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Kick Your RSS: Jumping on the Syndication Bandwagon

Feed-Icon-96X96The following post was submitted by for the Blogging for Beginners Series by Aaron Brazell. Aaron is a major contributer over at b5 (he is a major player in keeping our servers in order) and writes on numerous blogs including Emerging Earth and Technosailor.com. I asked Aaron to write an introduction to RSS. Here’s what he has to say on the topic:

Catchy title, no? Thanks! I’m proud of it.

RSS. You’ve heard about it. You’ve read about it. Bloggers encourage the use of RSS. But what is it? What does it give you in terms of benefits and promotion? How can you use it to aggregate the vast amounts of information out there? These are all valid questions.

RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, was a concept introduced in the late 1990s to present data in a open format for data exchange. In other words, much like the meaning of its name, it was a way to syndicate data for other services, computers or tools to understand. Because RSS is a special XML-based format, it is intended for computers to understand and not for human consumption.

There are about a dozen varieties of syndication formats, most of which are versions of RSS, but some, such as Atom and RDF which also provide a syndication format. A more advanced article could be written about the nuances, benefits and drawbacks for each of these but, for this article, they all have the same basic features and present challenges as well.

How do I Start Publishing RSS on my Blog?

If you use one of the major blog platforms such as WordPress or Moveable Type, you don’t have to do anything. You may not even realize it, but your blog is already publishing an RSS feed and most modern browsers will alert your readers to this fact

Rss-Ff
Figure 1: Firefox alerts the reader to the presence of feeds by placing an RSS icon on the extreme right side of the address bar.

Rss-Ie7
Figure 2: Internet Explorer 7 has a grayed out RSS icon on one of its toolbars. The icon becomes orange when an RSS feed is available on the site.

Instantly, that means opportunity for you. I describe this concept in You Can Blog in this way: if you envision a piece of paper with a square drawn on it, that’s blogging without RSS. However, if you place two squares together, one directly above the other and connect the respective corners of the two squares, you will have a cube. This is blogging with RSS. RSS provides a new dimension to your blogging.

Two dimensional blogging requires readers to visit your site to read your material. It requires that interaction be confined to the browser and the website, whereas three dimensional blogging gives the reader the chance to read your entries through an email client, web based news aggregator or other similar central location.

The benefits of RSS for your readers are (to name a few):

  • Central location that they can subscribe or unsubscribe to the blogs that they want to read and not have to remember to visit the site. For instance, I subscribe to over 150 different blogs through a feed reader. If I had to remember to go visit each of those sites every day I’d get completely flustered.
  • Another benefit is near real-time access to your most current content. When you publish, the RSS feed is republished and available for your subscribers to view. That means that you can take a vacation and they will pick up on your blog content as soon as you start publishing again

The benefits of RSS for bloggers are:

  • A wider audience. Bloggers can rest confidently knowing that their content is being automatically fed out to interested subscribers who want to be the first to see anything new that you write.
  • A Reader for Life. Once you have convinced a reader, through quality content and a positive reading experience, that they should subscribe to your blog it is awful hard to lose them. Most of the time, blogs that go into feed readers just stay there. There’s no harm done to the reader in having a subscribed blog that doesn’t update often.

Using RSS to Find New Content

RSS provides another benefit than providing a syndicated format for your content. It also serves you on the other end – receiving relevant content from other publishers and bloggers. If you are a blogger and do not use a feed reader like Bloglines or Feed Demon (or one of the many other options out there), then shame on you!

Most of the feed readers provide a way to group feeds according to topic. Bloglines provides category groupings while Feed Lounge takes an approach similar to Gmail’s “Label” feature. “Tags”, as Feed Lounge calls them, provide groupings of blogs together.

As a blogger, this is a great way to get the flow of information on a regular routine. No longer do you have to go Googling for things pertaining to your niche, now you can get them coming to you. This is especially important for bloggers who make a living out of cranking out content on, perhaps, more than one blog.

RSS Services

As you become more involved with RSS and understand how it can help your blog grow from a handful to readers to upwards of thousands without much effort, you may benefit from some of these services.

  • FeedBurner is an excellent service that offers feed replacement. In other words, it monitors your existing RSS feed and says, “I can do that better”… and does! It has a number of monetization features such as adding Adsense to your feed. It also tracks how many subscriptions your feed has and offers a host of other options to help you get the most out of your feed.
  • Email Services such as Gmail, the soon to be released new Yahoo Mail give the users of these services the ability to keep track of websites of interest in an unobtrusive way.
  • RSS-to-IM services such as that of immedi.at provide a means to get new news delivered to the instant messenger of your choice. Useful for those who forget to check a feed reader but want to know as soon as Darren Rowse hits the publish button.

