What is RSS?

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication.

RSS is the format for distributing news and other web content. When you put content into RSS and send that content to other people or websites, it's called a feed.

Feeds are very powerful. They attract the interest of the search engines and they reach new audiences.

Every blog has a feed. Most of the new social media sites are using RSS Feeds to distribute their content. Twitter runs on RSS feeds, Facebook and MySpace use feeds.

You can add feeds to your news and tap in to the power of the social web. A feed will increase the reach and visibility of your news content.

Socialize Your Content With News Feeds (RSS)
Socialize Your Content With News Feeds (RSS) »

What Can RSS Feeds Do for Your Business?

RSS feeds are not just for blogs or social media sites.

You can use RSS to distribute many kinds of web content.

  • news - press releases
  • educational articles
  • videos
  • destination information
  • tech support updates
  • product news
  • specials
  • announcements
  • new listings for a realtor
  • job vacancies

The list is almost endless. Every business has several types of content they can put in an RSS feed.

What goes in the RSS feed?

You can add text, audio, images, logos and video to a feed. The feed contains an index - a list of items - and each one is identified by a link o the content on your site. Most RSS feeds include a title for the link and a description of the content. When syndicating your content, use an eye-catching title and interesting description of the full content. This way you encourage your readers to click through and read the full article. You can also choose to syndicate the full article.

Image of a Social Media News Release with images and video
Social Media News Release with images and video.

What do RSS feeds do?

RSS feeds keep your audience constantly updated.

They allow people to see your content without having to go to the website. Now that may sound like a bad idea, but in today's fast-paced world, anything that saves us time and frustration is valued. How many websites have you intended to go back to and then forgotten about them? Even those we bookmark don't get visited.

With RSS feeds, once someone subscribes the content comes directly to them.

Here are some examples.

Let's say you update your website with product news regularly. If a visitor doesn't come back to your site and see all those updates, she won't know about them. But with a feed she automatically gets the content updates. She may not purchase immediately, but at least she has seen each update. When she does want to buy, she will come to your site.

For a software company, tech articles or support updates get posted on the site. Unless the users remember to visit the site regularly, they could miss important data. Feed it to them and they get it every time.

News is perfect content for a feed. The Internet is now the number one choice for news in the 18 - 54 year old age group. And since Google changed the way they display web search results to what they call Universal Search, news content is now seen on the main Google web search pages. Studies show that images and news are in fact the most clicked content on a web search page now.

There are so many sources of news that your visitors, and the journalists who cover your industry, won't come to your site every day. But if you offer an RSS feed of your news it pops right into their RSS reader.

If the headline catches their attention, chances are they'll click through and read the article.

Image of an RSS feed displayed in a feed reader
An RSS feed displayed in a feed reader

How do people read RSS feeds?

Reading feeds is similar to using a radio. The station sends out programs and you need a radio set to pick up their shows. With RSS you send out your content in an RSS feed and subscribers use a newsreader to read it.

RSS has become so mainstream that all the browsers now read RSS.

The personalized pages of search engines have a reader built right in. You can read RSS feeds with an iGoogle page or a MyYahoo page. Some people prefer to use a separate RSS reader.

There are Web-based readers like Bloglines. There are also downloadable newsreaders you can install on your desktop. Some, like Pluck, are free. Others, like NewsGator, have a cost attached.

Newsreaders offer a variety of special features, including combining several related feeds into a single view, hiding items that the viewer has already seen, and categorizing feeds and items.

Once you set up your reader with your preferences, it will collect the feeds you're interested in every time there is an update.

Image of an RSS feed viewed in a web browser
An RSS feed viewed in a web browser.

How RSS helps Search Engine Visibility

Because the feed is machine-readable, the search engine spiders don't have to figure out which parts of the site are important and which have been recently updated.. Search engines are looking for regularly updated content. In a Google patent application they state that fresh content gets better search ranking. The recent Google SEO Starter Guide advises website owners to invest in fresh, exclusive content that is updated regularly. They say that this is by far the most important factor in search optimization.

A feed brings your website content to their attention. Registering your feeds with the search engines, and adding good content on a regular basis, will increase your search engine visibility.

For more information read this excellent tutorial on RSS feeds.

Get started with an RSS Feed for your content - Set up your PRESSfeed account »