For years, WordPress users have enjoyed a collection of powerful plugins that have helped them either block or mitigate against spammers and RSS scrapers.
Whether it is a matter of using Copyfeed to stop scrapers, Digital Fingerprints to track them or Feed footer plugins to turn them into advertising, self-hosted WordPress users have had a slew of options
Blogger users, however, have not been so fortunate. The hosted nature of the service makes it impossible to block spammers and the limited formatting options has, historically, made it very difficult to manipulate the feed.
However, I was recently tipped off to a little-known feature of Blogspot that enables users to insert any HTML they want into the footer of their feed, thus giving them opportunities for protecting and tracking their feed that may not exist otherwise.
Editing the Feed Footer
Editing the contents of your feed footer is surprisingly easy, if one knows where to look.
First, visit your dashboard and, for the blog you want to edit, click on “settings”.
Once in that tab, click on the “Site Feed” subtab.
After that, you’re taken to a series of options for your feed. In addition to being able to set your feed to full or partial and redirect it to a Feedburner account, you also have the option of adding a footer to each post in your feed.
There, you can insert any text or HTML that you want to appear at the footer of every post in your RSS feed. It is important to note though that this is strict HTML, meaning you need to close your tags, including slashes after line breaks, in order for this to work correctly.
However, this has the ability to be one of Blogspots most powerful features and, to those worried about scraping and spamming, one of the most useful.
Things You Can Do
There are many great ways that you can use this feature and at least three ways you should consider making it work for you.
- Digital Fingerprint: Place a unique string of letters and numbers, between 8 and 16 characters long, in the block and then set up a Google Alert to monitor it. Google will email you when it detects a site on which your fingerprint appears, thus pointing you to a likely scraper.
- Copyright Footer: Put a copyright notice in the box with your site’s information and licensing information in the footer so that any sites that scrape your feed will also carry with it correct attribution and information.
- Advertising: Use the footer to place links back to your site or any services you provide so that spammers will be helping to promote you. This may not work in many cases though as a lot of spammers strip out links and other HTML.
Though what step or steps you choose to take with this feature is up to you, using any of these techniques would be more productive than leaving it blank.
After all, this is a feature that requires almost no time to use and places no meaningful burden on your readers, it is clearly worth doing something with it, even if it just using it as promotion.
Some More Good News
Many will be quick to point out that these exact features can be achieved by using FeedBurner FeedFlare. While this is true, FeedFlares are very routinely stripped out by spammers as they contain code that aids in the tracking of RSS usage as well as links that can harm the usefulness of the site for search engine spamming.
However, according to the tipster that let me know about this feature, he sees these footers being removed far less than the FeedFlares, which he also uses.
While this is far from a scientific study, it would make since considering that FeedFlares are more common and share similar code elements, giving spammers both the motivation and the means to filter them out when doing automated scraping.
Users of Google’s Blogger service still don’t have a lot of the features that self-hosted bloggers do when it comes to protecting their content. For example, this will not do anything to block spammers, just add content to what they scrape.
Still, this feature might do something to help track scrapers and mitigate against the damage that they can do, helping to level the playing field a little bit.
Even if you have no intention of using this tool to protect your content, it has many other applications that should be considered.
In short, no matter how you feel about scraping and spamming, if you’re a Blogspot user, there is no reason to leave that box empty.
The video below is from a marketer who is using this feature for promotional purposes. However, it still provides a great overview of how the feature works.
- Bloggingtips (Another neat idea, adding subscriber-only content)
- What further steps can Blogspot take to prevent scraping of its legitimate users?
- If you are a Blogspot users, does this make you feel better about the service?
- How does Blogspot stack up against other hosted services, including WordPress.com?