Today is RSS Awareness Day: a celebration of RSS (Real Simple Syndication) when we can spread awareness of the benefits of RSS and encourage others to use this too.
RSS is a format used to deliver content in an easily distributable form from websites which are updated regularly. Most blogging systems, for example provide an RSS or Atom feed to accompany the pages of the blog.
In this post, I'll explain the basics of blog feeds with particular reference to Blogger powered feeds; how they are useful for your blog readers and how blog authors can make their feeds more useful and accessible too.
What are RSS and Atom Feeds?
RSS and Atom essentially perform the same function: they offer updates to a blog or website in a portable format. It's like the difference between Internet Explorer and Firefox: both allow you to access the internet, though the format and style of these browsers are different.
You can read the updates of a "feed" in an RSS reader, receive updates by email, or even access them on your mobile phone!
This video offers a simple explanation of RSS though the same principles apply to Atom based feeds too:
Blogger's Atom Feeds
As I mentioned earlier, Blogger powered blogs provide an Atom based feed rather than an RSS feed. This feed contains your posts, either in full or summary format. Your readers can subscribe to your blog's feed and receive updates whenever you write a new post.
How to enable your Blog's Atom Feeds
In order to ensure your blog does publish an accompanying feed, you should check that you have enabled this in your Blogger dashboard.
Simply go to Settings>Site Feed in your blog's dashboard, and you will see a screen which looks like this:
Ensure you have set the site feed to "Full" or "Summary". If you select "None", your blog's feed will not be published!
If you set your blog feeds to "Full":
Your entire posts will be published in the feed, enabling subscribers to read your full posts in their feed reader.
If you set your blog feeds to "Summary":
Only a short portion of your posts will be published, and subscribers will need to visit your site in order to read the rest of your post.
There has always been a debate about whether to publish full or summarised feeds. In my experience, people prefer to subscribe to "Full" feeds than a summary, although this may mean you will have less actual visits to your site as people read in their feed readers instead.
Why Feeds are Useful for your Readers
If you offer an accompanying feed to your blog, readers do not need to revisit your site every day to check if you have updated: instead, they can simply check their feed reader, or have updates delivered by email.
In simple terms, this is like offering a magazine subscription: rather than ask your readers to travel to the newsagent each time they want to read your content, you are offering a delivery service. Convenience offers an incentive for readers to stay faithful with what you have to offer!
Making your Feeds More Accessible
Here are a few ideas you could try to make your feeds more accessible for your readers (and therefore more likely to subscribe!):
Redirect your Feed Through Feedburner
Feedburner is a free service which you can use to make your blog feeds more accessible and also maintain statistics of your subscribers.
Redirecting your feeds through Feedburner is really easy. This way you can keep accurate track of how many subscribers your blog has, and ensure the format is compatible for all feed readers.
You may like to read the full article I wrote about this to get a better understanding of the benefits and what you need to do.
Offer Email Subscriptions
Many internet users are unaware of how feeds work, nor the benefits of blog subscription. To make it easier for such readers to subscribe to your site, why not offer email subscriptions?
Most internet users are familiar with email, so offering your feed in this easily accessible format is an incentive for those unfamiliar with RSS to subscribe too. You can use Feedburner to offer email subscriptions, and easily add a subscription form to your blog sidebar for readers to subscribe directly on your site!
Create a Visible Link to your Blog's Feed
For Blogger Buster, I have added various links to the site feeds in the navigation section, the sidebar and on the front page.
The icons beside the link text offer a visual representation of RSS feeds which are easily recognizable, and offer easy access to subscription pages.
Explain How Readers Can Subscribe (And What This Means for Them!)
A dedicated subscription page can offer explanations of the methods users can use to subscribe to your blog. You could also use this page to explain what your feeds are for those who may be unfamiliar with RSS and Atom feeds.
About RSS Awareness Day
RSS Awareness Day was created by Daniel Scocco of Daily Blog Tips in order to raise awareness of the benefits of RSS and feed subscriptions.
RSSday.org is the dedicated website for this project which explains what RSS Day is all about, and how you may get involved too.
More Useful Posts about Your Blog Feeds
Here are links to some of the other posts I have written about blog feeds:
I hope this post has been useful in explaining a little about your blog feeds in celebration of RSS Awareness Day!
Why not subscribe to Blogger Buster to receive fresh updates of new Blogger-related posts? :)
As always, your comments and opinions are much appreciated. If you have also written a feed-related post for RSS Awareness Day, feel free to leave a link to your post in your comments too.