Stop and Think

RSS is not the be all and end all of blogging. It is certainly possible to blog without using RSS either to collect your content or to publish it to the masses. However, the sheer benefit in terms of traffic opportunity and exposure should be enough to make any future Problogger stop and examine the technology.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Peter Cooper says:

    You can also use RSS to promote and syndicate your blog onto other blogs using a service like FeedDigest, Feed2JS, or FeedRoll. Basically you can create a piece of Javascript or PHP code that you can let other bloggers add to their sidebars, or whatever, and it’ll automatically update with links to your latest content.

    To make it more appealing you could create a mixture of multiple feeds in such a way and then have a whole network of blogs run it on their sidebar so they can share and spread traffic around their network.

  2. Adam Graham says:

    Using RSS feeds is also a time saver. Before I got Blog Lines, I was manually going to Blogs and had to wait for their whole Template to load up. Now with Bloglines, I’m subscribed to 48 blogs and it tells me when my favorite Blogs have been updated. This saves me all the time of waiting for the whole template and site to load up and I can just go and see if there’s interesting content to talk about.

  3. Peter Cooper says:

    Oh, and being able to subscribe to Technorati (or Blogdigger, to cover them all) searches for your blog URLs, full name, etc.. so you can see as soon as someone starts talking about you or your posts :) Makes a massive difference, sometimes people are surprised when I comment as soon as they mention me :)

  4. mark says:

    “RSS-to-IM services such as that of immedi.at provide a means to get new news delivered to the instant messenger of your choice. Useful for those who forget to check a feed reader but want to know as soon as Darren Rowse hits the publish button.”

    lol, that’s exactly why I need the service I never knew about, lol. Thanks for mentioning it. :)

  5. Marco says:

    Now I finally understand the importance of RSS! Excuse-me, I have to download Firefox…

  6. mark says:

    “Now I finally understand the importance of RSS! Excuse-me, I have to download Firefox…”

    Congrats Darren! You just brought a user to the better section of web browsers! You deserve this:

    http://digital-lifestyles.info/copy_images/firefox_medals_lg.jpg

    ps. This is the medal I got, the real thing though, from the wonderful folks at Mozilla due to me bringing lots of folk to firefox. :) Go download it ppl!

  7. One disadvantage, however, is that your RSS reader is not exposed to any of your ads (Adsense) or ancilliary information of your services (if you provide any indirect services) unless you point them out to specific links to them (ie affiliate products, your consulting business, etc.).

    Still though, I’m sure the RSS ability to capture a near permanent audience far offsets the negative.

  8. hi darren

    could you please let me know what are the steps to install rss. Your article on installation is empty somewhere in the middle of this page.

    regards
    gazzali

  9. Christian Sweningsen says:

    Same problem, big gap in the middle of the article

  10. butlimous says:

    Thanks for the nice tutorial and info!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] For those of you interested, I wrote an article on RSS syndication – why and how to use it – that is being run by Problogger.net. [...]

  2. [...] Kick Your RSS: Jumping on the Syndication Bandwagon [...]

  3. [...] Straight to the point, they are actually using the same system feeds known as RSS, or Really Simple Syndication to get all the latest news update (more idea on RSS). And the layout on the feeds page is very simple and more like reading paper document, very less advertisments you will encounter except you can’t really aviod Google Adwords. Happy and but still, you will direct link to the original news site for full stories and even viewing movie trailer or download. More on the features, it also includes My Blog for users to publish their ideas and comments. A very handy site for readers who want a “All-in-one” online news site. [...]

  4. [...] Straight to the point, they are actually using the same kind of system feeds known as RSS, or Really Simple Syndication to get all the latest news update (more idea on RSS). And the layout on the feeds page is very simple and more like reading paper document, very less advertisments you will encounter except you can’t really avoid Google Adwords. Happy and but still, you will direct link to the original news site for full stories and even viewing movie trailer or download. More on the features, it also includes My Blog for users to publish their ideas and comments. A very handy site for readers who want a “All-in-one” online news site. [...]

  5. Blog says:

    Pers berichten

    Ik zie er dagelijks vele honderden, hetzij via e-mail, danwel via mijn readinglist. 
    De meeste informatie vraagt herhaaldelijk mijn aan

  6. [...] 7. Make sure to promote your RSS feeds. If your readers are not computer savvy, explain to them what RSS is and list the benefits of using it. Kick Your RSS: Jumping on the Syndication Bandwagon [...]