RSS simply explained

When I asked for feedback on what people wanted to know about blogs and blogging, many of them wanted to know about RSS. The main question being what is RSS?

So here is an explanation of those who do not know:

Subscribe for email updates

RSS, which stands for Really Simple Syndication, is easily recognisable through the orange square icon found at the top of most blogs’ sidebars.

It is like a subscription service, enabling your followers to receive any new material you’ve written as soon as it’s published. It saves you time and makes it easy for you to keep up with new stuff without having to search all your favourite blogs for it.

Think of it like subscribing to a magazine: the new post (or message) gets delivered straight to you, either via email into your in-box, or into search engine readers if you’ve subscribed via that method.

Cookies from a reader

A search engine reader provides pages with links to newly available posts, or individual ‘cookies’ on the search engine homepage which lists the last three posts of that blog through headline links.

Apart from allowing your followers to keep track of your new material, RSS also has other uses, mainly through social media.

When you publish a new blog post, it can be ‘fed’ into your social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter. This means that each new message appears as a link automatically in these sites. The RSS feed delivers your new content in this format for your followers to read.

Feeds into Facebook

In Facebook the whole post is published in the Notes pages, and your Homepage or Status page shows the headline link (known as a permalink) with perhaps the first few lines of the post as a taster.

In Twitter your post is listed as the title and the first few words, followed by a tinyurl (or reduced link) to the blog post. As a Twitter message uses only 140 characters, there will not be room for the whole permalink, so various methods are used to shorten it.

Feeds into Twitter

RSS is important if you wish to increase your readership or encourage more interest from search engines. It is a piece of software that encourages the search engine spiders to follow your blog, and automatically spreads your news throughout the web. Without it your blog would appear lifeless as only those who are invited would get a chance to read it, and only if they bothered to visit it regularly. RSS automatically delivers your messages without effort, saves time and encourages a new readership, especially through social media.

If you want to find out how to include RSS into your blog, I have written a blogging visual e-course on the subject, called “Setting up a RSS feed = how to set up RSS feed so others can follow your blog posts”. You can view it from my blogging pages, and will be available to buy, along with the other e-courses, from September, so watch this space!

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Alice Elliott writes the award winning Fairy Blog Mother blog for beginner and post-beginner bloggers to “explain things really simply” about blogging and WordPress. She provides simple, easy to understand, highly visual courses and tutorials using ordinary, everyday words. Visit her new Beginner Bloggers blog to find her latest learning resources.
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