Bloggers often ask me, what is this thing called RSS and is it something I need for my blog.
I tell them, only if you want more people to read your blog.
RSS Feeds are amazing strings of code that help information move more quickly through the Intertubes. Without one, the flow of your blog is somewhat clogged.
You pretty much have to have it.
RSS means Rich Site Summary, but is nicknamed Really Simple Syndication. RSS uses standard web feed formats to syndicate blog posts, news, audio or video.
An RSS document or “feed” includes full or summarized text, as well as metadata, like the publication date and author’s name.
RSS Feeds allow Web publishers to syndicate data automatically. When a blog post is launched, the data becomes instantly syndicated to the world.
RSS Feeds also allows users to receive immediate updates from sites they’ve setup in a “feed reader,” such as the now-defunt Google Reader, which check the user’s feeds for new information and put it in a page format.
Feeding the Post Alerts
Post Alerts are perhaps the most valuable reason to have an RSS Feeds. If your blog has a mailing list that gets alerted every time you post, you can thank RSS Feeds for pushing it their way.
Let’s say you use a third-party email service like MailChimp or AWeber. You’ll need to enter a Feed address into your settings in order for your post to trigger an email alert to your list. Without RSS, you would have to physically paste the text and images into an email message box and press Send. With RSS, your blog alerts go out when you schedule the post to launch, even while you sleep.
RSS Feeds are essential to having your blog posts picked up by news aggregators.
The death of Google Reader has given rise to numerous news aggregators like Feedly and Digg Reader, among other readers.
I use Content Gems, set for keywords like “blogging” “WordPress” etc.
If you want to use a plugin to add related post links to your blog, like Related Posts by Zemanta, your blog will not be picked up if it doesn’t have an RSS Feed. Conversly, you cannot manually subscribe Zemanta to sites that have no RSS.
I remember when I set up Zemanta on one of my sites and getting annoyed that some of my favourite sites did not have RSS Feed readily available by clicking their RSS icon.
Getting an RSS Feed
Where do RSS Feeds come from? Feedburner.com of course.
Creating a feed is calling “burning” and is essentially like registering your site. Burn it with Feedburner, owned by Google, and they issue you an address to use.
The process of burning a feed is quick and easy. Just go to Feedburner.com, and the first thing you’ll need to do is log in with your Google login and password. Then, click “Burn A Feed This Instant.”
You’ll be issued an address that looks something like this:
And that’s it! You’ve got yourself an RSS Feed!
Enter the Feed address where Mailchimp asks for it and get your Post Alerts flowing.
If your theme has settings for Social Media that include RSS, enter your feed address there and the RSS icon should appear on your page, usually in the header.
But That’s Not All
This is of course not the end of what you can do with an RSS Feed, but it’s a start.
So, although your blog will not wilt and die without RSS, having a feed will definitely accelerate its accessibility to network aggregators.
RSS Feeds simply help increase your traffic, and who wouldn’t want that?
Now burn, baby, burn your feed!