With piles and piles of content delivered on thousands of websites every day, keeping up with your favorite blogs can be impossible. Thankfully, you can go around that problem using RSS (Really Simple Syndication).
Unfortunately, the vast majority of Internet users hardly know what RSS is, let alone how it works.
This post is intended to introduce you to RSS with simple explanations of what it is, what it does, and how it works.
What Is It?
RSS is a format for relaying dynamic web content. It makes it easier for readers to access that content regardless of device type or platform.
Since most web content comprises a variety of media formats – images, audio, and video, among others – it can be difficult to fully access on some devices or platforms. With RSS, all the heavy details are stripped away, leaving a lighter, condensed version of the page that it easier to read on any device. By retaining only the bare essentials, RSS makes it easier to read through multiple posts fast.
In addition, RSS automatically relays new content without the need to refresh the blog page periodically. In other words, RSS enables automatic notifications for newly posted content. Many Internet users follow a collection of blogs whose content is updated unpredictably. RSS notifies you of new changes on the blogs you follow in a smarter and more organized way.
How It Works
Essentially, RSS works through a list of notifications maintained by the blog owner. This list is referred to as the RSS Feed and readers can check this list for the latest updates.
However, you don’t really need to check this list because that bit is done for you by a web app called RSS aggregator. This app accesses RSS Feeds on your favorite blogs and relays the results to you in an organized format.
Creating an RSS feed for your website is fairly easy and most websites that publish content regularly have one (for WordPress sites, RSS feeds are created automatically – add /feed to the site’s URL to access the feed. You can customize the default feed structure anyway you want.
In addition, most websites that have an RSS Feed notify visitors via a link in the header or footer. The most common way is to use the orange RSS logo button like the one used in the featured image.
What Info Does an RSS Feed Provide?
As mentioned earlier, the RSS notification list provides only essential details about the latest content posted on a blog, stripping away heavy and non-essential bits such as certain images.
Usually the feed contains the post title and a snippet or excerpt of the first few lines.
The info in a feed is contained in a single file and displayed on one web page as shown in the figure above. However, the actual coding is in XML format.
Which RSS Reader Should You Use?
The choice of RSS Reader you use to subscribe to a blog’s RSS feed is entirely up to you. There are plenty of options both paid and free. Most readers are specialized to certain types of websites and websites. For instance, NewsBlur is best suited to desktop readers while Feedly is suited to app lovers. A reader such as Pusle focuses on graphics and images so obviously it is suited to visual readers.
Are There Any Benefits of RSS Feeds?
RSS has many benefits for both readers and blog owners.
For readers, RSS helps to organize and deliver the latest content from your subscribed blogs with ease. Moreover, you can use tools such as FeedBurner to receive the updates via email.
For blog owners, RSS can be a potent marketing tool. If used correctly, you can build a considerable following but it’s squarely up to you to publicize your feed.
In the online world of endless streams of content, RSS Feeds provide a streamlined format of organizing and delivering only that content that matters to you.
If you own a blog, it makes sense to create a feed that users can subscribe to to get automatic updates of your content.
What’s your experience with RSS feeds?
Featured Image: CC BY 2.5