RSS is a term you may have seen, perhaps even in one of our other blog entries. You might have even seen or subscribed to another website’s RSS feed, but what is RSS? Do you really need an RSS feed for your own site? Does anyone even use them any more? The answer, of course, is yes, you should be offering an RSS feed for your site. We will review what RSS is, how it’s used, and why it’s a benefit (perhaps even a necessity) for your business and Internet marketing.
What Is RSS?
RSS originally stood for RDF Site Summary but is now more commonly referred to as Really Simple Syndication. It is a format used to publish content that is regularly published like a blog or news headlines. It’s a standard format, which means that every RSS feed is designed to look basically the same for consistency. This typically includes a post title, teaser or full body text, plus the date published and author. RSS feeds will display the most recent entries first, though the number of total entries will vary.
Example: The Social Media Hat’s main RSS feed link looks like “https://www.thesocialmediahat.com/news/feed” and can be accessed using the RSS icon in the header of every page. We also have specialized RSS feeds for just our blog, specific categories of posts, and a few other feeds.
Individuals can then use software or a website that acts as an RSS reader. The RSS reader will automatically check any feeds that the user has subscribed to and download any new entries that are found.
The first iterations of RSS were created as part of Netscape in 1999. It went through various permutations for a couple of years, and then Dave Winer released RSS 2.0 in 2002. By 2005, Mozilla and Microsoft were incorporating RSS capability into their Firefox and Internet Explorer browsers, and the use of the standard RSS icon came into widespread use. Since 2006, the RSS specification has been controlled by the RSS Advisory Board, with few changes.1
How is RSS Used?
RSS usage begins with a company or news site deciding to publish their new content via RSS. Content Management Systems like Drupal typically provide at least one site wide RSS feed by default. The most common example is to provide an RSS feed of your business blog.
Visitors to your site who are interested in automatically receiving your new blog posts delivered to them will subscribe to your feed. This is generally accomplished by clicking on the RSS feed icon that your webmaster sets up for you and then plugging the address into their RSS Reader. Many email clients and web browsers include RSS readers, or users may choose to use systems like FeedBurner or Google Reader.
Any website publishing new content can offer an RSS feed, but the most typical categories are Business, News and Entertainment.
Interestingly, there have been several times over the last few years where those in the blogosphere have tried to claim that RSS is dead. In fact, like most technical aspects of the Internet, RSS is simply becoming more integrated in the tools that we use and less visible. For example, instead of explicitly subscribing to an RSS feed, you might download a mobile app from a business or news source which is essentially just an RSS feed from their website in a nice mobile format.
What Are The Benefits of RSS?
As you can probably imagine, the first great benefit to having an RSS feed is that interested visitors can subscribe to your feed and get a notification each time you publish something new. If you’re writing great content for your site, as soon as you click your Publish button, that content is automatically delivered to your subscribers at no additional cost to you.
This infographic from Elliance does a great job of illustrating this:
But wait, there’s more!
If your content is really special, other sites and website owners may want to aggregate your content. An RSS Aggregator is a tool that will scan subscribed RSS feeds, just like your RSS reader, and then post the new items onto a website. Many small businesses will use an RSS aggregator to display industry news on their site for the benefit of their own visitors. Drupal includes a built-in feed aggregator that can you can use to subscribe to feeds and even group them into categories, allowing you to display news items from a variety of sources.
If you have an RSS feed working, you can also use it in conjunction with a publishing tool to automatically publish your new posts to social media profiles like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+. A popular example is HootSuite, where you can specify a few RSS feeds and decide how often to check, how many posts to make, and which connected social networks to post to. Or consider Post Planner, which looks at the RSS feeds you specify and tells you exactly which posts have performed well and might be interesting to your audience.
Your RSS feed can be listed in RSS feed directories. Depending on the directory, at a minimum, your site will be listed and categorized to help interested subscribers find you. Some directories also share your syndicated content for additional exposure and traffic.
You can use specialized RSS feeds to communicate new products or services with vendors, affiliates, customers or members, improving the speed at which you can communicate new opportunities. With Drupal, setting up a special feed is as easy as setting up a new custom page, complete with a custom URL and even access restrictions.
An RSS subscription provides an “anonymous” option for visitors that may not want to provide their email address for a newsletter subscription. RSS feeds also bypass spam filters and are delivered instantly.
One subtle benefit of having an RSS feed that clever marketers can use is to leverage the RSS subscription as a Call To Action. If your website doesn’t have an easy sale or newsletter or other call to action, you can ask visitors to subscribe to your RSS feed. This gets them hooked into your content as well as into the habit of saying Yes when you make a request.
The bottom line is that an RSS feed will help you promote the new content that you’re posting to your website or blog and should be an integral component of your Internet marketing mechanisms. If you need assistance setting up your RSS or blog system, please contact us. As always, your comments, questions and opinions are welcome!
Reference: 1 http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS