If you’ve never heard about or you’re not 100% sure what an RSS feed is, the chances are that you’ve stumbled upon the well-known orange icon while browsing on the web:
It looks familiar, right? That’s because most websites on the web offer RSS feeds, and you’re likely to see it everywhere. RSS is a web feed that allows applications and users to receive updates about websites and blogs, and RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication (or Rich Site Summary).
Back in the days when the web and online world was starting out, the only way to keep updated on your favorite websites was to bookmark them and then remember to visit them occasionally to see if anything changed. RSS was created to solve this problem and allow users to receive updates about their favorite websites in their email, feed reader application, and other devices.
How Does An RSS Feed Work?
The idea is simple but brilliant. Your website’s latest content is published in a structured XML document that contains either full articles or their summary and the metadata (author, date, category, etc.). A person with an RSS feed software can then add your feed to it and fetch and read the content on their device. There are tons of RSS feed clients available on all operating systems and devices today.
Here’s an example of an RSS feed:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?><rss version="2.0" xmlns:content="http://purl.org/rss/1.0/modules/content/" xmlns:wfw="http://wellformedweb.org/CommentAPI/" xmlns:dc="http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/" xmlns:atom="http://www.w3.org/2005/Atom" xmlns:sy="http://purl.org/rss/1.0/modules/syndication/" xmlns:slash="http://purl.org/rss/1.0/modules/slash/" > <channel> <title>Skystra</title> <atom:link href="https://skystra.com/feed/" rel="self" type="application/rss+xml" /> <link>https://skystra.com</link> <description>Cloud Web Services</description> <lastBuildDate>Sun, 14 Mar 2021 13:52:51 +0000</lastBuildDate> <language>en-US</language> <sy:updatePeriod> hourly </sy:updatePeriod> <sy:updateFrequency> 1 </sy:updateFrequency> <generator>https://wordpress.org/?v=5.6.2</generator>
RSS feeds support is installed by default in WordPress and each page of your blog includes a meta tag that points to the RSS feed location.
If needed, you can disable the RSS feed option in WordPress, but we recommend against that as they’re pretty helpful.
Do I Need An RSS Feed?
RSS feeds are optional, but we recommend using them as they make it easy for your readers to subscribe to your content. That way, they receive timely updates from your website directly, which increases views and engagement on your website. Specialized and nowadays popular RSS reader software helps so your subscribers don’t need to remember your website URL; they can read your content offline and consume it on any portable device.
Additionally, people like RSS feeds because they allow them to pull all website updates into a centralized location for easier reading. This makes it easy and takes less time to quickly go through favorite news and updates without individually visiting each source.
RSS feeds also help you create a loyal audience around your website/blog, and RSS subscribers are more likely to share your content across the web and social media.
In addition to using it on your website, we also recommend trying RSS as a method of staying updated on your favorite websites too. Contemporary RSS readers allow you to sort reading lists into groups and categories to maximize your reading time.
How Do I Create An RSS Feed?
As we mentioned previously, RSS feeds come built-in to WordPress, so you don’t have to do anything to use them, and your website automatically publishes them. To locate your RSS feed, simply add /feed/ after your website URL, like this:
(make sure to replace example.com with your domain name)
Like the global feed, your readers can also subscribe to specific categories. For example, if you have a TechNews category on your website, the URL to the feed would be:
It’s convenient! You can even have your coders/designers adjust your website’s theme and allow users to subscribe to the category RSS feed when they open the category pages.
The Custom Post Types feature in WordPress is very powerful, and most website owners use them on their websites. You probably guessed it – but yes, you can have a separate RSS feed for each custom post type as well.
Here’s an example URL to the custom post type feed:
(make sure to change the post name to the one you’re using)
If you want to take it to the next level, you can also include the custom taxonomy in the custom post type feed URL:
For example, to promote this RSS feed – you can add an RSS feed button with the URL to your website’s sidebar.
What Else Can I Use An RSS Feed For?
As you’ve learned so far, RSS feeds are helpful to build audience engagement on your website. Apart from that, you can:
- Automatically share your new posts to all social media profiles using RSS feeds with automation services such as IFTTT. That way, you can keep your social media active and grow your website traffic without much effort.
- Use your RSS feeds to build your email list and convert your website visitors into loyal subscribers.
- Cross-promote your blog using the WordPress built-in RSS widget. You can either partner up with other websites or cross-promote your blogs/websites if you have more than one.
How Do I Read My Favorite Websites?
If we made a compelling case and want to start using RSS to maximize your reading time and stay up-to-date on your favorite websites, all you need to do is use a feed reader software. There are tons of free feed readers for all operating systems, browsers, and devices, and below, we’ll list a few that caught our eye:
- Feeder (iOS, Android, Chrome, Firefox, Edge)
- Inoreader (iOS, Android, Chrome, Firefox, Edge)
- Feedly (iOS, Android, Kindle, Chrome, Firefox, Web)
- Feedreader Online (Web)
- FlowReader (iOS, Android, Kindle, Web)
- NewsBlur (iOS, Android, Web)
We recommend using Feedly (even though it’s a paid service) as it’s powerful and has plenty of valuable features. Feedly allows you to sync your RSS subscriptions across all your devices, so you don’t have to bother finding where you left off previously. It also has a great search mechanism, so all you need to do is input your favorite website URL and click the Follow button to subscribe to its RSS feed.