RSS Feed Explained – Do I Need an RSS Feed and How Do I Use It?

In today’s Web 2.0 online environment, it’s almost impossible to land on a blog, newsletter or current website without seeing an invitation to get the webmaster’s information via RSS.

If you are one of the thousands of new Internet Marketers just dipping their toes in the fast-paced waters of the Internet, you might not understand the valuable uses for RSS (Really Simple Syndicaton) and how syndication can improve your sales and drive traffic to your offers. Believe me, you are not alone.

Every new process, or revamped old process, develops it own set of terminology and buzz words, so let’s take a look at some of the RSS terminology first.

  • Syndication:

Syndication, according to Wikipedia, means that you allow your website, or a portion of it, to be available for other sites to use. This usually means “…making web feeds available from your site, or blog, in order to provide other people with a summary of your website’s recently added content (for example, the latest news or forum posts).”

Different types of syndicated content can be found all over the Web, including newspapers, commercial websites, blogs or product offers from Internet Marketers. It has become a free and easy form of advertisement that increases targeted traffic and expands your site’s exposure across normally unreachable online platforms.

Web syndication by online marketers is removing the hesitancy web surfers have with providing personal information to invisible marketers, like name and email address for signing up to receive a newsletter. Those surfers expecting to subscribe to an RSS feed instead are growing in numbers and will soon be in the majority. Don’t ignore them!

RSS and Atom are the two main syndication formats.

  • RSS Feed:

To start with, an RSS feed notifies you when a web site or blog you are interested in has been updated. There are two kinds of RSS feeds, static and dynamic.

When you see the latest scores for your favorite team or are continually checking for bargain airline tickets for your vacation to Disney World, that information would be a static feed from a sports news media or an airline/ticket site.

Info from a dynamic feed would depend on your search terms to provide specific information to add to your data stream. A dynamic feed would be one from a website you are watching for new content or notices abou new products. It would give you notice of the change on the website.

  • Feed Reader or News Aggregator:

Those two terms are merely names for the software that allows you to get the RSS feeds from websites or blogs that interest you and have it displayed so you can read it and use the information the way you want to use it.

At the moment I use Googe Feedreader and you can find an article about how to use it on my blog but you can find 12 or 15 feed reader options at: blogspace.com/rss/readers

  • The Big Question…What is RSS?

RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is a format for delivering regularly changing web content and is making it easier for you to stay informed by receiving the lastest content from your sites of interest. You don’t have to visit each site individually and do not have to join each site’s newsletter by providing your private information.

More than several big name sites, like Yahoo News, the BBC News in the UK, the US government and more newspapers and other news media than you can shake a stick at, are providing free RSS news feeds for delivery to anyone. They are not doing that for no reason, but because they recognize the extended reach their message will have and the benefits that reach will return to them. Copy success!

Internet Marketers are starting to add an RSS feed to their websites and blogs. Look for a button or link that says “XML,” “RSS” or an invitation to “Syndicate This Site” if you want to start receiving their information via an RSS news feed.

Almost any information can be used to publicize updates to your website or blog… photos, summaries of your latest update or simply the title of your update with a link back to the original source.

RSS benefits both the readers and the publishers of the feed. When you update your blog post, add new content to your website or want to announce a new sales price or special bonus for your readers, they all wil know immediately about the change or special offer and can decide if they want to visit your site or not.

Internet Marketers can reach a much wider audience for their products or services because web browsers are becoming much more likely to subscribe to an RSS feed and avoid the email clutter that clogs their inbox after subscribing to a few newsletters.

All the benefits of RSS feeds are not restricted to your subscribers, but have some powerful results when used as a marketing tool. When you use an RSS feed to market your products, you are attracting visitors and customers who are interested in your products and want to receive your information. This Win-Win process protects you from a spamming accusation.

The new techniques and requirements of using RSS to get your message circulating may still intimidate or confuse some of your customers. It is a good idea, for customer service, to offer both the RSS feed and emai notification of your website, blog or product updates. You do not want to immediately exclude a set of customers who prefer one method over the other, regardless of the reason.

As a tool to increase targeted and focused traffic to your site, RSS feeds work great for this top-of-the-list marketing need. If the content update interests your reader, many will want to read the complete story on your website and will click the link to do just that. When that happens, they arrive at your website already interested in your product… marketing gold!

