Recently, I found occasion to consolidate and localize my WordPress feeds. A couple of years ago, shortly after I first began using Feedburner to deliver and monitor my site’s feeds, I began listing my Feedburner-assigned feed URL in addition to my localized WordPress feed URL. As time went on, inconsistent feed linkage here at Perishable Press had greatly convoluted the feed-subscription process.
Fixing feed weirdness
Before cleanup, my RSS/feed offerings were convoluted at best. Some of the confounding factors were things like:
- Inconsistent placement of feed links throughout the site
- Inconsistent placement of feed links throughout several older themes
- Inconsistent reference to feed URLs within posts, pages, and other database-driven content
- Inconsistent presentation of the site’s main feed as either the Feedburner URL or the WordPress URL
- Offering feed links for every different type of feed format (e.g., RSS 2.0, RSS 0.92, Atom, et al)
- Each of the many different site themes featured an inconsistent mix of different feed URLs
Eventually, as I began to realize the importance of providing consistent feed linkage, I began to consolidate the myriad feed formats into a single, canonical feed. I ended up choosing RSS-2.0 formatted feed simply because it is the one redirected to my Feedburner feed. In addition to this, I also went through each one of my different theme’s and optimized the presentation of feed links. These steps alone greatly improved the consistency of my site’s feed delivery.
Then, during the design of the site’s current default theme, I finally got serious about feed canonicalization: only two feeds are provided (one for content and another for comments), and they are presented in the same location throughout the site. At this point, I felt that more work needed to be done, however overall feed uniformity had been much improved, so I moved on to other, more pertinent business.
Going further, making it better
Several months since then, I finally took the time to follow-up and finish the job. After all, the project remained on my ever-expanding “to-do” list, and would certainly improve site usability and overall sharpness. Essentially, the process of consolidating and localizing your site’s feeds involves the following process:
- Determine the main (canonical) feed URL(s) that you wish to serve (e.g., one for comments, one for content).
- If using Feedburner, the main feed URL(s) that you choose should be the locally generated WordPress URLs. These should then be redirected to the corresponding Feedburner address.
- Once you have decided on which feed URL(s) to use, all references to any other feed link, format, URL — whatever — should be replaced with your canonical feed URL or else removed entirely.
- Using a comprehensive guide, make a list of every non-canonical feed URL (e.g., different formats, redundant resources) to facilitate search.
- Using your “rejected URL” list and a decent file-search program (e.g., Dreamweaver), execute a comprehensive search for each of the listed URLs. Replace or remove each discovered item according to your predefined strategy.
- Now repeat the search process with your database. Using phpMyAdmin (or whatever you prefer), search your database for all instances of the listed URLs. As before, replace or remove each discovered item according to your predefined strategy.
- Once this localization and consolidation process is complete, make it a point to refer only to your preferred, canonical URL(s).
Granted, cleaning up convoluted feed linkage is a tedious, time-consuming process. If possible, know what you are doing before diving into the whole blogging game and serve only canonical feed URLs from the outset.
Doing so will save time and make it easier for readers to subscribe to your site. Otherwise, for dinosaurs like myself that just “make it up as we go along,” there is no time like the present to streamline syndication and improve consistency.