March 10, 2010

Formatting Your RSS Feed


Hostway Team

By Jen Brister

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds provide new information and updates from blogs and Web sites in a simple format to subscribed readers. If you want to offer your readers an RSS feed of your blog, you have a lot of choices when it comes to formats. Since all major aggregate readers read all different formats, it's a matter of personal taste when deciding which format you choose for your RSS feed.

Types of RSS Feeds

The three main choices for RSS formats are RSS 1.0, RSS 2.0 and Atom. All of these formats are XML-based and provide similar structures. Though it has a different name, Atom has the same basic structure as other RSS feeds. RSS 1.0 is generally known for its ability to be fully specified, while RSS 2.0 is known for being simple to use.

RSS feeds are composed of a channel which has a title, link, and description, followed by a series of related items that each have their own title, link and description. Each channel can contain up to 15 related items. When readers subscribe to your feed, they can view it through a feed aggregator such as Google Reader.

Setting up your RSS feed is generally easy if you use a service such as Feedburner, which is now owned by Google. When you use this type of service, you are provided with step-by-step instructions to set up your feed and find a style that is right for you.

Setting up Your RSS Feed

You have many choices when setting up your RSS feed, including exactly what you would like for your readers to see. For instance, if you are setting up a feed for your business blog, you can format it so that your readers see entire blog posts in their feed. If you prefer that they click through to your actual Web site, you will want to set up your feed so that the reader only sees a brief summary or the first paragraph of the blog post plus a link through to your site.

There are advantages to both of these methods. Providing full articles in your RSS feed allows your readers to see all content without leaving their feed reader. Some readers resist clicking out of their feed readers, so they may not click out to finish reading the article. However, providing a brief summary and a link to your site can sometimes encourage readers to click through to your site to see more information on a topic. This is particularly useful if you have products on your site that are for sale. The more readers who click through to read the rest of the article, the more likely you are to make a sale to one of your readers.

RSS feeds are constantly evolving and changing. Be sure to stay on top of the technology so that your Web site has the best and most advanced feed available. It's a good idea to format your feed in the colors and style of your Web site so that you will get the most out of your branding efforts. RSS feeds are a wonderful way to get your Web site noticed, gain new readers and get more customers for your business.

About the Author

Jen Brister has been a writer, researcher, and Internet marketer for three years. She makes her living writing full time, publishing videos, and creating Web sites.

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