Thursday, June 28, 2012

How to Set up an RSS Feed

"What is RSS and why do I need it?"

I seem to get some version of this question emailed to me every so often, so I wanted to make sure I addressed it here on this blogging series. Basically, as a blogger... you should totally care about RSS! It's the primary way that readers read your content! There are other, less efficient, ways to keep up with a blog, but for readers who have quite a few blogs they'd like to keep track of, RSS saves the day.

RSS ==> Really Simple Syndication

Think of your blog as a newspaper. When someone subscribes to your blog, your newspaper gets tossed up on their doorstep every time you write a post... unless you don't bother sending it to print. In which case, it's as though you've just tacked one copy of it up on your front door for everyone to swing by and read if they have time.

Don't fail to send your newspaper to print!

Luckily, in this day and age, you don't literally have to hire a newspaper press to publish your work. Instead, you have to "press" an RSS feed, which people can then subscribe to and have your work instantly transported to their computers every time you hit "Publish".

You might not have known this, but blog services like Blogger automatically create an RSS feed for you. Anytime someone "Follows" you on Google Friend Connect, they're actually subscribing to your RSS feed through their Google Reader!

It's a good idea to know how to press your own feed as well, largely because it gives you a better understanding of the process. Plus, it gives your readers another option for subscribing! Everyone has their own way that they like to follow blogs, so it's nice if you have a lot of the options covered.

Feedburner is the best way I know of to press your own feed (or as they call it: "burning a feed"). It gives people the option to subscribe to your feed in their blog reader of choice, as well as receive updates by email if they so choose.

You start by putting your blog URL into this box on their front page:

It's been awhile since I've pressed my feed, but I don't remember it being too difficult. Just follow the prompts.

Once you have your feed imported, go to the Publicize page and choose one of the options for how you want to display your "Subscribe" button on your site. It'll give you some HTML code that you can put into a widget in your sidebar.

Here's what my feed looks like once you hit the Subscribe button. As you can see, Feedburner gives them quite a few options for how to subscribe.

Feedburner also has a lot of Google's Analytics power built right into it, so you can easily view blog stats about your subscribers right there. You can't tell who personally subscribes, but you can find out other things, like which blog entries have been viewed the most, which can be helpful if you're trying to streamline your future blog topics.

So basically... RSS is the process of automatically sending out your own personal newspaper to all your readers. It makes it really easy for your readers to keep up with all your latest content. Hopefully I've shed a little light on how this process works, but please let me know if you need any further clarification!

This concludes week two of the Build Your Blog! series. Next week's topic: Taking better blog photos. If you haven't already, don't forget to subscribe to this blog so you know when the next edition of the blog series is ready!

Questions or comments about this week's topic? Leave them below & I will try to answer them all in a follow-up post later this summer!

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  1. hey there, coming from the hop!
    thanks for sharing, this is just what I've needed! :) following you now

  2. Thanks for this - so helpful!


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