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What is an RSS feed?

If you’re not sure what an RSS feed is, how you can use it, and what are the benefits of RSS feeds, this article is for you!

When I spoke at the Monterey Bay Consultants Group in April about blogging, I remember one of the questions from the group was, “Who has time to review and read all 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 group members had no idea what he was talking about. Then I took the opportunity to explain what it is and how I use it.

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

RSS is short for “Real Simple Syndication” and people use “RSS feeds” to distribute and collect information from 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 receive your updates through your “RSS feed reader”. That still sounds confusing, doesn’t it? Let me dig deeper …

Let’s say you like celebrity gossip and you love to know what’s going on all the time (I know, it’s superficial, but the best example I can think of is that most readers can relate to it). Every day he visits PerezHilton.com, popsugar.com, tmz.com and many of the other celebrity gossip sites. You could spend all day going through the many posts and all the content to get the information that interests you personally. With an RSS feed reader, you could continually update with posts from all sites in one place and click 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 is where you need to click to “Subscribe” to a feed. When you subscribe to a feed, you can send the feed to your “Reader”.

“Readers” are also known as “feed aggregator”, “feed reader”, “news reader” or simply “aggregator”. These readers are web applications or software, which aggregate syndicated web content, including podcasts, blogs, and news headlines, all in one place for easy viewing.

I currently use Google Reader. It lets me know when the blogs I read have new posts and I can choose which ones to click on and read the stories that interest me. Since my work involves the internet, industry news is of particular importance to me and I keep up to date by reading various blogs on a daily basis, however I only read the stories that pertain to my niche.

Before RSS feeds were available, it took hours every day to keep up with industry news. Now I can get all my information much faster 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’re trying to drive traffic to your website using content like new articles and posts, having an RSS feed available of your new items for your visitors to subscribe to will make their lives easier (as explained above).

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

If you are using blog software, you can automatically place an RSS feed subscribe button on your site, they all come with them. If you want to create an RSS feed from your website content (maybe the articles section), you can easily create one and simply add a code snippet to your site to get started. Most of them have detailed instructions and tutorials for you.

Bottom line, if you’re not using RSS, it’s time you got on board – time is money!

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