RSS – Site Marketing’s New Frontier
What is RSS?
RSS is a type of XML. You can see the feed for my page here. This is the raw xml, this page is never meant to be seen by a human. Notice no ads or affiliate links – that’s part of what is appealing about RSS.
If you know HTML then you can think of RSS (XML) a data version of HTML (which is mostly concerned with formatting). So the tags in RSS are identifying the data that the tags contain as a way to identify how the data should be organized or grouped, rather than formatted (HTML).
RSS started as a way for people to keep up to date with frequently updated sites like blogs or news sites. Rather than have to visit a site and sift through all the stories to find the ones that you want to read, you could remotely check the headlines to find out what you wanted to go and check out.
Now to consume (use) an RSS feed you need either an RSS reader (there are lots available for free) or, this is the one I really like, an RSS feed can be added to a user’s myYahoo or myMSN page. If you click on the RSS link on the menu on my home page you will be taken to a page that is from a service that I use (feedburner).
Since there are many types of RSS (confusing I know) the service provides a translation that is universal for all readers. On this page you will see there are links to add my RSS feed to many different web based readers. Getting someone to put your feed on myYahoo is considered a victory in my mind. If you have a myYahoo or myMSN you can try it out. Then every time I add a new story the rss.aspx page updates and the headline for the new story will show up in all the subscriber’s pages or readers. If they like the subject matter for the story they click the headline and go to that page on my site. So every time you view your myYahoo page yahoo goes to feedburner, which goes and reads my rss.aspx page and gets the headlines, therefore you always get the latest headlines.
The RSS page on my site is not created with HTML. It is scripted dynamically from the database. When it is requested, a bit of code executes which goes to my database and gets the last 10 stories and then the XML is generated and given to the page.
There are also special search engines that only search RSS feeds. RSS, because it is lightweight (has no formatting), can be consumed by cell phones! Below there is a link describing how you can use an RSS feed to get your site into the Yahoo RSS directory. Their regular site directory is notoriously difficult or expensive to get into. My site shows up in Yahoo now because of my RSS feed.
Another reason for the popularity of RSS is spam. In the past sites would send out emails with site updates but since people are getting so much spam the RSS is a better solution. Users can scan the updates on their reader without the site newsletter or updates getting lost in their inboxes.