getButterfly Logo getButterfly code wrangling since 2005

RSS – Abbreviated form of Really Simple Syndication, a web feed format. It can stand for other terms as well, such as Rich Site Summary and RDF Site Summary.

Syndication is a simple XML-based method for publishing content. Syndication feeds come in two predominant flavors: RSS and Atom. Concerning your web site publishing, you don’t need to worry about the differences between these two. Your web site syndicates its content by encoding it within an RSS or Atom feed. This feed includes links to the site originating the content. Subscribers can view syndication feeds using web browsers, email clients, standalone programs, and on HTML web pages, using PHP or AJAX scripts.

Syndication feeds work well as a mechanism for driving traffic to a site because:

  • Feed content is under the control of the publisher (however, feed appearance is under the control of the reader, or the one who displays it, such as a third part);
  • Most feeds contain items that are thematically linked (and can be related to a site);
  • Feed items provide content along with links back to more content on a publisher’s site;
  • It’s very easy to distribute a syndication feed.

In other words, many web publishers use syndication feeds as a kind of teaser for their real web content. In addition, syndication aggregation engines drive traffic to a site, and increase a site’s PageRank (by sending the site inbound links from the aggregator).

How to Create Feeds

If you maintain a blog, it’s likely that you are already publishing a syndication feed (even though you may not be aware of it). Check your blog templates to see if there is a template for an index.xml, index.rdf, or atom.xml file. All blog engines display a now standardized RSS icon. If so, have a look at the root directory for your blog. You may want to tweak the template tags to make sure that you are syndicating the content you want, and only the content you want. If you don’t have a blog feed, or want to publish content other than the entries of your blog, it’s easy to construct an XML syndication feed by hand using a text editor.

Let the World Know About Your Feed

Once you have your syndication feed, the key to getting exposure out of it is to get it distributed. As with a web site, in the long run, this requires constant addition of fresh content. You probably should not try to distribute a syndication feed until you have a minimum of a dozen entry items, and reasonably expect to add at least an item a week, a day is actually recommended these days, when the blog market is oversaturated with fresh content every day. You should (if it’s not already there) mark your web site with a graphic that is linked to your syndication feed.

You also need to add code into the head section of your HTML pages to let syndication viewers and aggregators automatically know about your feed. For example, if you include this code in a page, someone visiting your site using a web browser that is capable of displaying syndication (such as Firefox) is automatically offered a subscription to the feed. The general form of the code to be added is:

<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="RSS" href="" />

Submit the Feeds

The next step is to submit your syndication feed to syndication aggregators and search engines. It’s a good idea to continue to submit your feeds as you add content items. Another common technique is to ping the aggregator, if it allows it, and the aggregator robots will crawl and spider your feeds.

Conclusion (my way): use a RSS-ready blog engine and submit it to FeedBurner. Afterwards, let the users find your content and subscribe to your RSS feeds.

Quick Links:

Subscribe to getButterfly Blog

Once a week or so we send an email with our best content. We never bug you, we just send you our latest piece of content.

If you found any value in this post, agree, disagree, or have anything to add - please do. I use comments as my #1 signal for what to write about. Read our comment policy before commenting! Comments such as "Thank you!", "Awesome!", "You're the man!" are either marked as spam or stripped from URL.

3 thoughts on “RSS Syndication – A Quick Guide

  1. Yeah i use rss as a powerful back linking strategy.

    Most of these rss aggregator rank very highly in the search engines and can get your sites indexd very fast.


  2. great explanation here. as a newbie, rss was something of a mystery to me, as i kept on coming across it on posts. now, i understand it a bit better, but i have yet to leverage it properly.

Leave a reply