RSS, which stands for “really simple syndication,” is a technology that allows for easy, automatic distribution of Web site content. Your content is fed to special readers as soon as it is published, allowing subscribers to read it immediately. It is a relatively quick and easy way to expose users to fresh content, while simultaneously helping promote your site to search engines.
RSS feeds can be a highly effective marketing tool that can increase your exposure to users and improve your search engine ranking. RSS feeds are free, and all major blogging software comes with the capability to publish a feed.
These feeds creates a unique, automatically updating Web page that feed readers can understand. When someone subscribes to your RSS feed, they copy that page’s URL into a feed reader. The feed reader lets subscribers easily view excerpts or full articles you’ve published on your site.
Someone receiving your content via RSS may no longer visit your site, which may seem like you’re shooting yourself in the foot. However, publishers who enable RSS believe that by making it easier to share their content, they’re more likely to lure people back to the site. Also, many people browse large RSS directories looking for things to read. By submitting your feed to such a directory (known as an aggregator) your most recent story always gets added to these services. This increases your exposure, and it adds to the overall number of sites that link to you, an important factor in search engine optimization.
The only drawback to RSS is the amount of time it takes to keep creating fresh content. If you don’t publish new content on a regular basis, your blog will not only lose its utility to those who read and subscribe to its RSS feed, it will also lose favor with search engines.
There are many different RSS feed formats available including Atom, straight XML, and numerous RSS 1.0 and 2.0 formats. Not all feed readers can understand all formats. Services like FeedBurner will automatically convert your RSS feed into every available format for the widest range of readers. FeedBurner also adds useful traffic-tracking tools that let you know how many people are using your feed and what stories they’re clicking on.
Take a look at some example feeds from AllBusiness.com, such as our Business Travel Center RSS feed and our Personal Finance Center RSS feed. These feeds are updated weekly with new content from AllBusiness.com added to these pages, and distributed using FeedBurner. You can also view a complete list of available feeds in the AllBusiness.com RSS Directory.
Remember, though, that on the Web, content is king. While RSS will often increase your exposure, ultimately it is the overall quality of your content, your ability to engage an audience, and your site’s usefulness that will draw and keep users.