Are you making full use of RSS!

Surprisingly, there are still a lot of people who doesn’t know about RSS or Really Simple Syndication. It’s that little orange square thingy on the upper right corner of this page, Yup, THAT button. You would probably say “Oh, so that’s what it is!’. Ok, so what does it do?

Really Simple Syndication is a collection of web feed formats used to advertise updated works in blogs, headlines, audio and video in a standard format. An RSS file or “feed” will contain all necessary information like meta data, authorship, publishing dates and summarized text.

It started with Dan Libby and Ramanathan Guha in 1999. It was first known as RDF site summary then as Rich Site Summary. Further development then produced what we all know now as the RSS, and with the help of the Microsoft Internet Explorer and Outlook team, it adopted the orange box icon in December 2005.

RSS will greatly offer advantageous opportunities to the publisher by letting them syndicate (making it available to other sites) content automatically. The feed, in XML format, will allow the information to be showed once and viewed by many other programs. This will allow updated and personalized news from your favorite websites put into one place.


The one place to read feeds are called Portals, RSS readers or Aggregators. They are presented in different formats – which can be web-based, desktop based or through mobile device based.  By clicking on that orange button, the subscription process is initiated.

Aggregators offer a variety of features, like combining several related feeds into a single view, hiding entries that the viewer has already seen, and categorizing feeds and entries. Without RSS, users will have to check their site daily for new updates. And this may be too time-consuming for many.  My Yahoo and iGoogle are good examples of aggregators, and there are around 2,000 more feed reading applications to choose from.

What makes RSS good?

  • Updates come as soon as they happen, constantly.
  • Increases visibility – subscribing to feeds makes it possible to review a large amount of online content in a very short time.
  • RSS allow instant distribution of content and the ability to make it “subscription-ready.”
  • Advertising in feeds overpasses many of the flaws that traditional marketing channels encounter including spam filters, delayed distribution, search engine rankings, and general inbox noise.

Who uses RSS?

Famous names on the web that offer content feeds include, BBC News Headlines, CNET, Yahoo!, , and many more. Google publishes feeds as part of many of our services. Furthermore, thousands of bloggers, podcasters, and videobloggers publish feeds to keep themselves better connected to their readers, listeners, admirers, and critics. Apple, through its iTunes Music Store, offer thousands of audio and video for download – is also powered by a feed.

How to publish feeds?

Assuming your using a renowned blogging tool or publishing platform like wordpress or blogger, you can feed automatically.  A number of software’s are also available to help convert your traditional web into a proper set-up for RSS distribution and benefits that improve publisher-reader relationship. Try Feedburner and Atom.

Other ways of publishing include;

  • Starting with the feed — Alternatively, you can manage the list-oriented parts of your content in the RSS feed itself in order to generate your Web pages (as well as other content, like e-mail lists) from the feed.
  • Feed integration — If your site is generated (using languages like Perl or PHP), it may have a RSS library available, so that you can integrate the feed into your publishing process.
  • Self-scraping — are tools that fetch your Web page and pull out the relevant parts for the feed, so that you don’t have to change your publishing system. Some use regular expressions or XPath expressions, while others require you to mark up your page with minimal hints (usually using <div> or <span> tags) that help it decide what should be put into the feed.

Generating Good Feeds

Distinct Entries — aggregators must tell your entries apart by using different identifiers in rdf:about (RSS 1.0), guid (RSS 2.0) and id (Atom).

Meaningful Metadata —make the metadata useful; for example, if you only include a short <title>, people may not know what the link is about.

Encoding HTML —refrain from including HTML markup (like <a href=”…”>, <b> or <p>) in your RSS feed; because you don’t know how it will be presented, doing so can prevent your feed from being displayed correctly.

Character Encoding — encode your feed as UTF-8 and check it by parsing it with an XML parser.

Validate — use a validator to catch any problems in your feed; it works with RSS and Atom.

These are just some of the things that you need to know about RSS.  Hopefully, these will help.

Article By: Wasim Ismail

Wasim’s a project manager at Alrayes Web Solutions along with an online SEO consultant & blogger for business at, specialising in online business.

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