Creating a Custom RSS Feed for Guest Posts

If you’re like me, you write a lot of posts for sites other than your own and want to be able to share those posts with your readers. Figuring out how to do this with particular systems might pose a specific challenge, especially if those networks only allow you to import one RSS feed. There may also be times where you want to only share writing by you, and if you have a lot of guest bloggers on your site as well as guest posts on other sites, having a full RSS feed for your blog won’t do.

Creating a Custom RSS Feed

The solution to this would be having an RSS feed with only your content in it from each of the sources you write for. Of course, that is a challenge in of itself. When I came to the realization that I wanted this type of an RSS feed, I thought “Super, I’ll use Yahoo Pipes.” That didn’t pan out so well, however, as some of the feeds I wanted to use didn’t work with their system. If I ever do get it to work, or they fix the issues I’ve been having in the upcoming 2.0 version, I’ll add the details here or create a new post.

In the meantime, I went for it the old fashioned way – by creating an XML file from scratch. Ok, not from scratch, but using the base elements from another RSS feed.

I created it using Notepad ++, a free text editor for Windows that can save code in PHP, XML, and other formats without any of the unusual characters that can slip into coding and make it unusable on a website. I’m sure there is something similar for Mac and other platforms, but I’ll leave that to my commenters to share those with you as I’m a PC gal.

Here is a portion of my custom RSS feed looks with two posts in it.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<rss version="2.0"
xmlns:content="http://purl.org/rss/1.0/modules/content/"
xmlns:wfw="http://wellformedweb.org/CommentAPI/"
xmlns:dc="http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/"
xmlns:atom="http://www.w3.org/2005/Atom"
xmlns:sy="http://purl.org/rss/1.0/modules/syndication/"
xmlns:slash="http://purl.org/rss/1.0/modules/slash/"
>

<channel>
<title>Kristi Hines Freelance Writing Portfolio</title>
<atom:link href="http://kristihines.com/freelancewriting.xml" rel="self" type="application/rss+xml" />
<link>http://kristihines.com/</link>
<description>Blog posts and articles by Kristi Hines on social media, blogging, search optimization, and online marketing.</description>
<lastBuildDate>Wed, 22 Jun 2011 02:11:01 +0000</lastBuildDate>
<language>en</language>
<sy:updatePeriod>hourly</sy:updatePeriod>
<sy:updateFrequency>1</sy:updateFrequency>
<generator>http://wordpress.org/?v=3.1</generator>

<item>
<title>How to Get More Facebook Likes for Your Website and Fan Page</title>
<link>http://blog.kissmetrics.com/get-more-facebook-likes/</link>
<comments>http://blog.kissmetrics.com/get-more-facebook-likes/#comments</comments>
<pubDate>Tue, 21 Jun 2011 12:00:00 +0000</pubDate>
<dc:creator>Kristi Hines</dc:creator>
<category><![CDATA[Facebook]]></category>
<guid isPermaLink="false">http://blog.kissmetrics.com/?p=4461</guid>
<description>
<![CDATA[
Facebook Likes are a powerful way to get website visitors to socially engage with your brand. There are two types of likes you can solicit with Facebook's developer code - likes for website pages and likes for your fan page. The best part is users can like both of these directly on your website without having to go anywhere else! Continue reading at <a href="http://blog.kissmetrics.com/get-more-facebook-likes/">http://blog.kissmetrics.com/get-more-facebook-likes/</a>.
]]>
</description>
</item>

<item>
<title>Want Major Media Exposure for Your Business?</title>
<link>http://www.futuresimple.com/blog/want-major-media-exposure-for-your-business/</link>
<comments>http://www.futuresimple.com/blog/want-major-media-exposure-for-your-business/#comments</comments>
<pubDate>Tue, 21 Jun 2011 08:00:00 +0000</pubDate>
<dc:creator>Kristi Hines</dc:creator>
<category><![CDATA[Social Media]]></category>
<guid isPermaLink="false">http://www.futuresimple.com/blog/?p=1022</guid>
<description>
<![CDATA[
If you have read articles on major media outlets like New York Times, CNN, ABC News, and other similar sources, you have probably wondered what it would take to get your name or business mentioned as an authority on a particular topic. And now, you can have that chance. HARO, which stands for Help a Reporter Out, is a site that connects reporters from major publications and media outlets with industry experts. How simple is it to start getting queries from reporters? It is as simple as these three steps. Continue reading at <a href="http://www.futuresimple.com/blog/want-major-media-exposure-for-your-business/">http://www.futuresimple.com/blog/want-major-media-exposure-for-your-business/</a>.
]]>
</description>
</item>

</channel>
</rss>

The following are breakdowns of what portions you would need to change for your custom feed.

The Channel Information

The channel begins with the <channel> tag and includes the following information.

  • Title – this is your custom RSS feed’s title that show up if someone subscribes directly to it.
  • Atom Link – this is the direct link to your XML once it is uploaded to your server.
  • Link – this is the link to the website you have uploaded it to.
  • Description – this is a short description of the content of your custom feed.
  • Last Build Date – this is to be updated when you update new items to your custom feed.

