Should I provide Full or Partial Feeds to RSS?

6372871C-9E18-4565-9E73-F7947E8407EF.jpgShould I provide full or partial feeds to RSS, and why does it really matter? Two questions I seem to be hearing a lot lately. And based on some of the responses I have received from others, it does matter.

When I was thinking about this post, I asked the question on twitter and of course, I will be including those responses too.

What is the difference between full and partial?

If you use a RSS reader to read your feeds, you know what I am talking about. When you get your feeds into your reader, you will either see an excerpt of the blog post or the entire post in your reader. If it is partial, it is usually part of the first paragraph or a few of the first few sentences. And if you want to read the rest of the blog post, you have to visit the publishing blog to do so.

Full feed is just that. You get the entire blog post, usually with images included, in your RSS reader. This enables you to read the post in you reader if you decide to do so.

What difference does it make if I only provide partial RSS feeds?

From what I have been able to ascertain, traffic is the argument against providing full feeds in the RSS. There are some bloggers who only give partial feeds because they feel giving the full feed will take away from visitors or traffic to their blogs. They assume if they only provide a partial RSS feed to their blog post, we will be forced to go visit their blog to get the rest of the story.

Speaking from my own personal preference, I very seldom visit a blog who does not provide full feeds to my RSS reader. In fact, I very seldom subscribe to a blog that does not provide full feeds. Call me old fashion, but I still like to pick up a dusty old book and read them. Just like I like to scan my RSS feeds, click on the title that catches my eye and then actually visit the blog who published it. I like to see the post in the blog. And I like to visit the blogs I follow to see what they might have done with their design. And to see what offers they may have in their sidebar.

Based on some of the comments I received from twitter, I may not be alone on this one.

@matthomann — I won’t subscribe to a blog with partial feeds so I won’t force my readers to do the same.

@ephealy — Full text only. Summary feeds get dropped.

@AprilTara — Summary feeds are like reading a magazine article and you get into it then it says “cont’d on page 64″.

Full RSS feeds help you build a relationship with your readers.

Another key point I firmly believe those who say it is because of traffic why they provide only partial feeds are missing something. You are missing the point if you are only concerned about traffic. Anyone can get traffic/visitors. You are not building relationships with traffic. What you need to be concerned with is readers. Those are the ones who you are building relationships with. And it is the readers who will keep coming back time and time again. It is also the readers who may someday buy your product or hire you for your services. You can’t build a relationship with traffic and someone who just visits and does not engage in the conversation on your blog.

I would venture to guess it is the numbers and stats watchers who are more concerned about RSS subscribers then readers. And these same bloggers are more concerned about traffic then building relationships with visitors to turn them into readers.

What I am saying may sound a bit harsh. But I am not alone in this. Here again are some of the responses I received on twitter.

@remarkablogger — Always full feeds because its about having reach and influence and helping people as much as possible. Not about page views ( My emphasis added by the way)

@WayneHurlbert — My RSS is set for full text in the teeth of post scrapers. My readers take priority. I’ll risk the scrapers for my readers.

@gregbd — I hate not being able to read full posts, creating more friction indicates out of touch, says something negative bout u 2.

@leannahamill — I use full text. When people use summary, it defeats the purpose of RSS and I rarely click to read the whole post.

@Adrianos — Full feed. Partial feeds are annoying. If I don’t want to read the entire post I won’t scroll down. But don’t make me.

@CoryOBrien — Full text, b/c I read all of the blogs I follow in a reader, and don’t want to annoy my readers just for a few extra clicks. (My emphasis added again)

And what about those blog readers who like to take their feeds with them? This is something I do when I am traveling too. I will load up my reader with those feeds I can read on the plane or in the car. If you use partial feeds, I can’t read them.

@rebacollins — full text, I hate the ones that aren’t. I download to Outlook & read on 3 hr trips to watch dd play vball at college.

@rebacollins — I also read them on air flights, in other words, I read my feeds when I don’t have Internet and need full text.

Consider for a moment what some of the “big boys” are doing

If you doubt what I am saying and those responses I received on twitter. Consider for a moment what some of the top subscribed to and large reader base blogs are doing. And I would venture to guess providing full feeds have not harmed their traffic.

Here is a list of some of the top blogs who provide full feeds:

  • Seth Godin
  • Copyblogger
  • Chris Brogan
  • ProBlogger
  • 43 Folders
  • Chris Garrett
  • PaulStamatiou
  • SEO Book
  • John Chow
  • ShoeMoney
  • I hope you are getting my point. Providing full feeds to their RSS has worked for those bloggers listed above. If you want to build relationships with your visitors and turn them into readers. Do full feeds. If you want to have your readers come back over and over again and maybe someday buy something from you or hire you. Do full feeds. If you want your readers to get involved in the conversation and leave comments on your blog. Do full feeds.

    Should you provide full or partial feeds to RSS? — YES

    Please leave your comments to this post on what you think about the question, “should I provide full or partial feeds to RSS?” Lets keep the conversation going.

    About The Author
    Grant Griffiths is founder of Blog For Profit and co-founder of Headway, the first Drag and Drop WordPress Theme Framework. You can follow Grant on twitter at @grantgriffiths
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