead. The default summary RSS generated by WordPress has its limitations, so I performed a few small tweaks to make it so much better.
Customize the End Text
Have you ever wanted to change the text and links at the end of an RSS entry? Sticking with the default or generic “read more” can be pretty boring. To address this, I use the free WordPress SEO by Yoast plug-in. In addition to all the SEO functions it provides, it also lets you customize the ender text very easily, including dynamic tags for your blog’s name, post title and so on.
After installing and activating the plugin, you can navigate to its settings page for the RSS feed to find the screen above. From there, you can change the text as you see fit. I didn’t do all that much with it yet, but I appreciate this kind of flexibility. If you have a product that you want to promote, this could be a good place to do it. You could also put in a copyright notice if you’d like.
Restore the Top Image
One of the bigger problems I encountered after switching to an excerpt RSS was that the image at the top of my posts disappeared from the feed. I know that when I’m sifting through entries in an RSS reader that entries without images get glossed over far more often than those with an interesting image at the top.
After some searching around, I decided on the RSS Image Feed plugin for WordPress. Like WordPress SEO by Yoast, it is also a free download from the WordPress Plugin Directory. Its settings page can be found under the “Plugins” section in your WordPress back-end after installation and activation. You simply define the image size and you’re good to go. You can optionally select an image other than the first one in a post to feature too.
Excerpt RSS That’s Pretty and Functional
It’s important to note that even if you switch from full feed RSS to a summary feed in WordPress, it may not automatically generate the excerpts for the actual site itself unless your theme has been designed that way. You’ll want to enter <–more–> in the post text where you want the excerpt to be cut off. The summary RSS feed should produce its own excerpts, though.
After implementing the two simple tweaks described above, this is what the RSS feed for Beyond the Rhetoric looks like when read through Feedly. I’m sure there are many more tweaks I could do, like adding in more social buttons, but I find that most RSS readers (like Feedly) already include those features on their own. I’m pretty happy with how it is now.