Short Guide to RSS Technologies
It seems that everyone and her dog is talking about revolutionary RSS and how it will change the internet. You have probably heard similar statements too. “New way to communicate with your readers”, “make money with RSS”, “jump into bandwagon before it’s too late” and so on. But even if you’re not new to the internet, you might have no understanding of what the heck RSS actually is.
People are bombarded with such messages, like: syndication, XML, RSS feeds, aggregators, etc. It can be really confusing. But if you’re serious about promoting your site online, you should take time and find out more about RSS technology, because it can bring you additional streams of traffic.
What is RSS?
RSS stands for “Rich Site Summary” or as some other people say “Really Simple Syndication”. RSS is a web technology that allows website owners to syndicate their feed (news content) and inform visitors about any industry news.
RSS technology was first developed by Netscape, but later continued to develop by UserLand Software. RSS makes it easy to provide news. Instead of visitors having to go to the website and see if anything new was added, this technology allows them to receive updated information right into their desktops.
Difference Between RSS and Blogs
Many people confuse RSS technology with blogs. Others have no idea what any of them means. Let’s first find out what’s the difference between blog and RSS.
Blogs are online diary like web sites that publish new information on a regular basis. Blogs are created using free or paid services or software. Such software is usually built using programming languages, like PHP, Perl or others along with RSS technology. Complex scripts with RSS allow webmasters easily publish content on their blogs. And because of RSS, readers can get updated information from blogs to their feed readers.
RSS is an XML programming language based technology that allows blogs to syndicate content and show it to the readers. You can offer RSS syndicated content on your site by creating and publishing a special XML file. And you don’t necessarily need a blog. So in other words, you can offer RSS feeds without a blog, but you cannot offer blog without RSS.
RSS Instead of Email Marketing
Many people say that RSS technology will soon replace regular email. Well, it’s little too drastic to say that, because people still have to communicate with each other somehow. And RSS doesn’t allow such communication as email. However, what concerns online publishing, it can be very true.
Because of SPAM, reading and response rates of email marketing have decreases dramatically. Published messages are filtered out and it’s time for a new solution. And that is RSS. E-Newsletter publishers, mailing list owners, everyone who gathers a community, now has a chance to inform their visitors about industry news using RSS technology. And the best thing about it is that RSS completely eliminates #1 email marketing danger – SPAM.
Visitors simply subscribe to your feed using their favorite RSS reader. Whenever they have to unsubscribe, they can do so at any time with a click of a button. No one will send them information they didn’t request. It’s 100% opt-in. Site visitors don’t have to give their email addresses anymore. That is without a doubt huge plus. However, there is one disadvantage.
If a visitor decides to uninstall a desktop reader or reinstall their operating system, they’ll simply forget about your feed. They won’t get any messages from you, unlike using email. But there are also web based RSS readers that eliminate this problem.
How RSS Feed Looks Like?
You have probably stumbled across a website that had those small orange buttons named “RSS” or “XML”. If you clicked one, you were taken to a strange web page that looks like HTML source code. This has probably confused you and you simply closed a window. So that weird web page full of HTML like tags was an RSS feed created using XML programming language. So the simplest example of your RSS feed will look like this:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-1" ?> <rss version="0.91"> <channel> <title>The Title of Your Message</title> <link>http://www.url.com</link> <description>And Your Description.</description> </channel> </rss>
An XML file (feed) usually contains the following elements:
- Title – Shows people a title of your content.
- Description – Describes what is your content about.
- Link – Gives people a link to the actual information.
So that’s how an RSS feed looks like from the inside.
How Can People Read Your RSS Feed?
Of course, by now you have a natural question in your mind. How the heck visitors read your feed. For that case, your visitors have to have a feed reader (aka RSS reader). There are free and paid ones. A recommended free RSS reader is FeedReader.
So, if a visitor wants to subscribe to your feed, he needs to download and install one of such desktop based (there are also web based) RSS readers first. Then a visitor comes to your site, clicks an orange XML/RSS button, and with a help of his reader, subscribes to your feed. Sometimes visitors have to copy the address of your RSS feed and paste it into their reader, if an RSS feed reader doesn’t support automatic subscription.
Now, whenever you update your feed (RSS file with XML code), feed readers scan for new information and when they find it, they show it to the user.
Content for Webmasters
As a matter of fact, your RSS feed can provide content not only to various RSS readers. You can also let other webmasters put a piece of code on their sites or blogs and syndicate your content. That code will be parsed into HTML so visitors will be able to read your newest information on other webmasters’ sites.
Making Money With RSS
Internet marketers are clamoring about it very loudly. They talk about endless opportunities of making money with RSS. While RSS doesn’t boost your income directly, it can bring you great amount of web traffic.
If you publish updated information on your site and build your community of loyal readers, you can get a wave of fresh visitors. People will simply tell others about your feed or give a link to your feed or syndicate your feed on their sites. It will result in a boost of new visitors to your site and increased number of readers.
Another way of boosting your traffic is by submitting your RSS feed to various news reader sites, like Daypop or Syndic8. These sites can also increase your traffic significantly resulting in more sales to you.
Using RSS technology as the alternative to email marketing is definitely a great way to avoid SPAM and at the same time gain more potential clients and customers for your business.
While publishing an RSS feed is not very difficult, novice users might be confused. If you are not very experienced user, starting a blog can be a much easier option. Blogs also offer RSS feeds to your readers, but they are much simpler to create and maintain. And you don’t need to deal with any coding at all.