An Introduction to RSS

Recently a client asked me to explain what RSS was. I realized that probably many people are curious about RSS but are very confused by it. An "RSS Feed" is a way to syndicate content out broadly. RSS stands for "really simple syndication."

From the Reader Viewpoint

I think the best way to start explaining RSS is to take it from the viewpoint of the reader – what he wants to accomplish and how RSS helps him.

Lets say that a person is interested in politics. He goes to various web sites and reads articles written by various authors that he likes. He wants to keep up on these various favorite authors, and hed like to see their articles as soon as they come out. But he doesnt like the fact that he has to go around to all these web sites to find his favorite content.

RSS can make this easier for him. First of all, our reader gets a piece of software called an RSS reader. This is a piece of software that is similar to email software such as Outlook. This page gives links to various readers:

Basically an RSS reader allows you to subscribe to what is called an RSS feed. Our political junkie mentioned above might subscribe to 5-6 or more feeds. Each one would appear in his reader software, usually in a column to the left. He would click on the refresh button, and the reader software would get the latest content from all the feeds. Then he would click on one of the feeds in the left column, and a list of articles would appear on the upper right. Then he will click on one of the articles on the upper right, and that article appears on the lower right, below the article list.

So you see that an RSS feed is basically a list of articles written by someone, that is accessible by using RSS reader software. So our political junkie has all his favorite political commentators right there in his RSS reader, and whenever he hits refresh, he has all their latest articles, all easily accessible in one place.

Of course you can use this for any topic that interests you, for your work or for hobbies.

From the Writer or Company Viewpoint

So my client asked me why my putting material on his company up on an RSS feed benefited him. A good question.

There are several benefits:

a. It is another avenue of disseminating material on a company

b. Once we put information up on an RSS feed, we notify RSS search engines (this is called "pinging")

c. People who write or are interested in blogs go to RSS search engines looking for material to write about

d. Blog writers will reproduce material from the RSS feed or write about it in their blogs

e. This creates high quality links to your web site from the RSS search engines and from the blogs

The way this works is that you put together several articles or press releases, put them up in pages on your web site, then put a summary of these articles, their titles and descriptions, into a special type of file called an XML file.

For a company putting out an RSS feed, its a great way to put out information and get it to people who are interested in your information quickly. Plus, putting out information in an RSS feed and then notifying the RSS search engines means that your information will also end up in the regular search engines. Then people in the blog universe who go to the RSS search engines like will tend to read your stuff and quote it or reprint it in blogs and other web sites. This makes for high quality links. Of course you have to write stuff that is interesting and worthy of being quoted.

You can put articles on an RSS feed, or you can put optimized press releases (press releases that are written with your targeted keywords in mind) on an RSS feed. If you want to do both, you should start two feeds, one for the articles and one for the releases. With press releases, there is an added benefit, which is that you can put them in the RSS feed and also submit them to online PR sites that submit their content to big news sites like Google News.

The overall purpose for a company in doing an RSS feed is to disseminate their information on another channel, and to create more links to their site that will raise their search engine rankings.

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