RSS Feeds and Me (and You)

RSS Feeds and Me (and You)

I admit it. A little over a year ago when SiteWrench 4.0 launched with the News Articles page part, I didn't really have any idea what an RSS feed was. I learned that RSS stood for Real Simple Syndication, but that increased my understanding from absolutely none to infinitely little. Finally, I broke down and created a Google Reader account, so I could subscribe to an RSS feed and figure these things out.

Fast forward to today. I've got about 25-30 RSS feeds that I subscribe to with topics ranging from design blogs and project websites to my church news and techie blogs (Palm Pre is launching in June!). Feeds let me keep up with what's going on without having to check my favorite websites several times a day looking for updates. Using a service like Google Reader (my personal favorite because it integrates with my iGoogle page) or Feedburner, I get the story headline and a brief story snippet. If I'm interested, I can open the story, if not... I just check it off my list of items. All-in-all, RSS feeds give me (and you) the ability to stay on top of the latest news while keeping your web browsing clean and efficient.

So... What's in it for the website? More than you would think...

First of all, think of RSS feeds as a means of information distribution. You can't get away with sending an HTML newsletter or Mass Mail to your audience once a day, but your RSS feed can be used for essentially the same purpose. Publish a news story through SiteWrench or your blog, and immediately all of your subscribers are notified that you've got new content. Not only can your subscribers get to the information, but even if they don't read it, they also get the impression that your website is active and alive (generally, a very good impression to make).

Secondly, you are more likely to widen your audience with RSS feeds. If a see a buddy post a link on Twitter (want to follow SPEAK! on Twitter? Click here) that I might be interested in, I'll visit the site. If the content is pretty good (or funny, I'm a sucker for humor), I'll subscribe to the site's RSS feed and visit again when I see the next story. "Old school" methods of web browsing would mean that I'd need to bookmark the site and visit again at an arbitrary time in the future to look for updates. Raise your hand if at one point in time or another you've had a bookmark list full of sites that you meant to come back to. Now, your audience can widen immensely because there is so little action required for them to be reminded that your site is great and provides excellent content.

Of course, that means that you need to be putting out excellent content (which is another blog post entirely), but some quick pointers for making improvements to your content:
  • Give me the "latest and greatest" from your organization - I want to read about your accomplishments and how you got there. I want to read about how you are improving (it may motivate me to think about ways I can improve).
  • Give me information that I'm not likely to look for somewhere else - There are things that you do that are different from everyone else out there. Tell me about them.
  • Give me thoughts from others that you respect (and their links!) - If I respect you, and you respect something that Dr. X (cool super hero name) said on his website, tell me about it! I'm likely to respect what he said AND be excited about the fact that you are expanding your intellectual resources. This makes my opinion of you grow.
RSS feeds are incredibly useful, and you should be using them in your web browsing practices and leveraging them on your website. If you have a site that is incapable of publishing RSS feeds, give us a shout - we'll be happy to show you how SiteWrench makes this incredible tool easy to use.

Posted by Matt Roberts at 10:19 AM