WordPress RSS feeds have two built-in options: full content or an excerpt. You can custom write the excerpt of each article or let it be automatically created out of the first 200 words or so. Unfortunately, I was finding with the full content feed that blog scrapers would just plug your feed, amongst others, into their site and have your content populate their site. This was beyond just aggregation and they tried to pass it off as their own and surround it with ads for profit. Duplicate content on the web results in penalties from Google and other search engine rankings.
I have been content using the excerpt but I have wanted to be able to include the WordPress Featured Image along with the RSS to make the teaser more eye-catching. Especially now that I am using Dlvr.it to auto-post updates to Facebook and Twitter, the thumbnail makes the Facebook post and RSS feed entry more informative and hopefully more likely to be clicked.
My setup includes WordPress configured under Settings > Reading for “For each article in a feed, show:” Summary. Unfortunately, using the excerpt for the RSS feed does not include the featured image or any image by default. You can change the functions.php file in your theme to allow it but I like to avoid that when possible or else you might have to make the change after each update to the theme.
To include the image in the RSS feed even with an excerpt, I installed the plugin for WordPress called RSS Image Feed. It is straight forward with only a single setting to configure, the image size. The RSS Image Feed settings are found under the Plugins menu on the WordPress administrative side. With the plugin installed, the first image from your post is included in the feed. There are other plugins available with slightly different behaviors like using the featured image or using an image designated in a custom field.
I then take the RSS feed, which I have piping through Feedburner, and have it set in Dlvr.it to deliver the full content with the Thumbnail Style setting on the Facebook destination set to “Auto-detected from Item Content”.
Finally, a post is automatically made to Facebook and it includes the thumbnail from the article.
I had one bug with the process from my theme. It used the_excerpt function to populate the meta tags for hopefully better SEO. By including the image html tag, it broke the meta tag and the image and excerpt were actually shown at the top of every article on 404TS. I hopped into the theme editor and changed the meta description to use the title of the post instead of the image.
From: <meta name=”description” content=”<?php the_excerpt(); ?>” />
To: <meta name=”description” content=”<?php the_title(); ?>” />
Now everything is settled, with my articles now appearing correctly and the image being included with my feed. I might look into some of the other plugins to see if their behavior is more desirable but unfortunately many of them haven’t been updated in a while. Let me know if you have any recommendations for a plugin that is working well for you.