RSS feeds are not that new, but they are becoming increasingly more important and have a big effect on how your brand and marketing efforts are promoted on the web. But what exactly is an RSS feed? RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and is often available on blogs and other social media sites, but you can have your non-web 2.0 site implement a feed quite easily.
What are some benefits to having an RSS feed? If you have one, your audience won’t necessarily need to come to your site every single day just to get the latest news and information you’re publishing. Yes, that would be fun, but if they’re so busy working on other things or simply don’t have the time, then that information may be bumped off to another page. Think about a blog, for example. Constantly updated, blog posts initially start out on the front page, but as the frequency of blogs increase, the specific post you’d like to keep reading gets bumped off and moved to archives – resulting in you needing to search for it. But if you had added that blog’s RSS feed to your reader, then you would easily have it indexed and can reference it again later on.
Think of RSS feeds are just another form of bookmarking, but without you needing to do the work. Just sign up for a feed and the information is automatically generated and delivered.
Are blogs the only place where you can get RSS feeds? Absolutely not. Yahoo! offers some RSS feeds for their news, tv listings, financial reports, etc. and many social networks offer them like Facebook, YouTube, and even social bookmarking sites (e.g. Digg, Del.icio.us, etc.).
How can I read an RSS feed? There are many ways to read them once you’ve subscribed. If you’re using Microsoft Outlook, there is a feature for importing RSS feeds that you can keep monitor while at work or at home. But, if you’d like to use a web version, there are several that I know of and am sure there are countless more:
- Google Reader
Perhaps most popular would be Google Reader as it’s connected with all the other Google products (Gmail, iGoogle, etc.).
How do I create an RSS feed? According to SearchEngineWatch.com, in order to create your own feed, you’ll need to start off with three bits of information: title, description, and link. Afterwards, you’ll need to generate what is known as an XML file. I’m not going to get into specifics about creating a RSS feed since this is not the forum for that, but there are plenty of good resources online including this tutorial on how to generate a feed.
Some words of caution before you start syndicating. Before you go ahead and start planning your syndication strategy, remember that the true benefit of having a feed lies with the fact that your content is always updating. It serves no purpose if you have stale static content on a site that never goes anywhere. Simply putting up information about about a press release will not benefit anyone. However, if you are constantly updating your site to add more press releases periodically (e.g. daily, weekly, etc.), then it would be helpful for folks to have an RSS feed for the list of releases.
You don’t need to have content feeds. You can stream various types of information too: pictures, video, music, etc.
Updating your content and streaming it out into the world isn’t hard, but it’s becoming vital to helping spread your message by virtual “word of mouth”.