Friday, June 6, 2008

What is an RSS feed?

Today’s post is for those of you who aren’t sure what an RSS feed is, how you can use one and what the advantages of RSS feeds are.

For those of you “In the Know” who regularly read (and subscribe to my RSS feed) and who are involved in businesses that revolve around the Internet, websites, blogging and articles – I’d love for you to leave your feedback or advice to newbie’s in the comments!

When I spoke at the Monterey Bay Consultants Group in April about blogging, I remember one of the questions asked from the group was, “Who has time to check and read all of these blogs?” It was a great question. I answered the question with my method of deciding which blog posts to read and that is by looking at my RSS feed. Some of the members of the group had no idea what I was talking about. I then took the opportunity to explain to them what it is and how I use it.

Let me break it down as simple as possible for you here:

RSS stands for “Real Simple Syndication” and people use “RSS feeds” to distribute and gather information from throughout the Internet. If you have content on your website or blog that you are continually updating, you can set up an RSS feed for the information. Subscribers to your RSS feed can then receive your updates via their “RSS feed reader”. That still sounds confusing doesn’t it? Let me go further into it…

Let’s say you are into celebrity gossip and you love to know what’s going on all the time (I know, it’s shallow – but the best example I could think of that the majority of readers can relate to). Every day you visit PerezHilton.com, popsugar.com, tmz.com and many of the other celebrity gossip sites. You could spend all day sifting through the many posts and all the content to get to the information that you personally are interested in. With an RSS feed reader, you could be updated continually with the posts from all of the sites in one place and click on only the ones you would like to read.

I’m sure you’ve seen the standard orange “RSS” symbol. Usually, where you see that symbol, that’s where you’ll click to “Subscribe” to a feed. When you subscribe to a feed, you can then send the feed to your “Reader”.

Readers” are also known as “Feed Aggregator”, “Feed Reader”, “News Reader” or just “Aggregator”. These readers are web applications or software, which aggregate syndicated web content including podcasts, blogs and news headlines all in one location so you can easily view them.

I currently use Google Reader. It lets me know when the blogs that I read have new posts and I can choose which ones to click on and read the stories I am interested in. Since my work involves the Internet, industry news is of particular importance to me and I keep updated by reading several blogs daily, however – I only read the stories that pertain to my niche.

Before RSS feeds were readily available, it took hours every day to keep up with industry news. Now I can get all of my information much more quickly and skip the information that I don’t need.

As a site or blog owner, how can having an RSS feed help you? Well, if you are trying to drive traffic to your website by using content such as new articles and posts, having an RSS feed available of your new items for your visitors to subscribe to will make life easier for them (as explained above).

You can also place RSS feeds from industry related sites directly on your website or blog in order to provide your visitors with even more information.

If you are using blog software, you can automatically place an RSS feed subscription button on your site, they all come with them. If you would like to create an RSS feed from your website content (perhaps your articles section), you can easily create one and just add a snippet of code to your site to get going. Most of them have detailed instructions and tutorials for you.
In conclusion, if you’re not using RSS, it’s time you got on board – time is money!

Joanne

1 comment:

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