How to Create and Use an RSS Feed for Your Blog - dummies

How to Create and Use an RSS Feed for Your Blog

By Amy Lupold Bair, Susannah Gardner

Unless you really want to mess around in the code of your own RSS files to promote your blog, you shouldn’t need to do anything special to get started with RSS. Most blog software already includes an RSS feed that pulls together and syndicates your blog. At most, you might have to turn on the option to have an RSS feed.

Then, just blog normally and ignore the feed. Your users can find it and subscribe, and your blog content flows automatically into the feed.

Chances are that your blog software already has RSS capability. Check your administrative settings and documentation. If it doesn’t, you might also be able to add the functionality by using a plug-in.

If you don’t have software that creates an RSS feed, you have a couple of options. If you’re a programmer or coder, you can probably pick up enough XML to hand-code an RSS feed yourself. But an even better option is to use some of the third-party feed creation tools available today:

  • FeedYes: Use this simple tool to create an RSS feed from any website or blog. You can create multiple feeds and, with an account, edit and manage them. FeedYes is free.

  • Google Feedburner: A favorite of many bloggers, this free tool allows you to create an RSS feed for your blog as well as manage and promote that feed.

  • Feed43: Set up a feed for your blog quickly and for free. Increase the frequency with which your feed is updated by buying a higher level of feed, starting at $29 a year.

  • FeedForAll: Use this tool to create and edit RSS feeds for your blog or podcast. You must be able to install software on your web host to use this tool. Pricing starts at $39.95.

When a feed exists, you don’t need to do anything else. Search engines and software tools automatically find it when they index your blog, and your readers can subscribe to your feed when and if they choose to do so.

You can use RSS or your blog in all sorts of ways. Industries as diverse as financial sectors and breaking news organizations have adopted RSS because it’s so flexible and generates website traffic, attracting new readers from search engines and news aggregators. But that’s not all you can use RSS for. Here’s more:

  • Syndicating content: In the blogosphere, syndication means that you publish your information on the web so that newsreaders and other websites can display it.

  • Aggregating news: Do you like other blogs that deal with similar topics as your own? You can use their RSS feeds to include their content on your website. You can link directly to it or, if your blog software has such functionality, display other blog content on your own blog.

  • Replacing e-mail newsletters: Some RSS advocates make astounding claims that RSS will be the death of e-mail. Although this dire prediction hasn’t yet come to pass, RSS definitely has many advantages over e-mail newsletters.

    The most important is that you can avoid spam. How? You can simply choose to read an RSS feed rather than receive more e-mail; by not giving away your e-mail address, you don’t put it at risk for being sold to a spammer.

  • Keeping communities updated: RSS feeds are terrific for keeping people updated. Some feeds merely post information, such as sports scores — as fast as a goal is scored, an RSS feed can be updated. Here are five kinds of things you can share that people might want to know as soon as possible:

    • Security bulletins

    • Classified listings for apartments

    • Emergency weather changes

    • Changes to bids on eBay or Amazon

    • Product availability at retail stores

Because of the simplicity of using RSS technology (yes, the actual building of RSS feeds might still be too geeky for most bloggers), you can use it in many ways to augment the communication channels of your blog or within your community that you haven’t quite figured out yet. Get creative!