How to Enhance Your Website’s Feed Display
You’re probably most familiar with your own website’s RSS feed. But did you know that you can use other website’s RSS feeds to display content on your own website?
No, I’m not talking about stealing other people’s content. We all know that’s a no-go! I’m talking about legitimately using other site’s RSS feeds to display things like recent news, job listings, new products, and anything else related to content curation.
In this post, I’m going to talk briefly about what a feed display is and how you can set one up. Then, I’m going to show you some cool ways to enhance feeds that you display to offer your readers the best experience possible.
What’s the Point of Displaying RSS Feeds?
I doubt you need me to remind you that the Internet is a pretty crowded place. Hundreds of millions of sites. Billions of articles. It can be hard to find anything worthwhile (which is part of the reason Google is one of the biggest companies in the world!).
So how does that tie in with displaying RSS feeds on your site? Because collecting content via RSS allows you to curate it for your readers. Essentially, you’re bringing a bunch of content together in one place so that readers can easily find it.
What are a few examples of this helping readers? Let’s brainstorm:
- A news curation site for a specific topic. Readers can go straight to your site to find all the news they need. Or maybe you just want to pull in news articles about your own company/service to display on your business’ site.
- Job listings for a specific niche. Readers can find all the jobs that fit their specific skillset in one place.
- Products. Readers can find helpful products from a bunch of different stores in one place.
You can also use RSS feeds to manipulate your own content in some nifty ways. For example, to create a portfolio site.
Basically, you can curate anything with an RSS feed and save people interested in that topic a ton of time. All you need is a plugin like WP RSS Aggregator to help you manage and collect those RSS feed items.
But What’s the Problem With RSS Feeds?
Ok, without digging too deeply into how most RSS feeds work, I’ll sum it up like this:
If you’re just pulling in raw RSS feeds, you’re going to run into two problems:
- You won’t be able to control what shows up on your site. You’ll get 100% of the RSS feed no matter what.
- You can’t easily style all the data that you’re pulling in from RSS.
Neither of those is great if you’re trying to use RSS feeds in a manner that’s actually helpful to your readers.
So to offer a better experience, you should put in some effort to enhance your feed displays. And I’m going to show you exactly how to do it.
Method #1: Filtering RSS Feeds by Keywords and/or Adding Categories
Here’s the problem with just including the full feed from a website:
You can’t control what they post.
So even if they fit the general niche for which you’re trying to create curated content, that doesn’t mean you want to include every single thing that they post on your site.
Additionally, when you import a site’s feed, how do you know which category to put each imported post in?
You’re curating content, remember? That means you want to make sure it’s perfect!
So what can you do to fix that? Filter RSS feeds for specific keywords or assign feed items to a category based the source.
But how can you do that? Ahh, the million dollar question. To actually filter your feeds by keyword or add different feed items to different categories, you’ll need the help of a WordPress plugin.
Specifically, WP RSS Aggregator’s Keyword Filtering or Categories add-ons.
With Keyword Filtering, you can add three different types of filtering:
- All keywords – An RSS feed item must include every single keyword to be included.
- Any keywords – AN RSS feed item must include at least one of these keywords to be included.
- None – If an RSS feed item includes one of these keywords, it will NOT be included.
You can choose whether to filter the feed item’s title, content (or both). And you can also run similar filtering on a feed item’s tags!
If you want a simpler way to add some additional curation to your feed displays, you can use the Categories add-on to assign each different feed source to a specific category:
Once you assign a feed to a category, you can use a shortcode to display specific categories wherever needed. Just note that the categories created by this add-on are not the same categories you use when you create a regular WordPress post.
And if you want to get really neat, you can even do both with the Feed to Post add-on! That is, assign a feed to a category and filter it for keywords. But I’ll touch on that more at the end.
Method #2: Enhance Your Feeds With Excerpts, Thumbnails, and Custom CSS
Ok, so now you’ve added keyword and category filtering to ensure that you’re only aggregating content which truly fits your site. But you’re still stuck with that other problem I talked about:
Your feeds won’t look very good.
So let’s look at a way to make them look a little better with WP RSS Aggregator’s Excerpts & Thumbnails add-on.
See, most RSS feed plugins, including the free version of WP RSS Aggregator, only let you display each feed item’s title. It’s enough for some uses, but it’s really not the most user friendly way to display a feed item.
The Excerpts & Thumbnails add-on changes that, allowing you to incorporate…you guessed it….excerpts and thumbnails alongside your titles.
With the add-on, you can set a unique excerpt length and append a read more link at the end:
Then, you can choose a height and width for thumbnail images as well. You can either let WP RSS Aggregator auto detect which thumbnail to use, or just use the first image from the feed.
And because not every feed item will have a thumbnail, the add-on lets you handle such situations in one of two ways:
- Show the default thumbnail (you can upload this to use as a placeholder)
- Don’t show any thumbnail
Now, when you use the WP RSS shortcode, your feed items will have excerpts and thumbnails and look something like this:
And if you want to make your feed displays even more stylish, you can easily add custom CSS to style the feed. Some of the things you can implement with a few lines of CSS are:
- Different fonts/font sizes
- Make the excerpt wrap around the thumbnail
- Center the image
- Add dividers and spacing
You can view a handy list of CSS styles for WP RSS Aggregator here.
What If You Want to Go Even Further?
Up until now, all these enhancements have been focused on enhancing your simple feeds. For many uses, that’s enough. But if you want to get even more creative with your feed displays, you have a more advanced option:
Feed to Post
With the Feed to Post add-on, you can turn feed items into real WordPress posts or custom post types…complete with all of the options you’d expect for WordPress posts.
While shortcodes are useful in their own right, they don’t give you all of the flexibility that you get when you import feed items as posts. Using Feed to Post, you can create more detailed, user friendly news aggregation sites. Or, you can use it for time-saving things such as automatically importing posts from Medium into your WordPress site.
No matter what – whether you want simple filtered/categorized feeds or to import feed items as posts, WP RSS Aggregator and its add-ons can give you the functionality that you need.