RSS Feeds are a very useful and powerful feature of websites that are still little understood by website owners and internet users. Many website owners I meet have either not heard of them or do not know the benefit they could bring to their online website or blog or for their own benefit it keeping up to date with news and information online. This blog hopes to explain what RSS Feeds are the benefits to you either as a website owner or as a website reader for keeping up to date with information on line.
What are RSS Feeds?
Firstly, RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication (although the the Really Simple is a little misleading as most website users would not know how to add it to their website nor subscribe to feeds). You will not hear many people refer to it as this though, most people will just use RSS.
RSS is a way to export your website content into a special format that can then be added to other websites or “RSS Readers“, therefore allowing you and other people to read your original website content on that other website or RSS Reader software. This means your content can appear in other places in addition to your website.
How Will I Benefit from RSS?
There are two ways you can use RSS Feeds and therefore different benefits can be gained.
1) Exporting Your Own Content as a RSS Feed
You can export your site content in a RSS Feed so others are able to read your website content without going to your website. So if you produce content other people may be interested in, your content could appear:
- In someone else’s RSS Reader so they are notified immediately when you write new content and are able to read it there and then without going to your site
- On someone else’s website so people visiting their website could read your content
- On RSS Feed Websites that will show your content and also categorise it making it easier for others searching for your topic to find you and add to their RSS Reader
If you have content such as Latest News, Special Offers, Product Information or give away other interesting information on your website such as a Blog (as part of your marketing strategy perhaps) then having the above setup is of course an excellent way to spread that information across a wider reader base, and hopefully increase your website and content exposure to a wider audience.
2) Reading Other People’s RSS Feeds
In business it is vital to stay up to date with latest news and information in your business sector, what your comeptitors are up to, what your customers want etc. Outside of busines you may have interests or just want to keep up to date with the news from different sources. There is so much information on the internet you could benefit from if you had the time and resources to monitor and read it all.
Well now you can with a RSS Reader. RSS Readers allow you to add other websites RSS Feeds to your Reader so you can be notified and easily read all new content published by those websites in one place.
Your RSS Reader could be some software you install on your PC such as FeedDemon or online using a RSS Reader provider like Google Reader. Both are excellent and free tools to manage and read RSS Feeds.All you need to do is find the relevant websites that produce the information you are interested in, check if they export data to a RSS Feed (most news and blog sites do, and you should see the RSS icon shown above) and add that feed to your RSS Reader. When those websites publish new content, your RSS Reader will highlight new unread items for you to read (or not to read if its not of interest of course) much like your email inbox does. You can then read the article right there inside your RSS reader if you want, and move from one website to content to the next all in once place.
The benfits are obvious…
- Instantly be notified when new content is published on websites and blogs you are interested in.
- Read the new content in the RSS Reader without having to visit many websites
- Allows you to keep up to date with latest news and information much easier and quicker
How Do I Export My Website Content as a RSS Feed?
If you own a website you should be using a Content Management System (CMS) to be able to add the content easily to your website. If you haven’t, then get one! Find out why. Most of the better CMSs will have the facility to export your content as a RSS Feed already (how to do it in Joomla). If you cannot see how within the system, refer to the userguide or contact the CMS provider. If your CMS does not export it then maybe its time for an upgrade, or you could ask the developers to include that facility. Even without a CMS your site could export RSS Feeds but it would probably require a developer to implement this, and then you may not find it easy to write the content anyway.
So I highly recommend your website or blog uses a leading Content Management System that supports RSS Feeds amongst other common website functionality.
How Do I Advertise my RSS Feed to Increase My Reader Base?
Here are a few basic steps to increase your RSS Feed Reader Base…
- Advertise your feed where you can on your website and email footers
- Start a blog and with interesting content you can drive traffic to your blog and/or site on which you advertise your RSS Feeds also. That may be the blog RSS Feed itself like this one or a link to your website RSS Feed such as latest news. You will also need to market the blog too.
- Submit your RSS Feed to RSS Directories such as:
How Do I Read RSS Feeds in a RSS Reader
There are various RSS Readers on the market, but I favour FeedDemon. Not only is it a very easy and user friendly system, it synchronises its feeds with NewsGator Online, so can then read your feeds online in the NewsGator site. I also have NewsGator for my mobile phone which then allows me to read my feeds wherever I am anytime. So FeedDemon fits nicely in my RSS Reading strategy.
How Do I Find Relevant RSS Feeds to Add To My Reader?
If you already read a lot of news, bogs and content online then you probably already know many sites that export content as RSS Feeds. Most of the major News websites, Bloggers and hopefully many other websites with Latest News should already be able to export RSS Feeds. Look for the icon above on their site, or a link that includes “Subscribe” or “RSS”.
If you don’t have such sites already, or want to increase the feeds you read, then using good old fashioned Google to search for relevant sites that provide regular information on your topics of interest is a good way, or use the websites listed above to find RSS Feeds categorised by topic.
Do You Export and Read RSS Feeds Already?
Feel free to post your comments here about your setup on exporting and reading RSS Feeds.