RSS & How to Use It -- Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of the article that aims to give you just enough information to help you understand RSS and start using it.

Part 1 gave you simple instructions on how to read and subscribe to an RSS site feed, part 2 will give you simple instructions on how to publish your own.

Firstly, which websites can benefit from a site feed? Well, pretty much all of them.

If you provide a service, you could use a site feed to announce amendments and upgrades.

If you sell stuff, you could use a site feed to announce new products and special offers.

And if you own a website or web log that is regularly updated with news of any description, a site feed is virtually a necessity.

Site feeds may not be exactly commonplace at present but don't doubt for a moment that their popularity is growing. If you get a site feed up and running now, you'll be ahead of the game for some time to come and offer a friendly alternative to email communication.

Site feeds are usually written in a code called XML. If you view the code for a site feed it will look a little like HTML.

You could:

-- Learn the language and write your own site feed. Each time you want to add an update, just update your site feed page.

-- Buy some fancy software that writes and updates the site feed for you.

-- Or? setup a site feed online that automatically updates, for free in about 20 minutes.

Third option sound good? Ok, start by setting up your own blog at Blogger.

This is free to do and, if you want, they will even host it for you in exchange for a couple of banners at the top of the blog. The great thing about Blogger is that it works in tandem with the Google Toolbar.

Found a website you want to note in your blog? Click the icon in your Google Toolbar and it's taken care of.

Everytime you add or change something on your website, record it in your blog so individuals and search engines viewing your blog can be made aware of it.

The other great thing about Blogger is that it automatically creates and updates a site feed for you. Everytime you post a message to your blog, this is added to your site feed as well.

You can get the address of your site feed from the Blogger control panel by visiting the section marked "Settings" and selecting "Site Feed".

Now you know the web address of your site feed, you are free to add it to your homepage, submit it to RSS directories, anything you want.

But wait, before you rush off, you'll want to know how to track visits to your site feed.

This bit is even easier. Just convert your site feed address into a FeedBurner address.

Go to: www.feedburner.com and enter the address of your site feed into the box marked "Feed URL:", then click "Next >>".

Play around with some of the options and at the end of it you will have a new site feed address that looks something like this:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/yourwebsitename Now advertise this site feed address instead of the site feed address Blogger gave you. It will do exactly the same thing, except now you can login to FeedBurner and view statistics on how often your site feed page is visited.

Among other things, FeedBurner will also:

-- Dress your site feed up so when someone views it in their normal internet browser it will explain what it is instead of just showing the source code.

-- Tweak the code of your site so it can be read by all RSS readers, even those that only support ATOM.

All done? Let's recap:

You now know how to identify, view and subscribe to an RSS feed.

You now have a blog you can submit to blog directories that allows people and search engines to see updates to your website.

And you have a site feed address you can submit to RSS directories and advertise on your website. Visitors to your website can subscribe to your feed and never miss anything new you have to offer.

And you thought this would be hard? Next week, understanding quantum theory and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in five easy steps.

David Congreave is owner of The Nettle Ezine, the newsletter for the home business -- online.

David lives in Leeds, in the United Kingdom with his wife Leanne.

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