How to Burn Specialized WordPress Feeds for Your Readers

Update: After a few weeks of testing, I decided to roll all my feeds back into one primary feed. I’ve detailed the reasons for this move over here.

One of the best ways to unlock the potential of your blog is to cede as much control as possible to your readers. With that in mind, one of your goals ought to be to offer potential subscribers different (yet meaningful) ways to consume the content of your site.

Of course, simply offering an RSS feed is a huge step in the right direction.

But what if you’ve been blogging for a while, and now you realize that one RSS feed just isn’t going to cut it anymore? By offering a couple of different feeds, you could really do your users a favor, and this would also allow you to make a more direct appeal to both your existing and potential audience.

What if I told you that this would likely result in more subscribers and more repeat visitors to your site?

When Two Feeds Are Better than One

After fleshing out my most recent re-design here at Pearsonified, I became even more focused on delivering useful, actionable content. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of that thus far, but I also felt as though this method of writing was becoming too stifling.

Pearsonified on the Side — the most primary secondary feed on the planet!Inspired by Ben’s asides at OpenSwitch, I decided to free myself to some degree by building my own asides here. Although I’ve never really seen them described as such, asides are a total luxury item for bloggers. Here’s why:

  • Some content just doesn’t warrant a major entry, but perhaps you’d like it on your site nonetheless — asides to the rescue!
  • You can venture a little bit off-topic without interfering with your main stream of articles, which should be relatively focused.

Now that’s great and all, but there’s one major problem with asides.

You don’t want to annoy your loyal subscribers by bombarding them with little tidbits that likely offer far less value than your regular, more thoughtful articles.

They can opt in to receive content like this, but under no circumstances would I recommend pushing it on them without their approval!

So, if you really want to implement asides and still offer your readers control over how they access your content, then you’re going to need a separate feed to handle them.

Burn Baby Burn!

I’ve always learned best by following an example, so that’s what I’m offering here — an example of how I burnt two Feedburner feeds to handle my regular articles and my asides.

The default feed for a WordPress blog is constructed like this:

http://your_WordPress_location/feed/

Before I added asides, this was actually the URI that I used to burn my original feed.

Unfortunately, once you decide to implement asides (assuming you use a special category to handle them, which is highly recommended), this default feed will no longer be adequate because it does not allow for the separation of articles and asides. Time for Plan B.

The good news here is that WordPress is flexible, and it will allow you to extract the exact feeds that you want with relative ease. Here’s how it works. Oh, and you’ll have to know the ID of your asides category — in this example, we’ll assume the ID is 40.

Step 1 — Generate a feed for your primary articles

If you want to generate a feed for your primary articles, then all you need to do is find a way to exclude the asides category from your feed. Thanks to the intelligent way feeds are constructed in WordPress, accomplishing this is easy, and you can use the URI below to generate the desired feed.

http://your_WordPress_location/index.php?feed=rss2&cat=-40

The keen observers among you will likely have noticed that the category ID is preceeded by a negative sign. This command generates a query (which produces a feed) but excludes all results from the category with an ID equal to 40.

Step 2 — Generate a separate feed for your asides

So, any ideas on how you might construct the feed for your asides? Yeah, you already know where this is heading…We’ll nix that negative sign!

http://your_WordPress_location/index.php?feed=rss2&cat=40

That’s all there is to it!

Your only challenge now is to present these new options to your readers. Since you already know how much they enjoy being in control, something tells me they’re going to appreciate your feed-burning wizardry :)

Oh, By the Way…

And lest I forget, Pearsonified now comes with two feeds for your viewing, reading, time-wasting, or corporate-dollar-burning pleasure:

  • Pearsonified — succeed at everything with a little help from the best damn blog on the planet.
  • Pearsonified on the Side — the most primary secondary feed on the planet!

I’m not going to stick to any hard and fast rules here, but I plan to use my asides primarily to:

  • Link out to excellent resources that I think you need to know about
  • Showcase bits of graphic (and typographic) design goodness — kinda like this
  • Make important announcements
  • Share funny or interesting stuff that’s just hard to do otherwise