RSS Feed Etiquette
The arguments continue to rage over the ambiguities
in the RSS specifications. But the fact is: RSS is here to stay,
and the current defined RSS 2.0 specification is likely going to
be as good as it is going to get. Attempts have been made to create
"best practice" documents and specification clarifications. We felt
it would be helpful to provide general guidelines for those constructing
an RSS 2.0 feed. In general, the following are guidelines for constructing
an RSS feed. It is good to get into the habit of validating the
RSS feed, either with software, or with an online validator.
Here are some general guidelines for creating RSS
Include only one enclosure per item for maximum compatibility.
The RSS 2.0 specification does not clearly state whether multiple
enclosures are allowed or not, but most RSS readers will only support
a single enclosure. Therefore, it is best to conform to the readers,
and only include a single enclosure in each RSS feed item.
2. Date Formats
Date formats can be very tricky; be sure that all
dates are properly formatted.
Encoding is required for certain characters. If you
are using software to create the feed, it should handle character
encoding for you.
While the specification is not explicit, it is generally
a good idea to not use HTML coding within the Channel or Item titles.
For maximum feed compatibility, the only place you should use HTML
is in the RSS Feed Item Description.
GUID (Global Unique IDentifiers) are not required.
However, publishers are encouraged to use a unique string in the
GUID field. Many RSS readers look for GUID changes to determine
if new items are available in an RSS feed.
If you are including an image with the feed, the suggested
image size is 88x31 (the maximum allowed size is 144x400). If you
are including an image in the RSS feed's Item Description or Enclosure
fields, there are no size limitations, but keep in mind that excessively
large graphics will negatively impact the amount of time it takes
to load the feed.
Some RSS readers and search engines will display the
favicon of the hosting domain beside the listing for an RSS feed.
In order for your feed to stand out, be sure that you include a
favicon in the root directory of your website's domain.
Use "absolute" URLs for images, websites, and links,
instead of "relative" URLs. The intent of RSS is to syndicate content,
so the RSS feed may not always be local to the person viewing the
feed. As such, the full web path to all images, websites, and links
should be used. In other words, do not use " ../imageurl.gif ",
but instead use the full URL " http://www.mydomain.com/imageurl.gif
" when linking to any content.
Use a meaningful title for the Channel feed and RSS
feed Items. Most RSS directories and search engines use the words
in the Channel Title and Item Title to classify the RSS feeds.
10. Mime Types
If you are including a file in the enclosure field
of an RSS feed, be sure to properly define the "file size" and the
"mime type" of the file enclosure. A list of proper mime type formats
can be found here - http://www.feedforall.com/mime-types.htm
Include RSS feed "auto-discovery" code in your HTML
page header. This will allow certain browsers and RSS feed readers
to automatically know that an RSS feed is available for specific
Tool to Create AutoDiscovery Code - http://www.feedforall.com/autodiscovery.htm
The number of items contained in a feed is important.
Establish a history and expand the feed on a regular basis. Prune
the RSS feed if it becomes excessively long; this will help make
the RSS feed load faster.
About the Author:
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll http://www.feedforall.com
software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds and podcasts.
In addition Sharon manages marketing for RecordForAll http://www.recordforall.com
audio recording and editing software.