With apologies to those who come here only for the ranting…
I have a plan to do a whole series of articles on search engine optimization (SEO) for bloggers. While the topic of full vs. partial feeds may not be directly related to SEO at first glance, I feel that it is in a round about way. After all, the goal of SEO and is to get more visitors to your site, and that is probably one of the goals you’d like to accomplish with your feed as well. I’m by no means saying that partial feeds are bad, and I think they definitely have their place. But for me (and probably most other bloggers) I believe full feeds are a more effective way to drive traffic. While much of what I’m about to say is based on experience, I believe I can back it up with logic and human blogger nature.
So first off, what’s the argument for partial feeds? It’s actually not a bad argument, and I used to subscribe to it myself. When I first set up my feed, I was sure that partial feeds were the way to go. I thought I had to do everything I could to force entice people to visit my site. There was no way I was going to give away all my content through the feed. Only after they loaded up the entire site, ads and all, would I give away my content.
But then it hit me–I’m giving it away no matter what. It didn’t take me long to realize that full posts in my feed were better than partial feeds, not only for my subscribers, but ultimately for me as well.
Good For My Subscribers
Anyone who uses an RSS reader is probably addicted to it. One of the first things we do after we read an article we like on a new site (especially a blog) is to look for the feed subscription button. And as a blogger, one of the first things I check every day is my FeedBurner stats, mostly out of vanity, because I’m truly flattered that people care enough about what I have to say to choose to subscribe to my feed. I feel like the least I can do for the folks who’ve paid me such a big compliment is to say “thanks” by making my site as easy as possible for them to read in the way they choose, and that means no ads in the feed as well.
But that means subscribers aren’t going to see any of the ads on my site in their reader, so they won’t ever click on these ads, right? Well…I don’t believe that’s necessarily true.
Good For Me
Think about it…the people who are subscribed to my feed are people who already may be interested in what I have to say. They are also likely to engage me in conversation by leaving comments on my blog. By giving them full posts in the feed, I increase the chances they will read everything I wrote. That increases the chances that they’ll want to comment on something I wrote, and that means they will visit my site. By contrast, a partial feed means that I have three or four sentences to entice them into visiting the site. Frankly, I don’t have enough faith in myself as a writer to accomplish that with every post.
An even more compelling reason–I think it’s pretty safe to assume that many of the people reading my feed are other bloggers. And while comments are great and encouraged, an even bigger compliment from another blogger is a link back from their blog. In fact, I’d much rather have a single link than ten comments. Again, providing the full feed increases the chances that someone will read something they’d like to write about on their own blog.
How do links back to my blog help me so much? Obviously, exposure to the the other blogger’s readers has a lot of value, but there’s another reason, and this is where the SEO part comes in. Search engines (especially Google) see a link as a “vote” for a site. So a link increases my “clout” with search engines, which means that I can greatly increase search engine rankings, which greatly increases my traffic. And I have to believe that the random visitor from a search engine is less familiar with my site layout and less likely to be wise to blog ad placement in general. This means that they are more likely to click on an ad than a regular subscriber who visits my site every day (because I don’t provide full posts in my feed) would be. More search engine traffic also increases the chances that I’ll get even more subscribers–rinse and repeat.
It’s win, win, win.
Full feeds reward loyal subscribers with the ability to read your site with ease. In my case, this includes keeping the feed ad free.
Full feeds reward you directly by increasing the chances your subscribers will visit your site and leave comments. One way conversations are fine, but I have those in my head all day, and sometimes I get tired of hearing only myself.
Full feeds increase your chances of getting back links, which increase your search engine rankings, and ultimately your traffic. Back links increase your exposure to other bloggers’ readers, and search engines are an excellent source of readers who would never find you otherwise.
I hope this helps those of you are trying to decide whether to use full or partial links, and I really hope I’ve convinced those of you who to whom I subscribe and are currently using partial feeds to give me the whole thing in my reader!