Full or Partial Feeds

    February 16, 2007

Since the day I began posting on my blog I’ve always published partial feeds of my content. I’ll be honest in that I don’t remember why I made the decision originally, though I suspect it had something to do with not wanting all my content scraped and republished. Until an hour ago I had always thought the partial feed decision was the best way to go. Then I read a single post and did a little research and I now think I may have been wrong all this time.

The post in question was Don’t Make Me Click! 5 Reasons You Should Publish Full RSS Feeds and it appeared on YOUmoz, the new user generated blog for SEOmoz members. (By the way if you haven’t checked out version 3 of the SEOmoz site yet, you’re missing something special.) The post as you can tell from the title is arguing in favor of publishing full feeds.

You can see by the first two comments I left that I wasn’t sure if it was that important to publish the full feed, though I wasn’t so in favor of partial feeds that I was locked into them. After my second comment I began to think a little more about the question and decided to do some research.

The Pros and Cons

Both full and partial feeds have their pros and in the end the decision of one over the other comes down to which pros you think are more important. The main points of concern are:

* Full feeds are the likely preference of those readers who are also bloggers or journalists. These are the readers who will link to your blog and providing them with full feeds makes it more likely they will read your post and consequently link to you.

* Full feeds allow your posts to be read off your site so there’s less taxing of your bandwidth and your posts can still be ready even if if there’s a temporary problem with your server.

* Partial feeds require people to come to your site meaning they see your ads, which theoretically means you make more money.

* Partial feeds protect you from content theft since scrapers are less likely to republish only a summary of your post.

For me the two main issues are the first and last above. I don’t have so many readers at the moment where bandwidth is an issue and while I have been running AdSense for most of this blog’s existence it’s not my primary means of revenue. Until today I had considered the potential content theft to be the biggest issue, but now I’m not so sure.

Digging Deeper

As I said above I dug a little deeper into things and found others discussing the issue and in general they all seemed to favor publishing full feeds. Here are a few of the articles I came across.

* Do You Publish Full Text Feeds Or Partial RSS Feeds ?

* Blog Herald doesn’t understand why full-text feeds work

* The latest Full vs Partial Feed Debate

* Full Text Feeds Or Partial RSS Feeds? – Another Test Case

* Scoble Nails It: Why Full Text Feeds Are GOOD

* Google Widgets and Full RSS Feeds

The Robert Scoble article, Blog Herald doesn’t understand why full-text feeds work, makes the strongest arguments in favor of full feeds and even offers the obvious that if you add links to other posts on your blogs you’ll still get click throughs to your site. If you’re undecided about which type of feed to publish I’d suggest at least skimming all of the posts I linked to above.

Some observations

As I noted in my comments on the YOUmoz post I suspect people will be split in general on which type of feed they prefer when subscribing. I’ve been using Sage for my RSS reading, which provides a list of post titles in Firefox’s sidebar. It really makes no difference to me how the blogs I subscribe to are published since I’m really just looking at a title and then deciding whether or not to read.

But not everyone is me and so I took a look at some feeds that I have added to Google Reader to see how partial and full feeds looked. I can easily see the difference and understand how having the full feed published would make it quicker to make it through the days posts if you subscribe to a lot of feeds. In fact I may switch from Sage to something like Google Reader as a test to see if I can make save some time while still making it through all the blogs I subscribe to.

From reading the comments of the above posts I also think that more people do seem to prefer the full feed. I didn’t take a count, but my general sense was full feeders outnumbered partial feeders. The full feeders were certainly the more passionate group when it came to their preference. I suspect that publishing partial feeds could cost you readers, though I don’t think the reverse would be true.

One thing I did notice while looking at the feeds in Google Reader and the thing that might in the end be what tips the scales for me is that most of my favorite blogs are publishing full feeds. Normally I’m not one to automatically go with the crowd, but in this case I think it’s telling that the most widely read seo blogs are typically going with the full over the partial feed.

And to bring the issue full circle here’s a post Rand made on the SEOmoz main blog a few months ago. Switching to Partial Text RSS Feed – Vote Your Opinion. If you read down to the comments you can see the majority prefer the full feed and when I look at the SEOmoz feed today it is being published in full.

I switched this blog to publish in full before sitting down to write this post and I’m going to give the full feed a try and see what happens. I like the idea of being able to offer both types of feeds so you can choose the subscription you prefer and I’ll look into finding a way to do that.

So what’s your preference? Do you prefer full or partial feeds? In the end I want to publish the feed you prefer to read.


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About the Author

Steven Bradley is a web designer and search engine optimization specialist. Known to many in the webmaster/seo community by the username vangogh, he is the author of TheVanBlog, which focuses on how to build and optimize websites and market them online.