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Really Simple Guide to RSS

Internet Marketing Ireland

After Missing Sinn Fein’s RSS feed for my eGovernment Study I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at RSS – what it is and how to use it.

What is RSS?

Really Simple Syndication is a format for publishing web pages and other content.

In essence RSS is very similar to the content you would find on any website, with a few differences. RSS does not include any styling information that would give the ‘page’ a custom design or layout. If you can imagine reading this page without the header up top, the sidebar on the right or anything else that is superfluous to the viewing this story.

An RSS ‘feed’ can also contain more than one ‘page’ in a single file. That’s the real beauty of RSS – you can look at many stories or pages from a website without leaving the RSS ‘page’ or feed.

But perhaps the biggest difference between RSS and a regular web page is the ability to aggregate or combine multiple RSS ‘feeds’ (published RSS files are often referred to as a ‘feeds’) in your ‘reader’. A ‘reader’ is a program used to read and display the ‘feeds’ or RSS pages. Here’s what mine looks like:

Really Simple Guide to RSS - Google Reader

I read the feeds from over 100 websites just about most days. Now if I was to visit all those sites it might take me 3 or 4 hours, but my reader shows me the feeds fom all those sites on one page. I can view the website name, the title and a snippet of each item. When I click on a story title I can read the content of that ‘page’:

Google Reader open story

Using my reader to aggregate thee feeds I can keep track of many, many blogs and websites.

RSS Readers

I use Google Reader. It’s free and rather than sit on my computer it sits on the Internet so I can access my feeds from any computer with Internet access.

The main web browsers and email clients now incorporate RSS features also. Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and Opera allow you to track and read feeds right in your browser.

So how can you tell if a site publishes a feed?

When you visit a website you might see the following icon appear in your address bar:

RSS auto discovery through META

That icon has been adopted by all the major browsers for the purpose of depicting RSS feeds. It is available for download at Feed Icons. Older feed icons might look like this:

RSS icon XML icon Feed icon

You can see that orange is the predominant colour used to depict RSS.

Making your feed icon appear in the address bar

Since most of the major browsers now support RSS it is a good idea to notify the browser that you have a feed so that the RSS icon appears in the address bar. To make your feed visible to agents you should include something similar to the following META in the head section of your page:

<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="RSS 2.0" href="http://www.site.tld/path/to/rss2.0/feed/" />
<link rel="alternate" type="text/xml" title="RSS .92" href="http://www.site.tld/path/to/rss0.92/feed/" />
<link rel="alternate" type="application/atom+xml" title="Atom 0.3" href="http://www.site.tld/path/to/atom0.3/feed/" />

This auto discovery technique is also used by most readers and blog aggregators so it is a good idea to include it.

RSS features and uses

RSS can be used for many purposes. E-commerce stores can publish their products via RSS. Employment sites often offer customised search feeds so users can keep tabs on particular job-type vacancies. Many large sites offer multiple feeds so you can track only the information of interest to you.

Search engines and RSS

Search engines love RSS. They just devour feeds because they are very machine readable. Feeds also contain something search engines love: TEXT. And lots of it.

Very often my feed will rank well for specific search phrases and my site might have 2 or 3 pages ranking on the first SERP (Search Engine Result Page) – the post, my homepage and my feed . When multiple results from my site appear on a results page the probability of receiving a referral increase dramatically.

So does RSS matter?

RSS is here. It has not reached the tipping-point just yet, but the integration of RSS into the major browsers during 2006 means that RSS should become more and more mainstream over time.

And just as I finish this what appears in my reader?

the latest research done by Japan.Internet.com and goo Research shows that RSS’s bringing more accesses to the sites.

Q1: Do you visit more sites due to RSS feeds?
- More, 34.6%
- Hasn’t changed, 59.5%
- Less, 5.8%

Q2: Do you visit sites you read on RSS feeds?
- Always, 23.5%
- Sometimes, 58.1%

From Multilingual-Search.

Perfect :mrgreen:

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  1. Really Simple Guide to RSS…

    Really Simple Syndication is a format for publishing web pages and other content. – If you are looking for a nice short executive summary of RSS so you can understand RSS better, This article can help….

    Trackback by Anonymous — January 5, 2007 @ 12:19 pm

  2. Great blog + nice to see other folks in Ireland promoting the power of rss/widgets/etc

    Best Regards

    Comment by Fergus Burns — January 25, 2007 @ 12:39 am

  3. Hi Fergus

    I came across your site quite a while ago. Nice service and I would love to learn a little more about what you do and how you do it.

    I might shoot you an email to touch base

    Thanks for the props

    Comment by Richard Hearne — January 25, 2007 @ 6:16 am

  4. [...] you’re new to RSS and syndicated content my Really Simple Guide to RSS might be worth [...]

    Pingback by Google Gears Driving my Offline RSS Reading | Search Marketing Ireland .:. Red Cardinal Online Marketing — June 3, 2007 @ 12:30 pm

  5. Sounds great

    Can anybody use this?
    is it free or is there a charge

    Comment by paul Haslam — June 27, 2007 @ 2:22 pm

  6. Paul

    Anyone can use RSS either publishing the content from their own site or reading other sites content published via RSS. RSS is simply a file type just like a regular html file, except it is in XML format. Oh, and it’s completely free.

    Best rgds

    Comment by Richard Hearne — June 27, 2007 @ 2:50 pm

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