What is RSS and How Can It Help You?

You may have seen the RSS icon on several websites or you may have seen it and heard it mentioned on TV ads. Usually it is orange but sometimes you will see it in different colors.

But what is RSS?

RSS IconRSS = Real Simple Syndication. I know, now you’re asking, ‘what is Real Simple Syndication?’ I’ll try to explain.

RSS is usually associated with a blog. You can sign up for a blog’s RSS feed by clicking on the RSS icon. In most cases you will be given the option to register for updates via email or feed reader. If you sign up for email updates, you will receive an email every time the blogger posts to their blog, as my subscribers will when I submit this post.

If you request updates via feed reader, you must also choose a reader, a place to read the blog posts. For example, I use Google Reader. I can go to my Google home page at any time to see any of the RSS feeds I have subscribed to. The Google home page with my Google Reader installed looks like the image below.

Google Reader

You must also sign up for a reader but once you are registered with the reader, you can add as many feeds to it as you like and you will see all your various feeds in one place. The trick is to take the time to go to your reader and actually read those articles.

The advantage of signing up for email is the blog post will come to your inbox, putting it right in your face. The disadvantage of signing up for email is the blog post will come to your inbox, putting it right in your face. You see what I’m saying?

I like the feed reader. I already get enough email and I can go to Google reader at my convenience and I know I will always find something new posted there from my favorite bloggers.

Register for Google Reader

To sign up for Google Reader, go to google.com. Click on the ‘more’ link (see red arrow in image above) in the top navigation and choose Reader. If you don’t already have an account with Google, you should set one up. You don’t have to use a gmail email address for the account, but sooner or later you will probably end up with a gmail address. If you have a business, I recommend you use your business name as your username when you setup the gmail account. For example, mine is websbywagner@gmail.com. If you already have a Google account, simply login.

Read through the information and install Reader on your computer. After going through these few steps, you will be able to add any RSS feed to your reader. It will be worth the time it takes to set up a reader because it is so much easier to find your favorite blogs in one place than to go to each of them. Sure you can add them to your browser’s favorites but you still need to go to each site. When posts come to your reader, you can scan your feeds and decide which you would like to read at any given time. If you get behind, as I often do, they will still be there whenever you get around to checking. And all the feeds in your Reader will go with you on your smart phone or any computer with an internet connection.

I know my instructions here are not very detailed but if you take a few minutes, you will figure it out pretty quickly. The main purpose of this post was to explain what RSS is and how it’s used. Follow the steps above and poke around and experiment a little bit. That’s the best way to learn these things.

Try it Out
You can try this out by clicking the RSS icon in the right column of my blog. You will be taken to the page shown below where you choose a reader or choose to receive my posts via email. Please comment below if you have questions or use the Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter share buttons to share this post with your friends.

Feedburner Feed Page

Written by Laura on January 17, 2011

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