The WP RSS Aggregator plugin keeps growing in popularity having reached a total of 400,000 downloads, and there are more plans to grow it further.
Being the Project Lead for WP RSS Aggregator I always look for different ways of implementing it, so I used my resources to create the best WordPress news dashboard possible, all powered by our WP RSS Aggregator plugin and its add-ons (and a few other plugins to take care of the minor tasks).
We Live in a World where Content is King
We’ve all heard the saying by now; content is king, and whether you’re tired of hearing it or not, it still holds true. However, you don’t want just any content; it has to be good, quality content that provides value.
In the world of social media that we live in today we’re bombarded by new content every second, some of it good, some of it bad. It’s hard or almost impossible to keep up with everything that’s going on in the world, and the same can be said for the WordPress community.
There are so many great WordPress resources out there nowadays that are constantly bringing us the latest news or publishing great tutorials that it has become a job in itself to keep up with all of them. There needs to be a way to keep track of all these incredible sources without it being a hassle.
Hence, the Birth of WP News Desk
WP News Desk is a WordPress site that provides you with all the latest WordPress news from around the world. It showcases the latest posts from over 85 of the top WordPress websites; be it a WordPress blog, a personal blog, or a tech blog that has a category dedicated to WordPress. It also includes a separate section dedicated to WordPress podcasts that is constantly updated with all the latest episodes.
WP News Desk began as a means of showcasing the power of the WP RSS Aggregator plugin and it’s add-ons, while also providing you, the WordPress blogger, enthusiast, developer or whatever you might call yourself, with a central space where you can keep up to date with all the latest happenings in the WordPress world.
Although similar sites already exist, we wanted to create a news dashboard that streamlines the sources to only the best ones out there, ensuring that you only get the very best content that’s published across the web (in relation to WordPress, of course).
The Steps Taken to Create WP News Desk
The process of creating the WP News Desk site isn’t a hard one. In fact, WP RSS Aggregator simplifies it tremendously since the majority of the time will actually be taken up by adding and curating the feed sources. Here are the steps we took in putting it all together (besides getting the domain name, hosting, etc).
Step 1: Set Up WP RSS Aggregator
Install WP RSS Aggregator and its Add-ons
The Feed to Post add-on is what allows us to import the feed items from RSS feeds as WordPress posts and have them displayed within our blog, while the Full Text RSS add-on is used to bring in the featured images for those sources that don’t provide them within their RSS feeds.
Add the License Keys
Once the plugins are installed it’s important to add the license keys for the premium add-ons. This is important to keep receiving updates and support, but it’s also a requirement for the Full Text RSS Feeds add-on to work.
Set Up the General Settings
Once the plugins are installed it’s time to select the General Settings. Here we went ahead and set an age limit of 2 months that will be applied to all sources, unless told otherwise in the feed source’s settings, and we also set a Feed Processing Interval of 2 hours, meaning new posts are fetched every couple of hours.
Apart from that, the Feed to Post settings were also set to the options that we wanted applied to all feed sources as they were created. The most important ones included setting the Post Type to blog posts, using canonical links, setting the author to use to be the one provided in the feeds, and setting the featured image to be the first image in the content, with a fallback to the feed image as a last resort.
Set Up the Categories
To ensure that you’re kept up to date with every bit of WordPress news out there we decided to introduce podcasts into the mix too, so we created a separate section within WP News Desk that caters only for WordPress-related podcasts.
This was done using the normal WordPress post categories. In fact all that was needed here was to create the categories required for the sources we intended to include, and we could then apply them to the various sources individually.
Apply Some Customizations
In order to get the desired behaviour in all areas of the site we used our WP RSS Aggregator filters. These allowed us to make all the imported posts’ titles link directly back to the original source. This was always our intention since we wanted the original authors to get all the credit (and traffic) that they deserve.
All it took was adding a filter to the theme’s functions.php file, along with another filter that allowed us to remove the Podcasts category from the regular blog and display it in a separate section of the site.
Add the Feed Sources
The final step for WP RSS Aggregator was to add the feed sources, apply the individual settings for each source, occasionally adding a fallback featured image for those sources that don’t always include an image within their post’s content, and then publish the feed sources to start importing the posts.
That was it for WP RSS Aggregator. The feed sources would now have their latest posts fetched every so often and the WP News Desk blog would continue getting updated for as long as the plugin is running.
Step 2: Add Complimentary Plugins
Besides WP RSS Aggregator we also opted to install a few other plugins that would allow for the smooth running of WP News Desk. First of all, in order to ensure that WordPress, the plugins as well as our themes are kept up to date we installed the Advanced Automatic Updates plugin.
Quick Featured Images is a plugin we use often alongside WP RSS Aggregator as a means of adding a featured image column to the Posts list. This allows us to quickly identify which posts and sources have no featured images set in order to be able to rectify it as quickly as possible.
Since we wanted feedback from our visitors while also giving them a chance to suggest new sources, we opted to install the free Ninja Forms plugin, and it works great. Yoast SEO was then our go-to option to take care of the website’s SEO options, and BackupBuddy takes care of performing backups. Last but not least, Jetpack allows us to keep track of our site stats and does a few other minor tasks too.
Step 3: Launch the Site
All that was left now was to launch the site and to start letting the world know about it.
At this point you could be thinking that this might just be a one time job – a set it and forget it kind of site. Well, no, I don’t believe any website could be that way.
While we have already curated the sources whose posts are displayed on WP News Desk, it still requires some curation and attention in order to keep it running smoothly and consistently.
What will the Community Think ?
So far the response to WP News Desk has been great, with multiple visitors getting in touch to either suggest a source or let us know what they think about the site. At this point I feel that it’s important to point out that, as explained on WP News Desk itself, we’re not simply importing content from other sources and making it our own (i.e. stealing it), rather the contrary in fact.
The WP RSS Aggregator plugin allows us to import all new posts to WP News Desk, display them within the blog with the source name, author name and publish date all clearly shown, and all the while always linking back directly to the original post.
As soon as a visitor clicks on a post title, featured image or meta data, that person is taken directly to the post on the original source’s website. This ensures that the authors get the credit they deserve while also providing the original source with the traffic it earned.
What WE Took Out of This
It also proved to be a good exercise for us to find any weak points within WP RSS Aggregator that we could work on for our next updates.
The main point that was made clear was that we should look to include a way to add multiple sources at one go (we already have and made use of Bulk Import for this) while also applying the same feed source settings for all of them. Possibly this could also be done through the duplication of sources.
If you think you know of any other areas where we can improve WP RSS Aggregator or the process of creating a news aggregation website with it, we’d be more than happy to hear your feedback. In fact our support team is always eager to listen to new ideas, as are our developers, so please do get in touch.
Have a News Source to Suggest?
We’re always looking for ways to improve WP News Desk and to bring you, the readers, the widest variety of WordPress-related news around, so if you’d like to suggest a new source all you have to do is to fill out this form.