Feeds are seriously one of the hottest advances in web technology. The ability to view the most recent content from hundreds of websites from a single program not only keeps you up-to-date on the news and information, it is fast and easy to use.
As a website owner or administrator, or even a blogger, you need to know about websites feeds, how they work, why they work, and why you need them on your site.
Here is an example of one of the many ways I use them. On my husband’s website, Brent VanFossen with a View on Aircraft Engineering, we are constantly on the lookout for new news and information on the aircraft industry, especially related to the manufacturing, repair, and maintenance of commercial aircraft. There are many sites offering news on aircraft and airline industries, but they don’t all have feeds. Those that do, I have in my feed reader and daily check their latest reports, searching for links and content to add to the site and keep us informed on what is going on within that industry. If there is an interesting story, I visit that page, read the story, and compile information to add to our site. Those that don’t have feeds, while I have bookmarked their sites, I visit them only when there is little information coming in through the other feeds.
Moral of the story? If you want traffic, if you want attention, if you want visitors, add feeds.
What are Feeds?
A feed is basically a stripped down version of your site which is viewed by a feed reader. Most of them pull the information into your site via a format known as XML or RSS. There are a variety of formats available for feeds, but the RSS version seems to be the most common and popular. Feed Reeders, also known as news aggregators, translate the feed into a viewable page, putting all new posts from a website on one page. These can be viewed by excerpt or full article formats.
I’ve written up a more extensive article on feeds and how they help manage your website, and in summary, feeds are literally newsletters from your website offering experts or samples of your website content in chronological order, the most recent posts at the top. Users can go down a list of website feeds, covering a dozen websites’ new content in a manner of minutes.
Do you have a feed on your website? If you are using WordPress, any version, you have feeds built into your system. There is more information on the WordPress Codex about WordPress Feeds and how to Customizing WordPress Feeds.
Feeds are found on a site automatically by most feed readers, and if you look around on this site you will see a feed for Entries or Comments at the bottom of the web page, as well as the feeds for the specific categories on the links in the sidebar with RSS in parentheses. Some sites use text like Feed or XML or RSS to designate their feeds, while others use graphics combined with the links to draw your attention to their feeds. To use either of these, open your feed reader and click and drag the link from the website to the reader and it will usually automatically add the feed to the list.
If you don’t have a feed on your site, then you can create your own. Here are some helpful articles on making your own site feeds:
- Creating RSS Feeds for Your Website
- Search Engine Watch – Making Your Own RSS Feed
- How to Create an RSS Feed With Notepad, a Web Server, and a Beer
- DevX – Set Up a Simple Syndication Feed Using RSS
- Web Reference – Introduction to RSS Feeds
- Making Your RSS Feed Look Pretty in a Browser
- RSS with CSS
- Improving an XML feed display through CSS and XSLT
Benefits of Feeds on Your Website
As mentioned, for the user, even the website owner/administrator, using feeds is a great way to get information and research for content on your site. The benefits of feeds for users include:
- Fast and easy access to website content from one place, the feed reader.
- No spam, few ads (about to change), and only content and photographs.
- User chooses the sites and content they want.
- User controls what they see and don’t see.
- User sees the most recently updated content without having to prowl around the site.
- Less time searching and hunting for commonly needed information and resources.
- Information is presented in excerpts or full articles, free of styling and heavy-handed site designs and layouts – content and information is the priority.
- Feeds can be limited to the full site or only specific categories or topics of information.
- Access to the site and more information is only a single click away.
For the website owner/administrator, feeds bring major benefits, especially since more and more search engines and directories are accepting feeds submissions.
- Provide fresh and topical information to users, which encourages their return.
- Pushes the administrator to provide new and changing content, which encourages search engine spiders and robots to visit more frequently.
- Replaces email and newsletters to alert users of updates, new content, and other topical information like press releases and events.
- Provides another form of content delivery in addition to the website itself.
- Allows syndication of material from your site to another.
Here is more information you may want to know about feeds on your website.
- RSS Specificiations – Benefits to RSS Feeds
- Frugal Marketing – Benefits to RSS Feeds
- RSS Feeds: Top 7 Benefits For Publishers of RSS Feeds
- RSS Tutorial for Content Publishers and Webmasters
- Search Engine Watch – RSS Search Engines
- Search Engine Watch – What is RSS, and Why Should You Care
- Search Engine Watch – Choosing an RSS Feed Reader
- RSS for increased search engine rankings