I have an RSS feed enabled on a forum on one of my sites.
I have noticed that one site in particular lists practically every post from my forum on its pages, along with feeds from many other sites. It only publishes the 150 words that I allow the feeds to have and links back to my site, but with a no_follow tag attached.
There is no original content on those pages and it plasters those pages with adsense ads and ocassionally even comes close to my site in search results for certain words.
OK. This scenario is nothing new. But I have always wondered what the advantage of allowing RSS feeds is for content publishers such as myself?
Does RSS generate traffic? Inbound links? Or is it really counterproductive?
That's a big part of the argument for not posting a full RSS feed. You're just providing a rich source of content for the scrapers. However, you can alleviate a lot of the problems if you take an active position on blocking scrapers [google.com]. Admittedly it can be a bit of a challenge to keep up with the scrapers, but what are your alternatives?
You have to ask your users if they're really using your forum feeds. You can certainly let the SEs spider your forums without feeds. Personally I've never found forum feeds usable. If I want to read a forum I'll go to the website.
Look at it this way... If your site provides timely, regularly updated, original content, then that's great fodder for an RSS feed. That's the sort of feed I would add to my aggregator. That's the sort of traffic you want.
I don't know many people who would want to read a forum in their aggregator. If it was an extremely low volume forum I might be able to see this as a way to keep up with a topic, but there are other more efficient ways to do that.
I get the feeling that a lot of these RSS generator programs are fostering the wrong kind of traffic. The scrapers are the biggest example of this.
To echo Bill, Why have RSS if you don't want people doing exactly that? It sounds like your RSS is doing exactly what RSS was designed to do.
Just like those publications that scrape together all the various government auctions, and presents them to you, or the mapping sites that use TIGER data to give you maps and directions, the aggregators provide a service.
I put RSS on my sites so that people can get my data without having to visit my site. I design the RSS blurb so that they have the information they need to determine whether or not to follow the link to my site for elucidation.
In any case, it looks like you need to figure out whether or not you actually want RSS on your site. I don't consider RSS as a service to me. I consider it a service to my users.