What is RSS and why should I be using it?

What is RSS?

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a tool that allows people to have new content from multiple websites delivered into a central location, making it quick and easy for people to read.

With RSS you can monitor your favourite websites so that when they produce new content, the new pages will appear in your RSS reader (similar to receiving an e-mail). Then, from within your RSS reader, you can skim through the content from each website and then selectively view what you want.

The content will be displayed either in part or in full within your RSS reader (depending on how each website has chosen to present it). At any time, you can decide to read the content within your RSS reader, or click on a link which will take you to that page on the website.

Benefits of using RSS to consume content:

  • View all of your favourite websites in 1 place
  • Easy to search the content of many websites for specific words/phrases
  • No need to visit many websites to look for new content – all new content comes to you!
  • Get content in your RSS reader as soon as it is on the website – so you know about it sooner than if you were to check the website twice a day/week
  • Easy to skim through content and then optionally click through to the website
  • It is free
  • There are RSS readers for most types of computers, mobile phones and World Wide Web
  • RSS readers can be configured to download the RSS feeds on a regular basis (e.g. every 30 mins, hour, day) so you can read the websites even when you do not have an Internet connection

Screenshot of Google Reader:

Screenshot of Google Reader

What does this mean for content producers?

If you have a website, you should be producing RSS feeds to support your users who want to use RSS.

The good news is that it is usually very easy to be set up and can be done for free. In fact, if you are using blogging software (such as Blogger, Tumblr or WordPress) you probably already have RSS automatically set up and in use!

The use of RSS can help increase your readership because it removes the need for people to actually remember to visit your site – your content will just pop up into their RSS reader. It also means that you may get faster feedback from those users.

Many RSS readers make it easy to share content over social networks (it is often easier to share it this way than by clicking on a link within the website). So if a user sees something they like, they might be more willing to share it, which gives your content a wider audience – and some of that extended audience might like it and share it to their friends…

I produce content – what should I do?

If you have a blog or website, you should:

  • Configure – set up one or many RSS feeds (you could have a global feed which contains everything plus/or individual feeds for certain topics e.g. baking, soups, recipe of the day)
  • Promote – promote your RSS feeds. Let people know you have them and encourage people to use them
  • Measure – monitor the number of people who subscribe to your RSS feeds. Which of your feeds get the most subscribers?
  • Monetise – yes (depending on how you define your RSS feed) you can add adverts to your RSS feeds!

When promoting your RSS feeds, best practices are:

  • If you have multiple RSS feeds, have a page on your site which lists each of the RSS feeds and explains what each one is for
  • Promote them on your website and in e-mails
  • Make use of the standard RSS logo (or a variation of it). This will be instantly recognisable to visitors

Examples of RSS icons:

  • Standard:

  • Custom:

Recommended RSS readers:

Google Reader is a really good web based RSS reader.

You can get RSS readers for your PC, Mac, iPad, Android, Blackberry, iPhone, Windows and other mobile phones.

Examples of RSS feeds:

What now?

Now you know what RSS is, what it is used for and how to use it (from both a producer and a consumer point of view); you can start making the most out of it!

This guest post was submitted by:

Paul Richardson of GetMeCooking

Website: http://www.getmecooking.com
twitter: @getmecooking
facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/GetMeCooking/24238181534

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