RSS Feeds and SEO

Negative SEO Impact of RSS Feeds

Don't feed spammers with RSS feeds!

Did you know? Every post on WordPress is being automatically duplicated – the URL gets a suffix “/feed.” For example, if you create a post called “yoururl.com/our-services”, WordPress automatically creates another duplicate for it and calls it “yoururl.com/our-service/feed.”

Many SEOs know about this, but they don’t pay much attention to it because they know Google is not paying much attention it either. So, they think, it doesn’t have any meaning for Google, it’s not an SEO issue.

Wrong!

Today, I will talk about negative SEO effects of feeds overall, if you have them on your website.

WordPress Automatic Feeds – SEOs Worst Nightmare

The automatic feed generator of WordPress and other CMS makes your content crawlable for so-called feed readers.

10-15 years ago, people used to subscribe to feeds. But it’s 2024 already and subscribing to feeds is old as the hills.

  • When was the last time you have used an RSS feed reader?
  • Do you have one on your phone?
  • Do you even know or remember what RSS stands for?

Sure, 15 years ago I knew exactly what RSS stood for. If you ask me today… what was it? Real Soft Simplification? Rich Site Structure? Rich Simple Script?

I don’t want to remember, because RSS is so obsolete!

However, many CMS, and especially WordPress still use them for unknown reasons. Many would also say you should keep your RSS on your website if you use your CMS as a real blog.

Wrong again. And I will tell you why:

The real problem is that feeds cause spam, and eventually help to downrank and diminish your website!

If you’re an SEO and haven’t heard about this, you might ask: “Whooot?”.

Sure, let me explain why WordPress and any other feed-based system is destroying your website with these feeds from an SEO standpoint.

The SEO Disadvantages of Feeds

The only group left that still uses feeds are spammers across the Web. And these spammers just love feeds. By providing feeds on your website, you are inviting spam websites to easily crawl your content. While crawling like Google requires a sophisticated web crawler, crawling feeds is easy as pie. A child could program a crawler that scrapes the feeds from your articles in no time. The reason for this is that feeds are based on XML – a machine readable and standardized concept that was introduced by Tim Berners-Lee, the same guy who invented the Word Wide Web. His vision was to make the whole web crawlable. “The feed” makes your article structured and standardized.

However, XML today is not very wide spread on the surface web. It’s being utilized nowadays for many other purposes such as APIs, but let’s stick to the topic.

Those who use them on their websites to provide easily-crawlable content leave a door open for spammers worldwide to steal their content.

Basically, crawling shouldn’t be made that easy, so we leave this job to big search engines such as Google. Why make it easy for anybody to crawl your website by providing feeds? And that’s the problem: If you do, spammers will crawl your website to steal your content. And that’s what happens by providing feeds.

How Spammers Use Feeds to Steal Your Content

Shady web directories, spam search engines and similar bizarre websites made it their business model to crawl feed-based websites because it’s so easy to do. If your website has existed for some time and offers feeds, it’s likely that it has already been indexed by these shady websites. You might have noticed that your images and texts can be found as teasers on many other websites that look like search engines, domain review websites, press websites, and whatnot. All disguised themselves to somehow look legit, but in fact their only purpose is to steal third-party content – your content!

They even don’t pay attention to Robots Exclusion (robots.txt) as many of them do not necessarily are bond to the law of your country. In developed countries, it’s copyright infringement if someone crawls websites that forbid crawling through Robots Exclusion or meta data such as noindex, etc.

Just query some of your content on Google, and in a second you will see how many copies of your text already exist on the Web. What’s worse: by stealing your content, these websites are creating duplicates – the worst nightmare of any SEO. Many of them also create backlinks to your website. As many of these websites are already considered spam by Google, these backlinks are hurting you as well (I talked about this in this article: “SEO Backlink Building with Google“)

How to Avoid These Spammers

  • Disable Feeds
    The first thing you should do is to disable the feed feature, so WordPress or any other CMS you’re using stops providing them. Basically, stop feeding spammers with feeds. Speaking of WordPress: as there is no way of doing this through WordPress, you have to install a plugin that does the job for you. The Disable Feed Plugin by Samir Shah is one of the most used and secure plugins as of 2024. It simple redirects all /feed/ back to the post or page. And it’s free – install it, activate it – mission accomplished.
  • Update Robots.txt
    One other method is to allow only popular search engines to crawl your website through the Robots Exclusion robots.txt. However, this might have only a minor effect as spammers don’t care much for what is in the robots.txt.
    Once you have deactivated feeds, it’s unlikely the spam bots will crawl your website. As these spamming people don’t have the skills to program complex crawlers, they just look out for easy crawlable and XML-based websites: feeds. And as long as millions of other websites offer feeds, they will just stay away from your content.

And here you go: without feeds, your website will be crawled by the big search engines which don’t care much about if you have XML and feeds or not. And you keep your door locked for these intruders who can only access your website through XML and feeds.

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About the Author
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr. William Sen CEO and founder of Blue Media

Dr. William Sen has been an SEO since 2001 and is a Software Engineer since 1996, and has been teaching as an Associate Professor for some of the world's biggest universities. William has studied International Business at the University of California, Berkeley and among others holds a PhD in Information Sciences. He has worked for brands such as Expedia, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Bayer, Ford, T-Mobile and many more.

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pop man 3 years ago

I want to know if this is normal. I disabled feed and since my site disappears from google


Scott 3 years ago

I have to say, I agree with Chris.
1. I use RSS ( Really Simple Syndication ) to aggregate posts from publishers I trust. What is the alternative? Social Media? No thanks.
2. Criminals don't need RSS to steal content. Thieves are going to steal, regardless. Happens all the time, even without RSS. Why make legitimate users suffer because there are criminals?
3. Google is pretty good at determining spammy links. As an SEO, you should spend time disavowing spam backlinks.

Fight crime, not technology.


Chris 3 years ago

Got to say I disagree with most of your conclusions and while the RSS tech is outdated, there's generally cons and pros to any tool and feature. You seem to focus only on the potential negatives, when the truth is likely somewhere in between and in some cases might even be a positive for some sites. On top of that anyone that want to steal content for anything more "fake/real" would likely anyway be so selective that they'd create a custom scrape of the sites they steal from no matter there being RSS feeds available or not (almost anyone can do that as well).


Sergey Svettsov 3 years ago

You forgot about crawling budget, google always scan these pages, but not takes to index,
and if you look at log file ...

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