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Web syndication is a means by which new content on your website can be distributed across the web: you can create one or more newsfeeds which can then be read via other sites and services.
Typically a newsfeed will consist of titles and summary content for the latest articles published on a site, with links back to the originals for further reading. It enables readers to find your content in different ways: through sites such as Technorati or Bloglines for example, or desktop programs like FeedDemon.
You will often see the term RSS mentioned in this context: RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, and it refers to a common standard way of coding content for syndication: just as HTML is used for website pages, RSS is used for syndicated content.
If you have a WordPress or Drupal site, it is almost certainly generating one or more feeds automatically for you – though no one may be reading them, yet. Some tips on getting the best from these are given in this newsletter. Once you know your feed URLs, you can submit them to syndication services: the most important of these is Feedburner which not only ensures your content is more widely available but also provides lots of add-on services, too, including statistics about how many people are reading your posts.
Dude, Where’s my Feed?
Your WordPress site generates feeds automatically: enter your homepage URL and add “?feed=rss”, or if your site uses permalinks (SEO-friendly URLs) “/feed”, like this:
If you use categories to classify your blogs, you can have specific feeds for each one, like this:
Tease your Readers
By default your blog posts will be published in full in your feed. Unless your posts are very short it is usually worthwhile to publish just an extract of each one: this also has the benefit of encouraging readers to click through to your site to read posts in their entirety.
To specify that only an extract should be published go to your Dashboard Settings and on the Reading panel, select the Summary option for feed articles:
The RSS Footer plugin lets you add extra text to each post, for example to assert copyright and link back to your site.
The FeedSmith plugin reroutes your feed to its Feedburner equivalent so you get all the useful extras provided by Feedburner, such as statistics on who’s reading your blog.
The default feed
Your Drupal site will have a feed at the path rss.xml, eg http://mydrupalsite.com/rss.xml. If you try it, though, you may be disappointed with what you see. Depending on how your site is configured you may see nothing at all or content that might not be what you want published in your feed. This is especially likely to be true if your site is complex, heavily customised, and has many different specialised content types.
Here’s the secret: the content listed consists of the latest nodes that are published and have the “promote to front page” option set. To exclude a content type from the list you may want to change the default value of this option; for already created nodes you can unset the option for many nodes at once from Administer -> Content Management -> Content.
The actual content shown can be either just titles, titles plus teasers, or full posts. I recommend the title plus teaser option for most circumstances (it’s the default). You can change it at Administer -> Content Management -> RSS Publishing.
Show off your feeds
To ensure visitors are aware of the existence of your feed, add a visual cue.
Many themes show the standard RSS icon on pages which have a specific feed available, such as forums, blogs and taxonomy views (lists of content by category). If your theme does not show an icon, it is a relatively minor edit to make one appear. Here’s the code to be added to page.tpl.php for a phptemplate theme:
<?php print $feed_icons ?>
You may need the help of a technical wiz to ensure the feed icon appears exactly where you want it.
You can also enable the Syndicate block through Administer -> Site Building -> Blocks. This only displays a link to the default feed. I also suggest overriding the title for this block to make it a little more informative, to something like “Subscribe to Feed” perhaps.
The Clean Feeds module removes extraneous HTML from your feeds. This is especially useful if your content has embedded images and the like, which often cause problems for news feed readers.
The Comment RSS module provides feeds for comments so readers can more easily monitor posts they are interested in.