Last year, we explained why full text RSS feeds make sense
. You can read the whole thing, but the short version is that it makes it easier to read, and that means more people actually read the full stories and are willing to discuss them, share them and get others interested in reading as well. It just makes the reading experience that much better. We've always had full text RSS feeds, and we're not about to change that. However, it appears that Google may be punishing sites that have full text feeds. A concerned reader pointed us to the news that the magazine Mental Floss has reluctantly ditched its full text feeds because Google banned the site
and told them the only way to get back in was to get rid of the full text feeds
: Matt Cutts from Google has responded in the comments
and explained what happened. Turns out, despite the original post, it had nothing to do with full text RSS feeds, but the site was hacked. I'm glad that's been cleared up now (and thanks to the multiple Google employees who quickly responded to this post).
The "problem," according to Google, was that there were plenty of sites republishing Mental Floss's feeds, and Google's anti-spam algorithm supposedly uses that as an indication of spam. Of course, rather than figuring out which is the real site, it simply bans them all. This concerns me for a variety of reasons. The reason we publish a full text RSS feed is to make it easier for anyone to do what they want with our content -- even if it's republishing it. There are a bunch of sites that republish our RSS feed (some in the mistaken belief that such sites would get us upset at the "copyright infringement"). Those sites are harmless for the most part. Either they get no traffic at all, or they end up driving more traffic to us. That's great. But, it's a bit troublesome that Google might potentially disappear us from their entire index just because we publish a full text feed and someone else uses that feed exactly as they're supposed to.
I could understand if the deletion of Mental Floss from the index was simply a mistake, and upon being alerted to it, they restored the site. But the fact that Google's response was to tell Mental Floss to ditch the full text feeds is worrisome. What makes this even more ridiculous is that Feedburner, which is owned by Google, tells people that full text feeds are better. So, you have part of Google telling people to use full text feeds, and another part of Google punishing them for doing so.