Even if you are new to the Internet, you have no doubt seen references to RSS online and in magazines and have noticed those funny little RSS icons and invitations to subscribe to the RSS feeds of various websites. Yet you may not have a clear understanding of what such a feed actually is.
RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication,” and the principle behind it lives up to its name. As you surf the web, you may find topics that you wish to track. This is especially true if you’re a professional or involved in any field of research.
If there are several sites you’re interested in, it can be time-consuming to have to revisit those sites periodically to check for updates. RSS brings information you’re interested in to you rather than you having to go out to it. You needn’t visit new sites all the time to see what’s new because it’s all brought to you.
What’s in it for the site owner? Although theoretically RSS spares visitors a trip to any particular website, what it really does is to spare them unnecessary trips. In the long run, it can actually increase their chances of visiting a particular site from time to time, because they know when they visit that it actually has something new and of interest to offer.
To use RSS, you need merely a Mac or PC and an Internet connection. Although standalone RSS readers are available for power users, they are no longer essential, because the capability is built into most modern web browsers, such as Apple’s Safari.
The browser will display the headlines of new postings on websites to which you’ve subscribed along with a brief synopsis. If it interests you, you can click on the headline which will take you directly to the originating page. You can subscribe to as many RSS feeds as you wish.
How you subscribe to feeds depends on your browser. In Apple’s Safari, for example, when visiting a site that has an RSS feed, you will see an RSS icon to the right of the address bar. You can then bookmark the feed. You can even have your subscribed feeds appear in a special inbox in Apple’s Mail for greater convenience.
You can also use RSS to promote your own website or blog, and, in fact, it can be a potent marketing tool. Not only can you encourage visitors to subscribe to your feeds, but you can enlist other sites to display your feeds on their own homepages. This additional exposure can help you expand your reach to potential readers who otherwise would not have access to it.
RSS is as simple to offer as it is to use; for example, RSS feeds are built into WordPress blogs.
RSS can sometimes even be preferable as a marketing method to newsletter or e-mail marketing. Many people prefer the instant access to information provided by RSS feeds over the delayed gratification and potential for spam of e-mail newsletters.
Another way to benefit from RSS in promoting your own site is through blog commenting. Many or most blogs have a comments field under all posts that allow commenters to include their name and website with their comments. If you post insightful comments in response to the content of popular blogs, other visitors to that blog may be curious enough to click on your link and visit your own blog.
Moreover, the most experienced commenters tell us that the first comments on any particular post are the most likely to be clicked on.
What does this have to do with RSS? By subscribing to the feeds of the most popular blogs in your niche, you can be notified immediately when new articles are posted, greatly increasing your chances of being the first one to comment on any particular post.
RSS is an efficient method for the dissemination of information, and it’s one that users are comfortable with, since they know they can subscribe or unsubscribe at any time. The benefits to you as a webmaster are that you can broadcast your own feeds to potentially thousands of people as well as generate more interest for your own blog by taking a more active participation in the blogs of others.