5 Tips for Branding Your RSS Feed

I had a disturbing realization last night: I no longer know where most of the blog posts I read come from. As readers of this site will know, I am a huge fan of RSS feeds. I think RSS readers are one of the true heroes of the internet, and I have spent a lot of time customizing the feeds I get, frequency of updates, and display order so I get most of my news now in a very personalized, very useful format.

As I realized last night, it's possible I may have been too successful in setting my reader up. My realization was prompted by my wife mentioning a post I sent her from a particular blog. I remembered the post and I remembered sending it to her, but I had no idea I had read that blog that day. I read something and liked it enough to share it, and didn't know who wrote it.

Thinking about what had happened, I realized the problem was a lack of branding. Most of the feeds display within the reader, so I rarely visit an external site, and stripped of all the original website's branding. So how can you keep company branding in a post that will be stripped down to plain text? Here are five tips:

1. Continue offering full-text posts. Many blogs solve the problem by providing just the title and maybe a teaser via RSS feed, forcing you to visit their site for the body of the post. For sites that are ad-supported or have server limitations (as ours currently does) this makes sense. For most sites, though, I recommend against doing this. Posts have a much higher read-rate when readers do not need to go to another website, especially mobile users.

2. Include a distinctive signature. This is probably the easiest fix. Many successful bloggers have developed a distinctive sign-off line, signature, or logo (it has to be in the body of the post) that gets used at the bottom of every post. If I enjoyed a post enough to read all the way through it, I know who wrote it.

3. Use branded language. Got a particular turn of phrase you like? A good company slogan? Use them. More importantly, be consistent in the way you discuss your company and products. Do you sell "bricks" or "masonry"? Do you use post-industrial or pre-consumer recycled content? Hopefully you are already doing this in your marketing literature - if not, send me an email - and it's important to continue across your entire online presence.

4. Format post titles. I always know when I am reading one of the Gizmodo blogs because the posts show up like this recent post from Lifehacker: The Best Photography Apps for Your Android [Android]. The bracket tag at the end of the post sometimes gets silly, but it is a consistent element that I have learned to recognize.

5. Link to other pages on your site. When possible, link to previous posts or other resources on your website that pertain to the topic you are discussing. ReadWriteWeb is very good at this. Even ignoring any SEO benefits (see what I did there?) the links might provide, they serve a valuable purpose because when I click on one, it creates one of two effects: either I realize I am reading one of your posts, or I assume you are enough of an expert that some other blog is linking to your site. Either result is beneficial to you. Don't overdo it though; that gets tacky.

Most people probably do not subscribe to so many RSS feeds - yet - that individual blogs get lost in the tide. The people that do, though, are some of your biggest assets in a social media campaign. It is vital that they can identify the posts that come from you.