Why Use an RSS Feed for your Website?

Part of the You Can Learn Web Success Techniques series.
By Ken Brown
Editor, You Can Learn Series
December 5, 2004

Over a year and a half ago, I attended a Chicago .Net Users Group meeting in Downers Grove, Illinois. The discussion topic for the meeting was RSS feeds.

I must admit I was only listening partially, because I didn't think I needed or wanted an RSS feed. I definitely didn't know what they were and after the discussion I thought they were hard to implement. Quite frankly, I was wrong on all counts.

What is an RSS feed? I have read many different words for the acronym, but for now let's go with Really Simple Syndication. Those big words alone make you feel like this process isn't for the little guy. But, despite the word syndication, you can start today to add an RSS feed to your web site, no matter how big or small your site.

An RSS feed is nothing more than an XML file that contains information about your web site. You can change the information on a regular basis and people who subscribe to your RSS feed will be notified of the change and will go to your site to get more information.

RSS is pull technology instead of push technology. What does that mean? When you send a newsletter to someone you are pushing that newsletter into their email account. Even if they have subscribed to your newsletter they may not really want it. But you still push it to them every week or so. Pull technology, means that your subscriber goes and gets the information when they want it. The subscriber has to make an effort to ask for your new content.

At first you might think nobody will ever ask for new content from you. But it isn't that difficult. See there are RSS readers available for free. These readers use a timer and every time the timer goes off, the RSS reader will check to see which sites the user subscribes to. Then they go and get the information from those sites and present the information in an easy to read format.

Your RSS subscriber now has a synopsis of your new content. If they find the synopsis interesting, then the next step is to click on the link provided to take them to your website where they can read the entire article or get new information.

It is very similar to sitting down in a doctor's office and picking up a magazine. The first thing most people do is read the cover to see if there are any interesting articles. Then they find the page number of the article and go and read the article.

I already have a newsletter, why bother with an RSS feed?

You might say, "That is the same thing my newsletter does. I already have a newsletter, why bother with an RSS feed?" Because some people, a lot of people actually, don't want you to have their email address. I read an article in November 2004 that said the impact of newsletters is diminishing.

If you need information on how to create an RSS Feed then check out our article on the mechanics how to in another section of this website.

Just because you have an RSS feed doesn't mean you get rid of your newsletter. Just because you have a newsletter, you don't eliminate your RSS feed. They should work together to drive more traffic of interested users and potential clients.

Everytime you write a new article for your web site then write a short synopsis of the article and add it to your RSS feed. Make it a habit, write an article, add it to your RSS feed. People really want to know what your company and you are doing.

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