Tuesday, December 30, 2003

RSS - How it can Help your Blog

RSS feeds can be beneficial to your blog. What is RSS? RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and is a method pioneered by Netscape.com to deliver news headlines to it's portal. If a site has an RSS feed, any user with an RSS Reader can subscribe to that feed. The feed then delivers headlines and short excerpts of each article posted on that website with a direct link to the article to read more. Many news sites offer RSS feeds. News sites have found this useful as there is no schedule to follow - you report on news as it happens. Thus users do not need to browse the site periodically for new stories, instead they are alerted to them as they are published. Because the user is using a special tool to read the updates, then it is not clogging up their mailbox or distracting them from other tasks - the user is in the mindset of wanting to read new posts or articles. Apply this to Blogs which are often updated on an ad-hoc basis, it prevents users from visiting your blog several times only to discover there are no new posts - chances are that they won't return to your site, and you have lost a user. Even the most dilligent of bloggers that post on a daily basis will have some kind of hiatus - illness, vacation, birth of a new child, etc. Thus RSS Feeds are a great benefit to bloggers. If you want to see how RSS works, try installing this free RSS reader and subscribe to Yahoo's RSS Feed for its news channel. If you want to subscribe to other sites, look out for small buttons labeled "xml" or "rss" - it's a good idea to use a similar design on your own blog.

If your next question is "sounds great - how do I create an RSS feed for my blog?", then read on:
Chek if your blog service offers RSS feeds, if so, then they should have a guide to explain how to create one. Once it is set up, it is automatically populated each time you create a new post. Unfortunately some blog platforms do not offer RSS feeds, including the platform this blog is hosted on, blogger. Don't worry if this is the case for you - Blogstreet offers a service that generates the code for an RSS feed - however you need to manually update this feed yourself each time you publish a new post.
If this is too much work for you, there are services that send an email each time you post to subscribers, unfortunately these do not give the subscriber any info about your posts. A couple to check out are: Blogarithm and Botablog. These do not require any setting up on the blogger's end and users are free to use any email update service for any blog, however you may want to put a link to such a service on your blog. I think RSS is more effective than email updates as it wont get lost in a sea of other messages, and provides a taste of the content so users only visit if they are really interested.


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