Monday, October 17, 2011

About RSS Feeds

My local writing groups president, Terron James asked me about RSS feeds and how they can be used on our blogs and sites. So I did a little research and came up with a few thoughts.

What is an RSS Feed?
An RSS feed is basically something that you can subscribe to and get updates from. Here is how it works. A person is surfing the web and finds a website or a blog that they really enjoy and want to keep up with. Instead of having to remember to go back to the website regularly to check for updates the person can subscribe to the RSS feed (assuming the site or blog has one). The person then sees instant updates from the site or blog in their favorite RSS feed reader (i.e. Google Reader). Giving your readers the option of subscribing to an RSS will help them stay more active in following your site or blog.

Also, providing an RSS feed broadens your audience of followers. Not everyone has the appropriate account to use the various following methods. And some do not like receiving updates through email.

How do I set up an RSS feed?
If you have a blog – chances are it is already an RSS feed. And there is probably a widget for adding a button to your blog. Here are instructions if you use blogger (new interface):

  1. Open your blog and select ‘Layout’
  2. Click one of the ‘Add Gadget’ links in the area you want the widget to appear.
  3. Choose ‘Basics’ and scroll down the ‘Subscription Links’
  4. Click the plus button, give it a title, and click ‘Save.’

I am sure that there are similar ways to add it to other blog platforms.

Adding an RSS feed to your website is a little more involved. First do a search for an ‘rss feed generator’ and pick one out you like. Once you have set up a feed for your site – you will need to have a link to that feed that allows the user to subscribe to it. I have never done this - but I am sure a google search would produce some excellent resources.

Other uses of RSS feeds
Another way to use RSS feeds on your blog or website is to embed a related RSS feed. My blog, for example is about writing. I could find another site that talks about writing – say for instance one that talks about what is going on in publishing. If I embed that RSS feed into my blog – then users could see the updates from those feeds when they visit my site. The benefit of using a feed is that it makes you site appear to be updated more often.

This is also simple for most blogging platforms. Just add a widget (the ‘Feed’ widget on Blogger) to your blog or site that pulls from the RSS feed. Again, I have never added an RSS feed to a website.

Other Tools
You can also use third party tools to find out how many people subscribe to your rss feed – such as Feedburner. This can help you see how many people you are reaching with your feed.


  1. I saw this on the chapter blog and thought it was awesome! Your are the best Krista :)

  2. First, hello! *waves* I'm a fellow Campaigner and this is my first time here. Nice to meet you. :)

    Yes, a lot of my followers follow me through my RSS feed and use a feed-reader.
    I don't use them, personally, because I have to hop out of it to leave a comment, which slows me down. I tend to subscribe and pop in via email, and I keep an eye on my sidebar. My system kinda stinks, but I try hard. :)

    But this is excellent info and it's clear you did your research. Well done.

    Have a marvelous week,

  3. I messed up my follow stuff a long time ago..and idk what I Now I know what RSS is though! If only I could fix my follower buttons....

  4. @J.A. Bennett - Thanks :)
    @Lola - Welcome!
    @Ashley - I know. I tried uploading a new template to my nlog and messed it all up. Took me a while to get it back in order. Learned my lesson. Have a test blog now.

  5. I don't even know if my blog has this. I guess I should check :-)