What Are RSS, ATOM, OPML & XML Feeds?
RSS feeds (ATOM, XML and OPML feeds too) are a solution to the problem that all on-line content creators face – the constant need to upload our articles to search engines in order to promote them: RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication – syndication meaning – sending out to all relevant entities that might be interested..
An RSS feed is one format that allows the delivery of syndicated web content that changes regularly. RSS is a standardised and easy way for content creators to share that content.
A web feed aggregates a number of articles (blogs, sites etc) into a list or index. This list is updated when another item (article, blog, site update) becomes available to be included in the list.
They become available merely by publishing the article within the group of articles that the feed aggregates and they are uploaded to the feed automatically by being polled (checked regularly to see if another is available).
You choose the grouping (or packaging) of articles that will be included in any particular feed. This can be as broad or as narrow a categorization as you require.
The broadest categorization is that produced for an individual category on a website.
A feed allows a content provider to distribute that content to the widest audience possible by “pushing” a snippet of the content to surfers that have indicated an interest in similar content by taking the content feed. It is presented to them through a web portal, news reader or even e-mail, whichever is the most convenient for the recipient. RSS feeds display content in reverse chronological order which means that the latest content or most relevant content is shown first.
There are two other standards, apart from RSS, for content sharing. ATOM is an attempt to improve on RSS. OPML has been created to aggregate multiple RSS feeds into a single file thus eliminating the need for multiple feeds.
RSS Feed – The Advantage for the Subscriber
Whereas the most used method of obtaining information related to a surfers interest is by entering search criteria into a search engine and perusing the results; this must be done constantly to obtain a constant flow of newly uploaded content. This is known as “pulling” information – you request to pull the relevant information through the web browser to the computer screen.
An RSS feed on the other hand saves the interested party a huge amount of time by presenting the type of information in which they are interested, right there on their desktop without them having to go look for it. Once a feed has been selected any new content will be “pushed” to their desktop for them to decide if they wish to read more.
It is the same as the difference between going to the shops to see what is on offer and sitting at home looking at television or magazine advertisements. If you go to the shops you are pulling the information just as you would if you went to a browser and searched for something. If you watch television adverts, or any advertising medium, then the product is “pushed” to you to help you make a choice.
RSS Feed – The Advantage for the Content Producer
Instead of having to wait for a search engine to find any content that we may produce, a feed allows us to advertise and promote any new content in addition to getting it uploaded onto search engines. I say in addition to, as this method should not be used in isolation. Real world products are advertised and also available in the shops to be viewed and purchased. So too should our content.
After submitting an RSS feed to any number of appropriate feed directories (aggregators) we no longer need to take time to submit any new content as long as it will be included in the feed that has already been submitted. This leaves us in the knowledge that new content will be distributed (syndicated) wherever our feed has been placed. One must always remember that the number of places that it will be distributed to is a factor of how relevant the feed is to the surfing community and this, in itself, requires some promotion to establish clientèle for your content.
An additional advantage is that, even if your RSS feed is not well received it will still show as back-links to your content and thus increase your article credibility with search engines. This will have an effect on the positioning of your content within search results.
The next post in this series is: Prepare to Submit RSS Feeds
For a more technical description: RSS from Wikipedia