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1 February 2012

Is Really Simple Syndication (RSS) still relevant?

Tim Gibbon, director Elemental By Tim Gibbon

Really Simple Syndication also known as Rich Summary Site (RSS) has been with us for a number of years and although it maybe a little grey around the sideburns, its role hasn’t changed. Although a lot of people still question the relevancy and necessity of RSS, it remains an essential element and make-up of the web, so if you haven’t made friends with it yet, you certainly should. We discussed in our previous Technorati post about submitting our (Elemental blog) to the blog search engine and directory, but the impact and role of RSS is more involved than this. But first, what is RSS and why should we bother?


What is RSS?

RSS lets you know when a blog, website or number of other social platforms are updated, without you having to visit them.


A reader (or RSS-aware program) can check the feed for changes and react to them as and when you choose. For example, via our RSS feeds you can keep abreast of what we and the brands we represent do as it happens. This can be blog posts, media coverage, news, press releases, video and more. Think of it like a personal newspaper that delivers what we do to you, first. More information on what RSS is and how it works is at and Wikipedia, including the type of RSS readers you can use.


Elemental RSS page image

Image of Elemental RSS page

Why embracing RSS is important?

RSS is a great way of keeping up-to-date and sharing content from a number of different platforms, whether it’s a blog or otherwise. In our Technorati blog post, we discuss why it would be prudent to consider publishing your blog using a blog platform (such as Blogger, MovableType, WordPress et al) that may be more widely accepted by search engines, directories and other services that specifically cater for blogs.


However, if it’s a bespoke blog that you’re building (which we’ve done) or need to update, you need to consider making what you build behaves like a blog, taking on onboard blog functionality i.e. RSS feeds. Unfortunately, if you aren’t a programmer, then you need to ensure that your representation appreciates how important RSS feeds are, and how implementing them is a bigger deal, because the last thing you need are unwanted stray feeds that can impact upon your SEO efforts.


RSS is also useful for a number of other reasons such as being compatible for popular readers such as Google reader, Netvibes, Yahoo! reader and many others - allowing you to use content for a plethora of reasons. In addition to this don’t underestimate RSS love across a number of other publishing platforms and services where RSS feeds are welcome. With the growing popularity of mobile, smartphone or tablet devices and not forgetting ereaders e.g. Kindle from Amazon, web publishing service and many others - which can be courted via RSS feeds, so what’s not to love?


Still not convinced? Look to blogging services and social technologies where RSS feeds can be used to share content producing a RSS feed for you to potentially use in other resources. Of course there are exceptions to the rule; Twitter removed its RSS feed display and support for individual accounts last year, but if you dig around online you can create a straightforward workaround (for now). If you’re curious to some of the feeds that we use, you’ll find some at our Elemental social page.


Using an RSS reader can be a really effective way (not to mention time-saving) of keeping tabs on what is going on in your industry, and also with your competitors and peers. Most readers allow you to categorise or separate feeds relating to different topics (defined by you), allowing you to see at a glance when your competitor has added a new press release or blog post, or when there is breaking industry news.


Elemental social page image

Image of Elemental social media page

Search marketing

It’s also worth noting that valid RSS feeds can also be submitted via search marketing tools from Google (Google Webmaster) and Microsoft (Bing Webmaster) as sitemaps, as long as they meet the requirements by the aforementioned. To check whether your RSS feed is valid, test with resources such as the feed valuation service from W3C (and many others via search). Before getting ahead of yourself, it would be prudent to check your feeds are correct.


Remaining flexible

Submitting RSS feeds to resources, having them validated and then content accepted may appear to be the end of the matter, but this isn’t always the case. As the need to chase that all important hyperlink love never wanes for some resources, you may find that you’ll need to produce a button, banner and/or badge to reciprocate. So, if a resource catches your fancy and it’s high on your agenda, you may find that you will need to give back that love in order for your RSS feed to be published in what you deem a desired resource. This is more likely if your blog isn’t perceived as a powerhouse, something you’ll need to review on a case-by-case basis, particularly in the early days in the promotion of blog until you reach superstardom.


Top tips for choosing relevant RSS resources and submitting to them*

  1. Work with programmers that understand RSS feeds and can make changes that may be necessary to make the accessible by wider services
  2. Ensure that the platform you wish to use supports RSS and is validated. Test the RSS feeds in other resources to check its compatibility e.g. Google Reader, Netvibes et al before going hell for leather in submitting your feeds
  3. Only select relevant resources to submit RSS feeds to (keep a check of the resources) and ensure that relevant category / categories are chosen
  4. If code is to be placed so that it may be validated by a resource ensure that it located at the top of the feed (the top of the content), particularly if the RSS feeds only takes the excerpt
  5. Consider submission to Bing and Google Webmaster, only submitting relevant RSS feeds that are beneficial to your potential readership and not a decision solely determined by search engine optimisation (SEO)


Above all, consider the wider implications of your RSS feeds and the practical use across various platforms.


* As always this isn’t an exhaustive list

Categories: Technology, Social media, Elemental

Tags: really simple syndication, RSS, Technorati, blogs, Blogging, bloggers, checking claims, directories, search engines, Kindle, Netvibes, Bing Webmaster, Google Webmaster

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