The little orange RSS (really simple syndication) icon is a common footer item on modern websites, but we often get asked what it does and why it’s important. We believe that if you’re regularly publishing new content, RSS is a great way to share and promote it. So, here are 3 good reasons to invest in an RSS feed for your website…
1. Allow users to subscribe to your content
An RSS feed will enable anyone who’s interested in your content to subscribe to it and receive new updates as they’re published. You can subscribe to an RSS feed through some email platforms (like Outlook) or through an RSS reader (like Google Reader).
Having people subscribe to your RSS feed doesn’t deprive you of visitors. In fact, the opposite is true as subscribers only receive a snippet that links them back to the full version on your website. Here is a short video from Google. It’s specifically about Google Reader (obviously) but also does a pretty good job of explaining the RSS concept.
2. Share and promote your content on social media
As well as direct subscribers, you can use RSS to share your content without duplicating it. RSS is a common way to display blog or news headlines on your homepage, for example. As you’re effectively just posting links, you can keep your homepage (or any other page) looking fresh and updated, but the full versions only appear in one place.
If you’re updating your site regularly, posting your new content to your social media profiles is a great way to get it in front of more people and encourage them to add, friend or follow you. RSS allows you to do this without any manual posting or sharing.
It’s important to remember that not everything you publish on your site is going to be appropriate for all your social media sites. If you share every blog post and news article on Facebook, for example, you’re likely to annoy even the keenest of followers. But RSS isn’t just a fire hose. You can drill down to specific categories to share content in the right places and supplement your automated updates with manual updates.
3. Help Google find new content
Finally, an RSS feed will help Google crawl and index your content. Google shows a strong bias towards new and recent pages, which is one of the great benefits of a regularly-updated blog or news section.
RSS provides Googlebot with a helping hand when it comes to understanding what’s new on your site. Here is a Whiteboard Friday video from SEOMoz explaining how it works: