Optimization for Feed Readers

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Unless you have spend the last few months in a cage you know by now: Google Reader is dead and there are a lot of cool and often new alternatives. I’m glad there are!

Now that Google gave up, the monopoly on feed readers got abolished and the market flourishes again.

For webmasters and bloggers it’s a new challenge though. People are using lots of different tools now to read your blog or news feed.

Testing and improving your site in Feedly, Pulse, Old Reader, AOL Reader, Curata Reader is mandatory.

It’s even more important than cross-browser checking because on feed readers your article layout can look completely differently! Every reader is using its own CSS! So you have to anticipate issues and make your code work despite random style changes. I’ve been doing so with my own blog over at SEO 2.0 and have found plenty of issues mostly due to third party services like Zemanta or Feedburner.

 

Feedly

Feedly is probably the biggest winner of the Google Reader demise. The service formerly based on Google Reader, it was just an UI, has become independent now with their own infrastructure and won over millions of Google Reader users. My feed displays almost perfectly on Feedly, with one major exception, the Zemanta Related Posts. The items are scattered around instead to show up in a horizontal manner like on the blog itself:

zemanta-feedly

I’m afraid this issue will appear on many blogs so in case you use Zemanta Related Posts plugin for WordPress either disable it for feeds or wait until Zemanta fixes it. I have notified them already. The Related Posts plugin is really neat, it would be a shame to remove that functionality. Sadly it doesn’t display right on all the feed readers described below either.

 

Pulse

When it comes to feed readers Pulse is the next big thing. It’s ridiculously easy to use, indeed you will never even see the word “feed” let alone the acronym “RSS” on it. That’s why many people overlooked it as an alternative. It has a much bigger market though, the people who don’t read feeds at all usually. Here they are, because the interface looks like Pinterest and is even easier to use.

Pulse is very visual and image heavy.

As Pulse relies on images so much you need to add an image to each post and in case you do make sure that the only image is not a screen shot of text because that looks awful as a resized thumbnail on Pulse:

screen-shot-text-pulse

Also note how my headline is too long to get displayed in its entirety. The post title is actually “10 Things the Unnatural Links Penalty Taught me About Google and SEO” so that three words are missing from table of contents on Pulse.

 

Old Reader

The Old Reader gets hailed as the Google Reader alternative that is most similar to the original. It’s not as modern as Feedly or Pulse but in case you have used feed readers or Google Reader for years already you will probably like the conservative approach. It seems many people do prefer this option to Feedly.

email-this-old-reader

What you see in the screen shot above is the actual footer of my post below the Zemanta thumbnails. It’s the share links added by Google-owned Feedburner I use to enhance my feed.

As Google neglected Feedburner even more than Google Reader it’s completely outdated by now.

It’s years since del.icio.us is called Delicious. Also most modern feed readers provide their users with social media and other sharing options so you don’t need to add more yourself. It seems I completely forgot about this feature but I think I also assumed that it displays and works properly. Testing is better as you see.

 

AOL Reader

America Online has come up quickly with a feed reader on their own. It has a clean interface even I have been tempted to try despite of my decade old grudge against all things AOL. It’s a real comeback. Many news publications have reported on the AOL Reader in the week before the Google Reader close down so a substantial number of users will probably try it. I tried it too but my feed didn’t work! See below:

add-subscription-aol-reader

The AOL Reader didn’t even accept my blog link. It loaded forever. After a bit of testing I’ve found out that it doesn’t get the redirect to the Feedburner feed. So even when trying to add my feed URL directly it didn’t work:

add-subscription-aol-reader-invalid

I had to add my Feedburner feed URL instead. As Feedburner will get axed sooner or later by Google too it’s about time to remove it to overcome these issues I’m afraid.

 

Curata Reader

Curata, a hyper-progressive social media start-up has come up with a reader as well. They hail it as the “easiest, cleanest, simplest” one and indeed it looks minimalistic in a positive way. Feedly and Pulse may seem a bit bloated already for many so I guess some

people will want to try a really simple reader instead with lots of white space and an interface with fewer features.

I have found out about the Curata Reader pretty late, just a few days ago so I haven’t been using it much yet but I’ve already noticed some issues with my own site:

twitter-feedproxy-curata

This is the way one of my posts gets shared over at Twitter when you click that option on Curata. Instead of the actual URL or a short link you get the clumsy Feedburner URL that’s basically a redirect. This is not good style and you lose out some link juice and social media love because of this. Again, I have to consider to finally stop using Feedburner.

 

Conclusion

You have to check your feed and its display on each of the common Google Reader alternatives now. Look out for third party services interfering with your feed. Zemanta and Feedburner are good examples. While Zemanta may fix it in the near future there is little hope that Google will fix Feedburner issues.

 

* Creative Commons image by carnagenyc