Articles for Webmasters     RSS for Website and Blog Promotion

By David Morgan

Most regular Internet users and publishers are familiar with the term RSS (most commonly expanded as "Really Simple Syndication") and the concept of RSS feeds. However, few people realise how powerful RSS can be as a promotional and content management tool, and even fewer are using it to its full potential. Search engines are trying their best to produce relevant search results for the end user, but the shear amount of information online often makes it hard for people to keep track of their favourite websites. RSS feeds offer one solution to this problem, by allowing users to subscribe to and receive summarised information about any online resource, through specialised web-based or desktop-based software.

RSS feeds were initially developed as a way for Internet users to deal with information overload; however, the technology involved can also assist bloggers and other publishers with the way they send and receive online content. RSS technology enables people to keep updated with their favourite websites without actually having to visit them, and can also be used as a powerful way to streamline the delivery and distribution of web content. There are two primary ways that RSS can be used by people who are building and promoting a blog or website. The first way relates to receiving a feed as a way to keep updated with new content, and the second relates to community building and promotion through the production and distribution of your own dedicated feed.

RSS at Wikipedia

Receiving Feeds

RSS feeds are one of the most effective and efficient ways for web publishers to keep up-to-date with the latest information being published in their niche. While access to new information and community interaction is integral to a number of different styles of publication, the medium of blogging in particular is heavily reliant on fresh, continual content updates. RSS technology makes it easier than ever before for bloggers to stay in touch with new ideas and engage with other websites in their niche.

While online searching and bookmarking still have an important role to play, RSS feeds are a great way to improve work flow and eliminate the tedium of manual searching and filtering. People who have subscribed to RSS feeds no longer have to waste their time and energy manually visiting websites, and can instead sit back and receive regularly updated feeds in a predefined and easy to digest fashion. There are two main types of software applications that are used with RSS technology, both of which perform a similar job in a slightly different manner.

Firstly, there are the web-based software programs called feed aggregators, programs that read and accumulate different feeds and deliver them directly to your virtual door. Secondly, there are desktop programs called feed readers, which read feeds at regular intervals and highlight new items to bring them to your attention. Both of these tools produce identical results, and the only real difference is whether they are running from your personal computer or via an anonymous web-based server. Two of the most popular RSS programs are those that come with the Firefox browser and the Google search engine, although there are a number of other great aggregator and reader applications on the market.

Receiving RSS in Three Easy Steps

  1. Choose an RSS reader or aggregator to use, either as a desktop application or an online resource.
  2. Read the documentation that comes with the application, especially those sections that show you how to subscribe to a new site.
  3. When you visit a website that you want to subscribe to, look for the universal RSS icon, and if available, add the site to your RSS software.

Producing Feeds

RSS has become an increasingly important part of the online publication and promotion cycle, as more and more Internet users start to rely on feeds as a way to control their access to content. Producing an RSS feed is a fairly simple process, and can be achieved using a number of freely available software solutions. Wordpress and most other popular blogging platforms come equipped with dedicated RSS feed generators, which can produce feeds at predefined intervals from a selection of your website content. If you are using more traditional HTML-based software, it is important to find the appropriate RSS code or plug-in solution to work with your existing development environment.

Producing an RSS feed is vital for anyone who wants to engage with their existing audience, and a great way to develop and maintain online loyalty patterns within a community. While people who read an RSS feed may not visit your website every time they read your content, they will read a higher percentage of your posts and are more likely to develop a long term relationship with your website. From the perspective of a user, RSS is similar in many ways to a print magazine or journal subscription, which makes it an ideal way to develop, promote, and brand your website on a long term basis.

RSS feeds can easily be converted into standard email format, which is a good option for less tech-savvy users who are not interested in using dedicated RSS readers or aggregators. Software such as the popular FeedBurner application make this conversion process easy, with some software even offering their users a choice of distribution methods. A well positioned RSS icon and a feed solution that works with all popular RSS software is important for any website that wants to engage with their users on an ongoing basis. Producing an RSS feed provides your audience with a simple and elegant solution to the increasing problem of information overload experienced by the online community.

Producing RSS in Three Easy Steps

  1. Decide on the RSS distribution method that is right for your website, based mainly on the technical ability of your audience.
  2. If you want to distribute over email, sign up to FeedBurner or a similar service. If you want to distribute via an RSS reader or aggregator, check the documentation provided by your blogging platform.
  3. Put the universal RSS available icon in a prominent position on your home page, and subscribe to your own feed in order to test it out.

RSS has become a very important part of website distribution and promotion, and anyone who is serious about the long term engagement of their audience should think hard about the integration of RSS technology. Receiving RSS feeds is a great way to stay updated and connected with your community, a vital aspect in the development of any online business. Producing your own RSS feed is equally important in many situations, as it is one of the best ways to develop a loyal following and maintain a visible and ongoing online presence.

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