What Is RSS and Why Do I Need It?


 12/22/2014 12:00 AM

It doesn't matter how many people visit your website after a boost in visibility; if you don't retain their interest or stay relevant in their lives, they'll quickly forget about it. That's why RSS is such an important part of modern web design. Learn more about RSS, feed readers, and how you can benefit from syndicated updates.

What does RSS mean?

RSS is officially an acronym for Rich Site Summary, but many sources (including the United States government) accept the more telltale definition of "Really Simple Syndication". Either way, RSS is a form of online publication that pulls information from various sources in real time. These updates are delivered in the form of RSS feeds or channels, which compile all the information for users who subscribe to them or find them on a website.

What can RSS do?

So what's the point of pulling this live information? Well, if you're interested in marketing your website at all, social media is mandatory. Many modern RSS feeds tap into Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram accounts, displaying relevant posts within another website. Businesses can use this to display their social media activity on an official website, but a simpler example is the scrolling feeds on everyone's Facebook timeline and smartphone home screen. This customized information is aggregated into one place for your browsing convenience, and wireless or data connections allow it to constantly refresh.

Should you install an RSS reader?

Adding an RSS feed reader to your website is an optional way to increase your visibility across multiple platforms. It gives your website a dynamic element, especially if you've included so many RSS sources that there are constant updates. You can even use one on your homepage, to compile the most important updates and entries before readers proceed to the full site. In fact, RSS readers are a lot like mobile-optimized sites, because they allow webmasters and individual users to curate the content they see and limit the irrelevant information in the periphery.

Why do you need an RSS feed?

To make your website count, you need to have a presence in other people's RSS feeds too. If you want to serve as an authoritative source on any topic, get people talking about your blog posts, or generate interest for deals and events, RSS is mandatory. If it's not easy for readers to subscribe to your website's RSS feed, you might not make the cut. When your updates reach them immediately, it keeps you relevant; it's impractical to wait until readers stumble across your website again, unless you can count on them to be entertained enough to bookmark it.

Does your website have an RSS feed?

There should be an XML file that contains the RSS data for your website, but if you don't know where or how to access it, your website builder should be able to help. You'll definitely want to make your website inviting for RSS readers and aggregates, so after you know how to access your RSS feed, you can add a button or link. The easier it is for feed readers to pull content from your website, the more eyes will be on every post you make.

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