Getting comfortable with this vibrant and ever-changing Web 2.0 tool will expand your reach and increase your conversions. More and more people are switching to RSS feeds everyday to make their lives less cluttered and to put the information they receive in their own hands and not those of random marketers. Don’t ignore this grass roots movement… join it!

Why not try it out by subscribing to my feed? 😉

How to Install an RSS Feed in WordPress

Obtaining and adding fresh new content to your website or blog is one of the most valuable tasks every webmaster must complete on a regular basis or at the very least, see to it that it is added one way or another. RSS feeds can be a great way to get a steady stream of fresh valuable content added to your site regularly. This is not to say that you shouldn’t also publish your own unique content, you should do that on a regular basis as well. You can turn your visitors into returning customers by making sure that there is always fresh, relative content available for them to enjoy.

There are many different add-ons, widgets, and plugins available free across the internet that make installing an RSS feed into your website or blog extremely simple. If you are using a WordPress blog as your CMS then adding a RSS plugin to automate the process of importing feeds to your blog is a snap. There are several available, free of charge right from the WordPress Plugin Directory.

Your first step to getting your plugin is to login to your WordPress admin panel and click on Plugins and then Add New. To find a plugin simply search RSS and a whole list of them will appear. I have tried a couple different ones and prefer the KB Advanced RSS Widget. Although I have in the past and do currently still use others. When making your selection, keep your site in mind and try to choose one that will fully meet your needs. Most are the same as far as operation, but there are variances in appearance.

Once you have chosen a plugin to install simply click on Install to the left of its description and then Install again on the page that pops up. Next you will need to click to Activate the plugin.

From here you will need to go to your Widgets that you can find under Appearance. All you have to do from here is place your new RSS widget where you would like it in your sidebar and enter your RSS feed URL and any other options that your specific version offers. Viola, Your plugin is installed and showing a new RSS feed working on your blog.

As wonderfully easy as it is to ensure your website or blog is continually being updated you should never rely on this, or any other source, as your sole source of providing updates to your site. Remember that the content from these feeds are used by many, many people deeming it not original. It is very important that you understand that every site needs unique, original content added regularly. Without your own unique content, your site is not truly yours and the traffic that may across your path most likely will not return.

RSS Mania – Part Two – Outline of How to Create an RSS Feed

Well so now you kind of like, are in love, or are obsessed with RSS. Those little orange buttons are all over and you want to put one up in your web site or Blog or on your wall. That is cool, and it will demand a bit of technical knowledge, some writing, some research and some frustration. So here are the major steps to publishing your RSS feed and giving all that information to the world at large, which I will discuss in depth with examples in this series of articles. Right now we will outline these steps.

1. Sit back, STOP! & Think. (How is that for step one?)

  • a. Do you have information that should or would go into an RSS file? Remember that the unwritten rules of RSS is that you must update the file with “new” and more “current” information if not hourly or daily, but at least on a fairly common basis. No one is going to want to keep your RSS in their reader if the information they see every day for the next month is exactly the same as the day before it.
  • b. Additionally, though some people do this, it really is NOT good practice to put long essays into an RSS feed. What you want is the first line or description of an object, idea or news. Hook the person so he clicks on the topic in his reader, reads the summary, clicks again and finds himself on your web page.
  • c. Do you have the time to do it? There are millions of Blogs out there that were started with the best of intentions. One entry, two entries, three entries. And then they die. Why? Because the author/owners simply had no clue about the dedication demanded and time needed to update their Blogs on a regular basis. They also had no idea just how difficult he competition was to get people to read those Blogs. The same is true with RSS. You start a feed to get readers, or to pass on information to the web. You need to understand this is going to take time and patience and work. This is not a one-time one-shot one-pie-in-the-sky deal.

2. Your depth of Technical knowledge

You will need to become familiar with the following terms and understand them and perhaps learn some very simple things in how to program them.

