What is RSS, and How Can it Benefit Bloggers?

If you’re new to blogging, you’ve probably run across the term RSS. Completely baffled? Even many seasoned bloggers are confused on how to make this tool work for them. Don’t worry. Here, we cover what RSS is and how you can use it to benefit your blog. Let’s get started.


What is RSS?

RSS is actually simpler than it sounds. It stands for Rich Site Summary – or as some people know it as, Really Simple Syndication.

Basically, RSS is the technology that produces your blog’s content in XML format – a computer language – so it can be delivered to subscribers.

That way, people interested in your content don’t have to come to you to check if you have new content.

Think of it this way: You subscribe to the newspaper and get it delivered to your door. You don’t have to visit the newsroom to see what the latest news is.

Your RSS feed makes it simple for readers to subscribe and receive those updates as soon as you publish a new post.

How is RSS Used?

As mentioned, you can use your RSS feed to automatically update subscribers on your latest posts, but it can do more for you if you want it to. For instance, you can use your RSS feed to syndicate – or simultaneously publish – your content with another site.

That means your blog’s content will show up on that site when you publish new posts. For some people, this can be a beneficial way to increase exposure without much effort.

Hosting Kingdom, for instance, syndicates content at Alltop.com in its web hosting category.

If you’re interested in the individual subscriber side of RSS feeds, there are two ways you can update readers:

    1. Through email.
    2. Through an RSS reader.

We will talk more about how to set up your feed using these different methods below.

Benefits of RSS

The idea of making an RSS feed available is that it helps drive traffic to your site. Not only can you reach a wider audience by syndicating your content on high-authority sites, but you keep your readers coming back for more because they don’t have to remember your URL or make an effort to check in for new content – it all gets delivered to them automatically.

rss explained

On the other hand, having other sites’ RSS feeds available to you as a blogger is a huge plus. Add your favorite blogs and news sites to your RSS reader – such as at Feedly, which is among the most popular – and you can easily stay up-to-date on news in your industry. This will aid you in researching blog posts and coming up with ideas.

Drawbacks of RSS

The main drawback of providing your readers with an RSS feed is that it may not align with your goals. For instance, if you want to encourage readers to subscribe to your newsletter, you would want that to be the focus of your email opt-in option rather than having readers share their email for blog post updates.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t have an RSS feed at all. If a reader wants to keep up-to-date on your latest blog posts through his or her RSS reader, then make that available. The action is not in direct competition with your newsletter, so there’s no harm done.

In this case, set up your feed, but let feed subscribers find you through their reader. Leave any advertising of your RSS feed off your site so you can focus on your newsletter.

How to Set Up Your RSS Feed

Setting up your RSS feed URL is a lot easier than you might think. If you’re using WordPress, it’s done automatically for you.

Just go to www.yourdomain.com/feed to check that your feed is working. In some cases, your feed may be present at www.yourdomain.com/blog/feed. If you’re not familiar with computer languages like XML, then the page will look a little confusing to you, but that’s okay. Visiting this page will just let you know you have an RSS feed, and in many cases, it’s the URL you’ll use to syndicate your content on other sites.

But it doesn’t even have to be that complicated. If you’re using WordPress, for example, there are numerous plugins you can use to make subscribing easy. Jetpack, for instance, comes with a subscribe widget that will send subscribers emails when you publish a new post. The Subscribe2 plugin is a similar option that many people prefer, or you can try Subscribe by Email.

Once you have a feed URL – which is done automatically through WordPress or can be created through various online tools like Feedity – then there’s nothing more you need to do for readers to view your feed in their RSS reader. All they have to do is visit their RSS reader account, search for your site, and subscribe.

How to Track Your RSS Feed Stats

Now that you have a feed URL, you can submit that link to syndication sites, add your email subscribe plugins, or let readers subscribe via their own RSS reader.

If you don’t care to track your subscribers, there’s really nothing more you need to do at this point. However, if you’re interested in subscriber data, there are numerous online tools that will help you keep an eye on it.

FeedBurner by Google was once the king in creating RSS links and tracking your stats, but since FeedBurner hasn’t been updated since 2012, experts suggest finding an alternative. Alternative RSS tracking tools include:

  • Feedblitz: This is both an email marketing and RSS management services. With it, you can deliver your content through their service and track your stats. If all you’re looking for is an RSS management tool, plans start at only $1.49 per month, but you can add on email marketing services, which are priced based on subscribers.
  • FeedCat: This service is free and offers statistics and feed enhancement tools.
  • RapidFeeds: With a PRO account at just $6.95 per month, you can manage your blog and podcast feeds and view tracking metrics.

Again, you don’t have to pay to track your feed stats if you don’t want to, and some of the WordPress plugins mentioned above like Subscribe2 already feature some of the tracking information you’ll find with other services.

Utilizing the power of your RSS feed doesn’t have to be any more of a hassle than other feature on your site. How will you use your RSS feed to boost traffic to your blog?

Alicia Rades

Alicia Rades (@aliciarades) is a professional blogger for hire who specializes in blogging, freelancing, and lifestyle topics. Learn more about her at aliciarades.com, where you can download her free blogging guide, 20 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Hitting Publish.
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