You’ve seen the acronym RSS everywhere. Most blogs ask you to subscribe to their RSS feeds but what is it?
It commonly stands for Really Simple Syndication and it’s another way to publish articles and updates from web sites, particularly blogs and news sites, audio and video sites, that update frequently. An RSS feed can be displayed as either a full text or a summary.
Websites can benefit enormously by utilising RSS feeds on their sites, because a web author can then syndicate their content completely automatically, using a service such as Feedburner, or software which creates the feeds automatically whenever anything on your website is updated.
Users sign up to receive your feed and receive an update any time anything changes on your site. If you publish a new post on your blog, for example, the subscriber will receive a summary message advising them of the title of your post and when it was added to your site. From the summary, they can then click on the link to go read the full article. Subscribers use a ‘feed reader’ or ‘aggregator’ to read the updates.
Feeds benefit publishers by letting them syndicate content automatically. A standardized XML file format creates the information a single time, but allows it to be viewed by many different programs. A feed reader, or aggegator may be web based such as in Goggle’s suite of tools, a desktop download or available for a mobile device.
The benefit to the subscriber is that summaries are sent to their reader automatically, without them having to go to each website of interest to see if there are updates.
Benefits For Subscribers:
As a subscriber, you are kept up to date about items of interest without having to go to each website. You can get feeds on anything from news headlines and weather, to your favourite music releases and favourite blogs. You can discover the latest details almost as they happen and it saves you a lot of time. As a subscriber, you stay in control of what you receive and when and from whom. This leads to a cleaner inbox as RSS feeds don’t send to your email address.
Possibly one of the best advantages in using RSS feeds instead of subscribing to a website by email is that you don’t use your email address. This means you won’t be spammed. The feeds may contain advertising, but they do not spam your inbox. We all know some sites don’t honour requests to unsubscribe from emails or ask you to explain why you’re leaving, but RSS lets you unsubscribe easily by simply deleting the feed from your reader.
Benefits for Publishers:
For website owners, RSS feeds are great marketing tools.
When someone subscribes to your website via RSS they are interested in what is happening on your site. They want to know when you’ve updated your content when it happens. They can receive the latest news on your products and services without the hassle of your email ending up in their spam box.
If you’re using Feedburner or similar to publish your feeds, you can get details on how many subscribers you have. Other services do not provide that information. You don’t get to see who is reading your feeds and who ignores them or who unsubscribes and why. Finding out why people leave mailing lists is often a critical piece of information that can help improve a website design or content.
Despite RSS feeds being around for years now, many people still don’t know anything about them and don’t use them.
If you want to start using an RSS aggregator to receive feeds, then perhaps the simplest one is in Google + when you sign up for a free account. It’s quite user friendly and easy to read. It’s available by clicking the “more” tab when you’re signed in.
When you’re on a website you like, look for subscription options and you’ll usually find an RSS feed button. There is an RSS feed code you can enter into your reader, or the site may offer Google as an automatic option. That’s it. The feed from the site will now start coming into your reader in real time.
When RSS was created, the idea of Internet marketing was not considered. However, as people subscribe to your RSS feed, they are indicating an interest in your content. Of course, savvy marketers can see the benefit of sending marketing messages to those who have a specific interest in their topic.
RSS is still under used but a very powerful way for both subscribers to keep updated on many sites easily and for web sites to provide real time content update to interested readers. If you’re not using RSS as a subscriber or a site owner, now is the time to begin.