  1. RSS
  2. XML
  3. HTML
  4. CSS
  5. Atom
  6. RSS Readers
  7. RSS Parsers
  8. RSS Validation

3. Now begins the Actual WORK!

  • a. Preparing the file – You will need a template RSS file (for the sake of these articles it will be called rss.xml though it can have any name you choose as long as it is in xml format.) Unless you are good enough to write one yourself this is critical.
  • b. Understanding the Template and what information goes where
  • c. Putting the information into the template – Each piece of information you have will go into specific [headers] and you must understand the RSS structure in the XML file to get that right.
  • d. Validating the Template – A crucial aspect. Unlike HTML, RSS is very, very, let me say this again, very unforgiving. It does not like deviations from the norm or from the basic format laid down. Getting it right can be the most trying and frustrating part of the process.

4. Okay now you wrote the RSS file, your XML file is ready and validated. Now what? Guess you think you are done. Think again.

  • a. You will have to place the rss.xml file on your web site or somewhere on the web where people can get to it.
  • b. Now you can steal, get, copy, make – whatever you choose – your own little XML/RSS or RSS – Valid button.
  • c. Hyperlink your file to the RSS
  • d. Submit your file under the correct category to RSS directories.

5. How many people will pick up your RSS? I will discuss this as well in a later article, but surprisingly, the answer here is still very vague. There are some ways of tracing the numbers, but none are foolproof, and most are very convoluted.

6. Go and get a good night’s sleep cause tomorrow you are going to have to start the process of adding information to your RSS (or changing it) all over again!

(This is a continuation from my first article on RSS – “RSS Mania Addiction – An Introduction to RSS and the Terminology”)

How to Set Up an RSS Feed in WordPress

An RSS feed is a good way of marketing your latest content to your readers. When you write your latest informative article your audience are immediately informed of this and are able to read it. In this article I will show you how to set up an RSS feed in WordPress.

RSS or real simple syndication as it is better known is a way of getting your latest articles, posts, ideas around the web to your target audience 365 days a year. Imagine all the effort you put in and how much time is spent researching and writing your article. Doesn’t it make sense to propel that content to people interested in listening to what you have to say? RSS makes this easy.

Many websites already have their own RSS facility in motion. Take for example the article sites. When you sign up to receive the service, the content will be delivered to you by way of a feed. Essentially this is what is known as an XML file containing the content such as headlines, posts, news etc. When content is delivered like this via the feed, it is known as syndication.

You can subscribe to the feed and you will receive the latest content from these sites without you having to do anything more. You can set up many feeds from many different sites and the beauty of this is that you never have to visit each site individually to receive their content again. I’m sure you are already beginning to appreciate the benefits of this.

If you have your own website you too can send your latest posts across the web. In order to do this you first need to set up your own RSS feed.

How to set up an RSS Feed

Now let’s talk about how we can create a feed for our site. Do a search in Google for Feedburner and go over to the site. This site is owned by Google so if you have a Gmail account you can just log right in. If not then you can create a new Gmail account and sign in with the details.

You will see a box with some text: ‘Burn a feed right this instant. Type your blog or feed address here:’

Go ahead and type in your blog address and click the ‘Next’ button

If Feedburner has found more than one feed at your blog then it asks you which one you would like to use. Personally I like to take the one that looks the simplest. When you have selected one click the ‘Next’ button.

You are now shown the title of your new feed. You may change this if you so wish.

Now click the ‘Next’ button.

You will now see the link for your feed at the top. It will be of the format:

<a target=_new rel=nofollow href=https://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&amp;hl=en&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;prev=_t&amp;pto=aue&amp;rurl=translate.google.com&amp;sl=ar&amp;sp=nmt4&amp;tl=en&amp;u=http://feeds.feedburner.com/&amp;usg=ALkJrhjOILkQmx5i-6M6h4TeeFaPdYgN6Q>http://feeds.feedburner.com/</a> YourWebSiteName

Highlight and copy this link.

That’s really all you need. You can keep clicking the ‘Next’ button all the way to the end.

Go back to your WordPress blog and log in.

You now need to add the orange RSS symbol on your site.

In the WordPress dashboard, go to Appearance > Widgets

In there, you need to locate the RSS (Entries from any RSS or Atom feed) widget.

If it’s not under “Available Widgets”, drag it from “Inactive Widgets, and drop it into “Available Widgets”

Then drop the RSS widget into the Primary, or one of the Footer choices on the far right.

Enter the Feedburner URL, choose 1 item to display then click Save.

The RSS widget should appear wherever you’ve put it on the site.

And that’s all there is to it. Now the world can see your latest content whenever you release it. This should bring you good traffic as more people sign up to your RSS feed.