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What is RSS and what can I do with it?

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. You may have also heard of RSS feeds. An RSS feed is an XML file created by WordPress that includes a snippet of your latest post or posts.

The primary use of an RSS feed is so that you can offer site visitors the ability to subscribe to your feed to enable them to get email notices when you add a new post to your WordPress website. That's called simple syndication!

Many times when you subscribe to a website's updates, you are actually subscribing to how they syndicate their RSS feed. When a new post is added, WordPress updates the feed and you then get an email. How that email looks and when it happens is based on how that particular syndication is configured and varies by website.

Why I Love RSS Feeds

  • Because I can subscribe without providing an email address and get notices in my email program.
  • I can organize by topic keeping similar feeds in specific folders.
  • The ability to keep up on subjects where I only want the headlines.
RSS Feed Icon

You may have noticed the feed icon on websites and wondered what does that stand for? Now you know! Click on that icon and you'll get the URL to subscribe to that feed.

Power users can then add that URL to their feed reader software. Most folks use their email program or a mobile app for the feeds they are interested in.

Browsers also offer the ability to subscribe to a feed via add-ons. The downside of this approach is if you are not in that browser or on different device you will not see the updates. Another option is to track your feeds through a feed website such as Feedly.com.

Using Your Email Program for Feeds

I use an email program called PostBox. It allows me to subscribe to feeds and get those updates as I do any email in my email program. I can organize them the way I want in folders by topic. This way I don't have to go to a website or worry about having to use a specific browser.

You can also subscribe to feeds if you use Outlook. For those on Macs and iPhones it appears this functionality has been removed in the recent OS. So there's an app for that!

How to Use Your WordPress Website's RSS Feed

What most site owners are interested in is how they can find and use their website's posts feed to keep site visitors up to date. The first question asked is “Where is my feed?” You'll find your posts feed at yourdomain.com/feed.

Now that you know where it is what can you do with it? WordPress can create all kinds of feeds on the fly. For posts, tags, comments, pages — you can literally create a URL to the type of feed you want to offer. And there are plugins to assist further.

Setting Up Your Website's New Post Feed

Your posts feed allows you to offer the ability for site visitors to signup and get an email when you add a new post to your site. You can configure how that email looks depending on what service you are using for your RSS campaign.

MailChimp is very easy to use (setup an RSS Campaign) and customize to match your site's look and feel. Once setup, when you add a post, an email goes out to all your subscribers. RSS feeds can be customized to include, images, number of posts, summaries or full posts.

You can setup MailChimp to send at certain time every day that you have posted something new. Or, you can configure MailChimp to send weekly with an excerpt of all the posts for the week. It's really up to you!

I use the Featured Images in RSS plugin combined with MailChimp for two of my sites that I post to weekly. This plugin then includes my designated Featured Image for each post which increases click-thrus.

In addition, you can customize how your feed displays in other readers. The Yoast SEO plugin allows you to customize your RSS feed to contain information that will show if your feed is displayed elsewhere:

RSS Feeds from Other Sites

You can also display RSS feeds from other websites on your site or in your sidebar. To do this you would need an RSS aggregator. Here's a plugin to check out:

Are you ready to put your RSS feed to work?

You have an RSS feed just sitting there waiting for you to utilize to gain new subscribers and exposure. And you can subscribe to other website's feeds to stay in the know.

Now that you know what you can do with RSS feeds how are you going to use them to your advantage?

At your service,

Judith: WordPress Consultant and Business Coach