How to Properly Redirect Your RSS Feed

Not Doing So May Negatively Affect Your Blog

By Published on .

This has been an ongoing issue -- on and off the Power 150 -- and can have serious ramifications to how your blog is ranked. There seems to be a lot of (mis)information about this online, so let's see if we can settle the score here.

Not Creating a Forwarding Address

If you're switching hosts, or moving your feed to a new service, you are seriously prone to mis-representing your blog (and not just on the Power 150).

This point is well worth underscoring. If your blog changes the URL of its feed, and stops syndicating content to the old feed address, many site-ranking metrics will not detect the change. Why? Because you haven't provided a forwarding address -- you simply moved without telling anyone, so don't be surprised if spiders don't know where your new feed lives.

Worse, you may now have two addresses on file: one that's been abandoned and a second that's receiving frequent updates. In other words: you may have two separate feeds that are ranked completely differently. If your blog is still being associated with the abandoned feed, then you can be sure to watch your scores plummet. (And who needs that?)

301 Redirects: Register your Change of Address

So, you've changed URLs and need to broadcast where your new feed resides. A good way to do so is to redirect any requests for your feed's old URL to your feed's new URL. The best way to perform these redirects is called a 301 redirect ("301" meaning "Moved Permanently" in HTTP-speak). I'm sure many of you have heard about these, but I'm certain even more of you are not employing them.

The way it basically works is like this:

  1. A client makes an HTTP request for your old RSS feed
  2. Your old RSS feed responds saying something like: "The URL you're requesting has been permanently moved to this new address
  3. The client making the request is seamlessly redirected to the new address

Furthermore: web clients (such as browsers, spiders and RSS readers), now know that your feed as been permanently moved because they've officially been told. Your RSS subscriptions are up-to-speed, and your blog's ranking happily reflects reality.

How to Employ a 301 Redirect

If your server runs Apache, you can employ .htaccess to redirect requests from your old feed to your new feed. If you're using PHP to generate your feeds, you can add this to the top of your script:

header($_SERVER['SERVER_PROTOCOL'] . ' 301 Moved Permanently');
header('Status: 301 Moved Permanently');
header('Location: http://www.yoursite.com/path-to-your-new-rss-feed');
exit();

If you don't use Apache or PHP, don't fret: there are plenty of guidelines available online.

How to Properly Create a Feedburner Account

If you've followed our guidelines on using Feedburner to manage your feeds (which we doubt, but humor us), then you should already know that pointing readers directly to your Feedburner URL is a Bad Thingâ„¢. But, don't take our word for it -- Feedburner suggests the same thing; especially if you should ever decide to stop using Feedburner.

Remember: Feedburner doesn't create your actual feed -- you do -- Feedburner simply reports on it, and does some other nifty things (like, re-syndicating your content and allowing you to sell ads against your feed). In order to not skew your site's ranking, you need to properly employ a 302 redirect from your feed over to Feedburner URL, then provide us with the URL for your feed, not the Feedburner URL.

Yes, that's a 302 in this case. Both the Power 150 and Feedburner recommend that you use a 302 redirect -- a "temporary" redirect -- rather than a permanent one, because you don't actually own Feedburner's URL. From Feedburner's blog post:

In order to take full advantage of FeedBurner's feed statistics, publishers often redirect requests for their feed to the FeedBurner version of their feed. In some cases, this is accomplished via a setting (TypePad) or a plugin (WordPress, Drupal, others). In other cases, you need to do a little server configuration. Server-based redirects are a powerful tool in a publisher's toolbox, but publishers should take care to redirect properly. There are two general redirect methods – a "302" (aka "temporary") redirect and a "301" (aka "permanent") redirect. The recommended approach is a 302 – that means that your URL remains the authoritative location for the feed. Should you ever decide to move your feed off of FeedBurner, that means that aggregators and search engines will continue to check your URL rather than go directly to FeedBurner.

We've already taken steps to stabilize your site's ranking, and will be rolling out some new metrics shortly, but we are indefatigable in our continuing quest to ensure that your blog's rankings are as accurate as they can be. Even if you should ever decide to walk away from the Power 150, maintaining accuracy on how your site ranks is something we imagine you'd be interested in maintaining.

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