I’ve had a few emails asking, “What the heck are RSS feeds and why should I care?” Excellent questions. This article explains (in real language) what RSS is, how RSS helps you, and how to subscribe to websites and blogs using free RSS Readers and feeds.
What is RSS?
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. RSS is a method of sharing content such as news from a website or articles from a blog. RSS gives you the power to automatically get your favorite website or blog articles right when it’s published, without having to go to the site. If you read lots of blogs, RSS can save you lots of time.
What are RSS feeds?
Most websites and blogs have links and pictures labeled “RSS”, “XML”, “Subscribe” or “Atom”. All of these pictures and terms are ways of saying you can get the site’s content if you subscribe to the RSS Feed.
The technical term for subscribing is called “syndication”. Websites and blogs with RSS feeds tend to use a little orange button (or an icon with a dot and two curved bars) to show you their feed is freely available.
Who publishes RSS feeds?
Any website or blog can publish an RSS feed. Blogs were some of the first sites to offer feeds. Today, most major newspapers, news sites, and stores like Amazon and iTunes all offer RSS feeds to keep you updated with their news. You can even get your favorite podcast delivered to you through an RSS feed.
How do RSS feeds help me?
Here’s why RSS feeds can rock your online world:
- Never forget or lose a web address, again. Ever find a cool blog or site and “forget” the web address? Is it Squawkfox or Squakfox? With RSS, you can subscribe to a blog and never have to remember the website address.
- Don’t need to check for new articles. RSS feeds automatically send you updated articles without having to visit the blog or website. This saves you time and effort.
- Read lots of blogs, quickly. Subscribing to RSS feeds makes it possible to scan though dozens of headlines quickly, choosing what you want to read. Now you don’t have to visit the site, look for an update, and decide if the story is interesting to you, or not.
- Save the stories you like. Find a blog or website article you really like? Use RSS feeds to save or “bookmark” that story. You’ll never lose your favorite, most inspiring, articles again.
- Subscribers often get special stuff. Many blogs offer free downloads, eBooks, and special stuff only to subscribers.
- No more ads. Don’t like the ads on a site? Use your reader to get just the content, without ads.
- Less email. More control. RSS readers give you the control to subscribe or unsubscribe to blog feeds at your convenience. You don’t have to give your email address to anyone. You are free from filling your email box with all the content from your favorite blogs.
How do I read RSS feeds?
The best way to “subscribe” to an RSS feed is through something called an RSS Feed Reader. An RSS reader is a website where you sign up for an account, create a login and password, and then access your favorite blogs. RSS readers are free. The most popular RSS reader is Google Reader. Google Reader is easy to learn, free, and used by countless blog and website enthusiasts.
Google Reader Example Screenshot:
How to Subscribe to Blogs:
Subscribing to a blog’s RSS feed in a reader is super simple. Here’s how:
- Sign up for an RSS reader. You’ll need a feed reader. I suggest Google Reader.
- Find the RSS icon. In your web browser (for example: Internet Explorer or Firefox) go the blog or website you want to subscribe to and find the RSS feed icon. Here’s where to look:
- Blog Front Page. Most blogs or websites make it really easy to find their RSS button.
- Web Browser Toolbar. Good web browsers, like Firefox make it easy for you to subscribe to blogs. Look to the right of the site URL address and to see an RSS icon if a feed is available. This is how Squawkfox’s URL looks in Firefox:
- Click the RSS icon. Locate the blog RSS icon and click it. It doesn’t matter if the icon is on the front page or in the URL address. Follow the directions after clicking this icon.
Can’t find the RSS icon?
Use your Google Reader to add a blog’s RSS feed. Copy and paste the blog’s URL Web address into the Add subscription field, and click Add.
OR Get Email Updates
If you don’t want to set up an RSS feed reader account, no worries. You can still get blog updates sent to you email address. Most blogs offer an option to sign up for email updates. Look for an email icon (and click it) or find a place on the blog to enter your email address. Follow the directions on the blog, they all differ slightly.
Get going with blogs and readers!
1. Get Google Reader.
2. Click to sign up for Squawkfox via RSS
3. Repeat for all your favorite blogs.
4. Link or share this article. Feel free to link to, email, or share this article with your blog readers. Here’s the article link, below.
5. Got Questions? Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below! Yes, I give free technical RSS advice to both readers and bloggers! 🙂
Was this helpful? Don’t be shy, ask your RSS questions in the comments below.