One of the easiest ways to let readers know you updated your site with new content is with a RSS feed. A RSS feed (which translates to Really Simple Syndication) is an XML-based file format that allows you to share and distribute your website content. Readers subscribe to your feed to receive regular updates or notifications when new content is published, including blog entries, news headlines, audio and video. And even though RSS feeds have been around for awhile, it benefits both publishers and readers alike: publishers can automatically syndicate content, and readers can subscribe to several sites and receive content in one place. In other words, RSS helps you get the word out, and it makes sure your readers hear about it.
The main focus of a RSS feed is to save time. It’s an easy solution for busy readers who don’t have time to visit their favorite websites everyday. So how does it work? RSS feeds are read through software known as a “RSS feeder” or “aggregator.” Users click on the orange RSS icon on any site and are taken to a page where they can subscribe to the feed through the RSS reader or web browser. To check for new content, the RSS feed regularly scans the user’s subscribed feeds, downloads any new content and supplies a user interface for the user to read and monitor the feeds. According to PCMag.com’s list of Best Free Software of 2009, some of the most popular RSS readers include Google Reader, Netvibes, FeedDemon, NetNewsWire, RSS bandit and Snarfer.
Although RSS feeds might seem more suited for bloggers and news headliners, there are ways for other companies to take advantage of it. For instance, when Pixeldust Interactive built Rottenneighbor.com, we implemented a RSS feature that alerted users each time a new post was made on their neighborhood. There are lots of creative ways to implement RSS into your site, so we’ve included a few here, along with a video that explains how to use a RSS feed.
Distribute news, information and product offers to customers and clients. RSS is a good way to reach out to your customers about daily product offers, new product releases, new blog posts and general company information or news. It can also be a useful channel to reach out to your marketing demographic that has shied away from any kind of social media (and there are people out there that have).
Communicate internally with employees. This option is good for companies that have national and global offices who need to communicate important announcements to employees. Use it to send updates on insider company information or changing conditions, call attention to any company issues or news, or direct employees to important announcements on your website. It’s a good way to keep remote employees in the loop without inundating them with irrelevant information.
View information anywhere. Since most RSS feeds contain only links, headlines or a brief paragraph of the new information, they can be viewed anywhere. Readers can check the feeds on any phone with internet or a computer.
Get notifications from social media when customers talk about your company. One of the easiest social media outlets to track customer chatter is Twitter search. Save your company search and sign up for alerts when users mention your company. This helps ensure you don’t miss out on your chance to directly chat with your customers. Plus, it’s a good way to find out what the public thinks about your company.
Use a tracking system to find out how many unique subscribers you have. There are tons of RSS tracking systems that provide you with information about your feed subscribers, including the number of unique subscribers, how many users access the feed, which bots visit your feeds, amount of revenue generated, etc. Tracking your RSS metrics will give you a better idea of your audience and allow you to tailor your content accordingly. After all, these are the people you’re writing for.