Although RSS feeds aren’t as popular as they once were, they can still be useful. The spread of social media and email subscriptions enables the new generation of internet users to receive updates from websites they follow directly to their feed or inbox. But it’s still important to familiarize yourself with the fundamentals of RSS feeds, especially if you work in the tech industry.
By using RSS feeds, you’re able to create a feed that your audience can follow to discover the latest blog posts and podcasts on your site. Instead of repeatedly visiting the same websites to search for new updates or browse through congested social media timelines, RSS feeds send relevant content straight to the viewer. See for yourself with free access to an RSS feed. Read on to learn more, then try creating an RSS feed for your podcast.
What Is An RSS Feed?
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. RSS feeds utilize files called Extensible Markup Language (XML) files. Websites use XML to publish and update content in a standard and computer-readable format.
XML allows you to include structured data on your website, organized with tags. This type of structured data also allows search engines to easily understand your website. By using structured data, you can indicate headlines, subheadlines, lists, authors and the like. A special XML file (called an XML sitemap) then merges all of that structured data into a single sitemap that enables search engines to index your websites by simply browsing a single directory.
An RSS feed takes advantage of XML structured data to gather and organize your website’s content and updates in real time. Your audience can subscribe to your RSS feed via your website. Once subscribed, they will automatically receive your latest updates and posts, usually via a customized feed reader which aggregates content from all the sites they’ve subscribed to.
What Are The Benefits Of Using An RSS Feed?
The primary benefit of RSS is that it allows viewers to receive updates from their favorite websites in a single centralized location, rather than having to visit and revisit the sites repeatedly to check for new content. The main method for accessing RSS feeds is through an application known as a feed reader or aggregator, like Google Reader.
Viewers can subscribe to RSS feeds instantly at the click of a button, either within a feed reader or on the original website itself. The reader then informs them every time new content is published. Furthermore, they can organize and sort different feeds on their reader to their liking. If a particular feed no longer interests them, unsubscribing can be done easily as well.
For publishers, using an RSS feed allows for:
- easier posting and updating,
- a simpler writing process,
- an improved relationship with subscribers,
- links back to their website, and
- ensuring subscribers get the latest information from their site, instantly and automatically.
With an RSS reader, viewers can scan through headlines from their favorite websites with ease and read an excerpt of each post to quickly decide which ones are worth reading and which ones are not. Additionally, some publishers will merge the full text of their articles so they can be read in their entirety within the feed reader.
Are RSS Feeds Still Relevant?
While people in the tech industry still utilize RSS feeds, they’ve become less popular with the general public due to the growing adoption of social media and email subscriptions. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can already deliver the latest news from someone once you follow their profile.
However, you might not always see the post in your feed on time and you often have to scroll through a plethora of posts to arrive at content that you find interesting. This is where RSS feeds prove to be quite beneficial for users. RSS feeds enable publishers and subscribers alike to organize content so that each viewer sees exactly what they’re looking for.
Some larger websites even have multiple RSS feeds for different categories. With dozens or even hundreds of writers churning out content, this can be much more efficient. While the website itself is sure to have a social media profile, individual categories or writers often do not. Viewers can then subscribe to the particular feeds that they are interested in, rather than spend time searching through social media or the website itself.
Our verdict? Although RSS feeds aren’t as widely used as they used to be, they can still prove invaluable for your website and convenient for your audience.