Full RSS Feeds Won’t Get You Banned

    July 24, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

Toads cause warts; new clothes on Easter bring good luck; and Google penalizes sites for having full RSS feeds. MentalFloss.com issued a "never mind" on that last superstition after Matt Cutts dropped a little science.

Pay any attention at all in this industry and you’ll find desperate Web marketers and publishers grasping at any explanation of why their site has suddenly been delisted from Google’s search rankings. As all of us know, that’s the Power of the Goog.

MentalFloss found a correlation and went with it: Friendly experts suggested their sudden demise in the search results was because of their use of full RSS feeds, which made it easier for scrapers to grab content, post it on their splogs, thus creating duplicate content, thus ending in a serious delisting penalty for MentalFloss.

The explanation was sent to RSS readers along with notice that articles appearing in the feed would only carry a headline teaser and a link, thanks to Google’s aggressive treatment of duplicate content. That’s an interesting assessment, to say the least. If scrapers can tank your site, WebProNews would have been offline long ago. Scrapers love us!

Turns out though, they missed an important email. Google’s webspam captain, Matt Cutts, whose job lately seems to involve a lot of mythbusting, commented his team had sent MentalFloss an email on July 7th explaining the penalty:

The reason that Mental Floss was gone from Google’s index was because we believed that the site had been hacked. We tried to send you an email to that effect on July 7th to let you know that because of the hacked content on Mental Floss, we were temporarily removing the site from Google.


This has nothing whatsoever to do with RSS full-text feeds. I happily use full-text feeds on my personal blog, for example, and recommend that others feel free to do the same.

Thus ends one debate and opening another about which are better: full RSS feeds or partials. Cutts joins the expert camp who preach a lot about full feeds being better for the end-user. The other side note how much full feeds reduce their traffic, ad visibility (unless an ad is slipped into the feed itself), and ability to track readers.

From this RSS reader’s perspective, I like partial feeds. I’m a headline scanner who will gladly pop open 15 tabs to read the rest of articles that grab my interest. Full feeds, with their scroll, scroll, scroll your screen, get in the way of my scanning efficiency.