The Post Information

Your posts are going to be enclosed in <item> </item> tags and contain the following elements.

  • Title – this is your post title.
  • Link – this is the direct link to the post.
  • Comments – this is the link to the comments for the post.
  • Pubdate – this is when the post was published. You don’t have to be exact with this – I usually just change the day of the week, month, and date as I rarely have more than one new post go live during the day. Your newest posts should be at the top and oldest at the bottom.
  • DC Creator – this is the author field and should be your name.
  • Category – this is the category of your post.
  • Guid – this is the permalink to your post. Generally you can find this by going to your post on the site (assuming they use WordPress or a similar CMS) and finding the <link rel=’shortlink’ href=’http://domain.com/?p=4461′ />. Otherwise, you can go to the blog’s RSS feed, view the source, and find the <guid>. Worst case scenario, you can you just put the same link as you put in the link portion. Using the shortlink should ensure that if the title or URL change, your feed will still be able to find it.
  • Description – this is the description for your post. I tend to just use the first paragraph or a short paragraph as the goal is to get people to go to the main site to read the content. Creating the full feed can be time consuming.

Saving and Uploading

Before you save your custom feed, be sure it is set to use UTF-8 encoding. This is how that will look in Notepad ++.

Saving UTF-8 Encoding

I saved my file as freelancewriting.xml.

The next part may be different for some of you if the only domain you have is your blog.

I uploaded my custom feed to my Freelance Writing Portfolio domain since it does not have an active blog feed to compete with. As a matter of fact, since that site doesn’t have a blog but is running on WordPress, I burned the feed to Feedburner and changed it to point to this feed as the site’s primary feed by changing the following code in the site’s header.php tempate:

<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title=" RSS Feed" href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/khfreelance" />
<link rel="alternate" type="application/atom+xml" title=" Atom Feed" href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/khfreelance" />

This way, if someone should want to subscribe to my guest posts, they can.

If you don’t have another domain, I would suggest placing it in a folder on your root domain not named feed. Maybe use folders like myguestposts or mywriting, assuming those aren’t categories on your blog either. Also, be sure your file name does not include the word feed (and especially not feed.xml) as that and or a folder named feed might compete with your main blog’s feed. You can still get to it and burn it to Feedburner using the direct URL such as http://yourdomain.com/myguestposts/guestposts.xml.

The Custom Feed Results

Once your feed is complete, you can subscribe to it in Google Reader or another feed reader to see the results. Mine looks like this:

Custom Feed in Google Reader

I’m still working on the spacing for the paragraphs, but for the most part, it gets the job done. Plus, since I use the PostRank Chrome Extension for Google Reader, I can get a quick look at how my guest posts are doing in the social engagement area.

Troubleshooting Your Feed

If you have any issues with your feed, try out W3C Feed Validation. It will usually be able to spot the problem and give you a link for more information on how to correct it. My feed doesn’t validate perfectly, but it still works everywhere I need it to so far.

Where I Use My Custom Feed

Since I just created this little beauty last week, I haven’t fully taken advantage of it, but I have started using it in the following places.

On LinkedIn

The WordPress app is a great way to display your latest posts, or in this case, my latest guest posts.

WordPress Application on LinkedIn

Just one of the many reasons I think LinkedIn is a great social network for bloggers!

On CommentLuv Blogs

When I comment on CommentLuv blogs, I can use http://kristihines.com/ as my URL and it will pull the latest posts from that custom feed into the CommentLuv dropdown. You can also just use the direct link to your custom RSS in the URL field and just switch it before you hit the submit button to your blog link to get your name linked to your blog and your CommentLuv link to your latest guest post (one of many tricks shared in the The Ultimate Guide to Blog Post Promotion).

On Triberr

Are you on Triberr? Assuming that you aren’t going to bombard your tribe members with more than one post a day, you could add your custom feed link in addition to your blog link in your Account > Settings > RSS Feeds. Since my guest posts are in line with my main blog posts, they fit well with the same audience as my tribe’s following.

On Your Blog

Want to display your guest posts in a page on your blog? You can use the RSSImport plugin for WordPress (or widgets that import an RSS feed) and add it to your page using the shortcode [RSSImport display=”5″ feedurl=”http://yourdomain.com/myguestposts/guestposts.xml”].

You can see how I used this on my Archives page under Latest Guest Posts.

Anywhere That Accepts RSS Feeds

Again, the above are only a few of many, many options. Where ever you can add an RSS feed, from Twitterfeed to social profiles, you can add this custom feed to display your writing from multiple sites! I have mine just to include my guest posts, but you could also include your own posts, or just your favorite posts from your own blog in the mix as a showcase of your top writing!

Your Use of RSS Feeds

Know of a simpler way to get the job done? Do you already utilize a custom RSS feed? Please share your thoughts and strategies in the comments!

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Comments

    • says

      I’ve been thinking about it Coleman, but hadn’t gotten around to putting it together. Then one week when I had three guest posts go live, I decided it was time to start featuring them!

