An immense amount of data is generated every day across the web. In numbers, 571 new websites are created and 347 new WordPress blog posts are published every minute.
Understandably, going through new content and pulling out what is relevant, can be a challenge. This is where RSS comes in.
What is RSS?
It has been said that RSS is a kind of glue that binds web content, social networks and media together. And it’s easy to see why. Also referred to as Rich Site Summary, or Really Simple Syndication, RSS is a protocol that allows people to share and read content without having to regularly visit a website to see what’s new.
RSS feeds are automatically generated by blogs, news sources and online publications and are available in a standardised format that makes it simple for readers to access and keep up with their favourite news and updates quickly and easily. In short, subscribing to RSS feeds from established sites is an easy way of gathering valuable content, which can be read at leisure or published and shared on your website.
How do I use RSS feeds?
The majority of sites that publish new content regularly have a link to their RSS feed within their site, identified by a bright orange icon.
Clicking on the icon will take you to the feed URL, which can be used in a number of ways. If you would simply like to keep up to date with the latest news from that particular website, just paste the URL into an RSS Reeder, such as feedly.
Additionally, if you manage or own a website targeting a particular niche, it could be helpful to include a section displaying the latest news and updates from other relevant sources – something that can be achieved through WP RSS Aggregator.
What is WP RSS Aggregator?
The core WP RSS Aggregator plugin is free and allows you to import RSS and Atom feeds within your WordPress dashboard, make any needed tweaks or changes and publish on your WordPress site. The plugin is ideal for news, information or community sites, whose audiences are used to fresh, relevant content on a daily basis.
A number of premium add-ons that add more functionality to the core plugin are also available for purchase.
How do I use it?
Installing the core, as well as the premium plugins, is easy. Just download the plugin, install and activate. Once this process is complete, the following menu will appear within your dashboard.
The core plugin offers the basic functionality that allows you to import multiple RSS feeds from any website and publish these on your website through a short code.
You can either use the WP RSS Aggregator shortcode or call the display function within your theme.
A recently launched feature includes added styling options for when using WP RSS Aggregator shortcode to display the imported feed items. All code is in CSS format and can be copied directly into your theme or child theme’s stylesheet.
Through the WP RSS Aggregator settings you can also make a number of tweaks to the way feed items are displayed, such as limiting the number of items per feed, showing or hiding the feed source and date, and setting the feed import time interval.
Any changes that you make within the plugin will take effect immediately on the front-end of your website, which is brilliant as it allows you to implement changes quickly and efficiently.
If you need to expand on the features and functionality provided by the core plugin or would like to have more control, there are a number of powerful add-ons that can be purchased, either individually or more conveniently in a bundle format. The add-ons will be covered in more detail below.
If you import feed items from many different sources, this add-on will prove to be quite helpful as it allows you to assign categories to specific feed sources. By making use of the WP RSS Aggregator shortcode, you can then choose to display either one particular category of feed items or multiple categories.
This premium add-on is especially useful if you would like to add a visual dimension to your feed items. Rather than just showing titles and links, a thumbnail image from the source article will be automatically added (when available) and will be accompanied by a short summary from the feed. Within the plugin settings you can make additional tweaks such as changing the image size or excerpt length and adding social media buttons.
If you would like to filter feeds based on a specific topic or subject area before publishing them, the Keyword Filtering add-on is very useful. You can import and publish feed items or posts that include specific keywords, phrases or tags either within the title or the content. You can also exclude content based on certain keywords or phrases.
Feed items can be filtered through the shortcode. Keyword preferences can be defined either on a global level through the RSS Aggregator settings, at an individual feed source level or at a Page/Post level.
The widget is the most recent premium WP RSS Aggregator add-ons to be launched. Through this add-on you can add a widget to any section of your WordPress site to display a list of imported feed items. The widget is super easy to add – once the add-on has been installed you will find a WP RSS Aggregator Widget added to the Available Widgets section within the Widgets page. Simply drag and drop the widget to the area on your site where you would like your widget to be added.
