HighlyStructured.com is a blog website run by Mike D'Agostino about search engine positioning, online marketing, php/MySQL, tae kwon do, and various other topics.

RSS Etiquette

December 19, 2005

Recently I've been noticing an alarming trend with RSS feeds - long descriptions.

I started using RSS feeds not too long ago, and I've praised RSS feeds for their ability to deliver targeted content in a quick, to-the-point manner. It's great to open my RSS reader and see the latest headlines from my favorite sources clearly organized and easily accessible. Often I may not even read the description contained in the RSS feed and simply click the corresponding link to read the entire article. However, I'm finding that I'm almost offended when an RSS syndicator uses extremely long descriptions in their RSS feeds.

Case in point - SEOBuzzBox.com. This is a great site with a lot of interesting content that I read daily. They often have interviews with industry leaders along with pretty focused content on up-to-date search engine optimization techniques and related issues. However, I'm starting to get annoyed with their RSS feed. While most of the feeds I peruse through in my RSS reader are headlines with a paragraph or so of text, seobuzzbox.com uses basically an entire web page inside their RSS description field. I believe this goes against the simplicity and "quickness" of RSS syndication.

I believe this arises from the abuse of the XML "cdata" tag. The cdata tag is used to tell an XML parser not to parse the data. In short it allows the syndicator to use HTML to format the "description" of the RSS feed item. I can see this as being useful as it allows authors to be much more flexible and creative in how they present their message to readers, but it also allows authors to "abuse" the RSS syndication system. And I believe this is leaving the door way too open for online marketers and advertisers. What I'm seeing is basically an entire web page stored inside the cdata tag. In effect I'm getting an email advertisement, only it's coming through my RSS reader.

If you are syndicating an RSS feed and want to provide lengthy content, do so via email. Or better yet, write a short description for your RSS feed and place a link back to the article in full at your website. Oh wait, that's what the RSS feed is SUPPOSED to do! But please, do not try to incorporate an entire web page worth of content in a single RSS item, it's purely "RSS Abuse".

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