    • says

      Hi Lisa. I was doing that as well, and running my portfolio site off of it. What I came to realize is when Delicious had problems, all of the sites I had feeding from Delicious had problems too. This way, with it being on my own server, I only have to worry about my own site and not their service, especially while they’re changing from Yahoo to the new owners.

  1. says

    Pulling together a custom RSS feed for this purpose makes a lot of sense.

    However, it is probably more than I can “technically” handle right now!;-)

    When the time comes that I need this functionality – I know exactly where I will turn – right to my bookmarks!

    Thanks for the detailed explanation.
    Neena just posted Color Scheme Generator

  2. says

    Hi Kristi,

    thank you for this great post. This could be really useful in the future. I really enjoy reading your blog. Great content!

    Greetings from Germany!
    Julian

    • says

      I didn’t either Niall, until I got fed up with messing around with Yahoo Pipes. Then I figured it was like any other coding – just cut, copy, paste and change the details to fit your needs. :)

  3. says

    Not sure what you are trying to do exactly. If you post on wordpress blogs you can just use something like:
    http://www.sitename.com/author/authorname/feed/atom/
    or
    http://www.sitename.com/author/authorname/feed/

    To snag your rss feed for where you post. Many other types of sites non-wordpress do provide rss for your posts as well if you do a little exploring.

    You can then take your rss feeds from where you post things and combine them into 1 or several using a rss blender or mixer.

    Some rss mixers/blenders allow you to only add a certain number of different feeds say 5, and some will allow you to add say a specific number of the last post to each. So you could have your 5 different feeds links with 2 of the last posts from each for a total of 10 all in one. You can do more though depending on the service used.

    It will mix or blend them and give you a unique address for your feed. You could most likely burn the combined output to feedburner too. You won’t have to manually update it this way.

    Usually they have their powered by site name in the feed. If you do not want that, just view the source/page code, copy and paste it to notepad and save it as yourfeed.xml and edit out their powered by if you want, and upload it to your hosting account space. You would need to manually update it this route, but just copy and paste. You could also add your content that does not have an rss feed to it with very little manual coding, as most of it would be done for you if you do it right.

    There are a number of them out there that will do this for free. I’ve mixed blog posts, delicious bookmarks, and other sites into one rss feed on a number of occasions in the past. I don’t do too much with them lately. It sounds confusing, but really only takes a couple of minutes. But, like I said maybe I am just confused or misunderstanding this post.

    I used to manually code feeds, but they just got to be too time-consuming to create and to keep updated.
    Ray just posted Google Pagerank Update June 27, 2011

    • says

      Hi Ray,

      What mixers / blenders do you use? I tried Yahoo Pipes with 10 feeds, and it couldn’t get the information filtered for 3 of them. Also, I’ve ran into issues where the http://www.sitename.com/author/authorname/feed/ will just redirect to the entire site’s feed on Feedburner? If you have workarounds that will make this process more automated, I’m welcome to it!

  4. says

    Hi Kristi, brilliant work! It’s way over my head technically and since I’m not using LinkedIn this way (I use it for work and don’t want to mix that with blogging) I won’t attempt it right now. I did make an attempt at using Yahoo Pipes, per your instructions in The Ultimate Blog Post Promotion Guide, but I couldn’t get the hang of it, so it’s good to hear that perhaps it wasn’t my fault.
    I look at all of that code and my brain just shuts down – but I’d love to see you do a video tutorial for this one day :) pretty please….
    Ileane just posted Where Should You Put the Guest Blogger Bio

    • says

      I was thinking about that for the Yahoo Pipes actually Ileane. Especially if I could get this process fully automated. :)

  5. says

    Excellent Kristy,

    For a not so tech savvy person like me, this will be very handy though still need to understand some code. Certainly this will come in handy for guest post :)

    Cheers,
    Ming

  6. says

    Good job Kristi,
    Very nice tips here Kristi. Can I apply them now? :)
    This kind of set-up will surely help us make our own blog look cool like any other big time bloggers out there like you.

  7. says

    Thanks a lot for this. I’m not more of a technical guy. But after reading your article (I admit I read it a few times to fully understand) I managed to own the RSS yey.
    I was looking for a long time to do this and now I finally did it thanks to you. You’re great:D
    John just posted Fresh Mandarine Orange Cheesecake

  8. says

    That’s why it’s a bit scary that I was away from the web (health reasons) for quite awhile. :) It’s good to be here and learn new tricks from you, Kristi. It’s my plan to try for guest blogging again next year (hopefully) and I have always wonder how I can publicize the posts more effectively. Put them at the sidebar or within the bio just doesn’t seem enough anymore.

    By the way, congrats on your PR-up! All your quality guest-blogging hard work really paid off. Well done! :)
    Ching Ya just posted The Scary Side Of Social Media: 6 Ways It Could Ruin Your Business

  9. says

    Very impressive tutorial Kristi :D

    My personal choice is to use builkping.com and its RSS creator function for this. But I think it’s not as comprehensive and much detail as your solution. And creating a custom RSS feed is also a great way to index backlinks by submitting it to RSS directories!

    Thanks for sharing Kristi, have a nice day!