RSS for Newbies; A Quick Tutorial

"RSS" stands for "Really Simple Syndication". It is a new way to distribute content. Any content: websites, blogs, forums, etc.To explain what this means, for once let's start at the end.

Content from RSS feeds can be displayed by an RSS newsreader.
You and I, as end-users or consumers of that content, can read it by installing a newsreader (more on this below). You have to put an URL for an RSS feed into that newsreader (like you put a web address in your browser).

You can recognize these RSS feed URL's by a little orange graphic displaying RSS or XML. If you click on such graphic with your right-mouse button you can copy its URL (copy ShortCut) and paste that into your newsreader. (Some sites might simply have a text "RSS" or "Syndicate" link which is basically the same.)

With that URL, the newsreader (when you are online) picks up the RSS feed that is available at that URL, reads the feed data and displays it in the reader.

The RSS feed itself contains information about the titles, descriptions and other data about the publisher's content. It is written in a special language (XML/RSS, easy to learn!), but that's out of the scope of this article.

And finally the RSS feed is made up by the publisher of the content. Most of the time their software does the job. And very often this software is used in combination with blogs. That's why lots of people mix them up. Now, to end that confusion, get this:
- a blog is content like a website or article while
- RSS is a way to distribute content

The main RSS benefits for end-users or consumers
The main benefit as an end-user or consumer of RSS is that we can subscribe to content provided by publishers WITHOUT giving out personal data like email address.

That's why Ken Evoy of SiteSell calls it 'Real Simple Subscribing'. Of course the same applies to unsubscribing. Simply delete the RSS URL from your reader and you don't receive messages from it any more.
Finally the end-user is in control. The content is coming to her without visiting a website. That makes it easy to scan and only visit those sites with promising information.

As a consequence of that the publisher better submit quality content in his RSS. Otherwise nobody will read it. So that's another big benefit!

An extra benefit for us is that we often are allowed to post comments or feedback.
Because the search engines just love RSS and blogs, they will visit them frequently to index any new content. In most cases you may add your URL in the comment post and that means a link back to your site!
So, if you find a good blog, just enter a message in the feedback section and see what happens.

And there's the benefit of speed. In this fast moving world we want everything NOW. Well, as soon as a publisher changes content we can receive it (if you have your reader online).

Are there any disadvantages?
Could be. When you start to use your reader it may be a bit 'overwhelming' like the first time you searched the Net, remember? 'Click here, click there, click this, click that ..... oops, what was it again I was looking for?

If you subscribe to every promising feed you'll encounter, you may very soon suffer from the good old 'information overload'. Such problem is easily solved by deleting the feeds and start all over again, this time more targeted. Below I have an outstanding resource to search for relevant feeds, so read on!

Another disadvantage may be the impersonal character of feeds. There's no interaction unless you visit the publisher's site.And there's no way RSS will be used for payment receipts for purchases and answers to questions asked. It simply isn't a one-to-one communication system. It's only consuming information.

So, will RSS replace email or newsletters (ezines)?
Absolutely NOT!
While RSS is an outstanding way to distribute content, it will always be very public. It's not a one-to-one communication medium. You can not build a relationship with your readers, you can't personalize it and you can't reward your subscribers for trusting you, simply because you don't know who they are.

See RSS as another way to collect information. That's all it is.
And maybe a way to ban spam because the readers are in control of the subscribe and unsubscribe process. We sign up for feeds and drop feeds anonymously. Remember, if publishers send out poor information, no-one will read it.
Wow, another big benefit!.

But for the real information, the communication with my readers, I still use my newsletter. I want to use that to provide the real insiders information. (I intend to even go one step further, but that's for another issue. Keep subscribed and you will learn more in the next few weeks!)

That's what any serious marketer will do. So, if you only subscribe to newsletters from trusted companies and individuals and sign up for RSS feeds for more general information, chances are your email box will remain free of spam and loaded with useful, more personal publisher information.

Download your reader
RSS readers are also called "RSS aggregators" or "news aggregators". Here are a few popular ones:
http://feedreader.com
http://pluck.com/
http://www.rssreader.com/
http://ranchero.com/netnewswire/ (for Mac users)
http://my.yahoo.com/ (a client-side reader, that is, you can read the feeds at your MyYahoo site; you'll need to register)

There are many more, these are just examples to get you started.
I strongly suggest to go out there and find some interesting feeds. So .....

How to find interesting RSS feeds?
There are many directories of RSS feeds already that you can browse and find something of interest. I will list a few of them below, but if you're looking for specific information then you better use an extraordinary and outstanding search tool.
A tool that you can always use, because it covers almost everything about searching and search terms.

But in this case we concentrate on RSS feeds only. It's a little window that you can keep alive in your screen. Here's how it works:

* Click this Search Link to open a little window (don't forget to bookmark it!)

* Next click on Search It in that little window! A new little window pops up.

* In that new window select 'Reference Library for Content' in Step 1. Next select anything with RSS in it in Step 2.

* If you've done that I suggest you click on 'Click Here for Information About Search Type' in the center of the window to get more help.

* Finally enter your keywords in Step 3 and hit Search It!

Easy uh? I told you this is an outstanding tool!

Other resources:
http://www.feedster.com/
http://directory.google.com/Top/Computers/Internet/On_the_Web/Weblogs/
http://w.moreover.com/main_site/content/index.html
http://www.syndic8.com/

Now go out and find some interesting feeds.

That's it for today.
Wish you success.
Case Stevens

Case Stevens, owner of AnOwnSite Online Marketing, is experimenting with different marketing techniques, websites, traffic and lead generation. He publishes his experiences in a newsletter featuring understandable, successful low cost Internet marketing techniques, ideas and strategies, articles, news, tips & tricks and interesting (free) downloads.

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