Within the widget you can make a number of tweaks including changing the number of feeds to display, choosing whether to display the name and source and apply different colour style options.
To enhance its visual appeal, the add-on can also be used in combination with the Excerpts and Thumbnails add-on to display the excerpt and/or thumbnails for feed items.
The only downside is that you cannot currently use the Widget in combination with the Categories or Keyword Filtering add-ons, that is, the feed items displaying within the widget will be pulled from across all the live feed sources. After getting in touch with the WP RSS Aggregator support about this, I have been informed that these features are being worked on and are planned to be released within the next updates.
If you are planning on publishing actual content from feeds, rather than just including an excerpt or a link, you will find this a very powerful add-on. In a nutshell, it allows you to import specific feed items from your sources and publish them as posts, custom post types or pages within your WordPress site. It is a great feature for auto-blogging as you can just enter an RSS feed from a particular site and let WP RSS Aggregator automatically fetch that content and publish it on your blog.
The default service is limited to 5 feed items per feed source, with results being cached for 20 minutes. For unlimited feed items and no caching, it would be worthwhile considering the Full Text RSS Feeds add-on together with the Feed to Post add-on.
The add-on provides a good number of options for how the imported content is managed and presented, for example you can set Post Type, Post Status, Post Format and Post Date, choose to enable or disable comments and change author and image settings. You can also opt to import the full post content even if the feed author has set it to only display an excerpt.
Once this add-on is activated, the Excerpts and Thumbnails add-on will be disabled and all feed sources within WP RSS Aggregator will automatically inherit the feed-to-post setting, with Post Type set as ‘Post’ and Post Status set to ‘Draft’.
If you would like to retain an element of flexibility and still wish to use regular Feed Items with Feed to Post, you can re-enable these from RSS Aggregator > Settings > Feed to Post, using the Legacy Feed Items option.
Support and Documentation
Working with WP RSS Aggregator is a breeze thanks to the use of the WordPress native UI – the integration between the plugin and the rest of WordPress is seamless. Configuring and tweaking plugins is very straightforward as settings are well described.
Having said that, if you require access to documentation there is a very comprehensive documentation section that addresses queries in a very structured and easy-to-understand format.
I also got in touch with the WP RSS Aggregator support team for a number of requests and even though they advertise a response time of 48 hours, I received replies much more quickly, usually in less than 3 hours during weekdays.
The premium add-ons can either be purchased individually or as part of a bundle: the Simple Feeds Bundle or the Advanced Feeds Bundle. Besides the obvious cost savings (around 25% compared to the individual prices) going for one of the bundles makes sense as it means that you have everything you need either to get started or to take things to the next level. Considering the amount of work that the premium add-ons can save you, they are also competitively priced, especially if you own five sites or more.
When purchasing either the individual add-ons or the bundle, you are entitled to free support and updates for one year. After the first year, license keys are renewed at a 30% discount.
Conclusions and Recommendations
With almost 400,000 plugin downloads since its launch early in 2012, WP RSS Aggregator is undoubtedly one of the most popular RSS Feed Management plugins for WordPress.
Although the free core plugin offers basic functionality, complementing this with some of the premium add-ons, provides you with a quick and easy way of integrating external content within your WordPress site, in any way, shape or form imaginable and most importantly, in an automated fashion. The Feed to Post plugin in particular, stands out, especially for those looking to auto-blog as it offers many different options for how to import, categorise and publish content.
The only thing to keep in mind is server performance. For example, if you set short feed processing intervals (say 15 or 30 minutes) your server will need to check for feed updates more frequently and that will probably have an impact on performance and will be something that you need to account for.
All in all the WP RSS Aggregator plugin is great plugin to use. If you consider the multitude of scenarios where it can be used – displaying latest news, job listings, auto-blogging, recent blog posts, running a news website – it is nothing short of fascinating.