What is an RSS Blog Feed and Why You Want One

Also known as an RSS Feed, a Blog Feed is the raw post data straight from the Blog’s database.  If you look at the example below, you’ll see that the Blog includes a lot of page elements besides the actual post.  The red background, the Blog’s title, and all the content in the right sidebar all come from the Blogger Template.  The ‘Feed’ of a blog is *just* the content of each individual post.

The Blog:  The Blog Feed:    

What does RSS Stand For?

RSS = Really Simple Syndication.  Think of a ‘Syndicated’ newspaper column.  What does that mean?  It means that, instead of just being printed in one newspaper, the contents of the column are packaged and sent out to many newspapers to be reprinted in their format.  Exact same contents – printed in many different newspapers with different formats – and read by *LOTS* more readers than if it was just published in the one home newspaper.

You could publish your own newspaper if you could subscribe to enough quality syndicated content.  The same thing goes for Blogs – you can subscribe to multiple different Blog Feeds and read them all in one place, like your own personal newspaper.

How do you read RSS Feeds?

The RSS Feed itself is straight text.  It is only meant for a computer to read.  The raw data for the posts shown above looks like:

RSS 

In order to make sense to us, we must use a Feed Reader.  A Feed Reader is built in to Internet Explorer.  So, for example, if you use Internet Explorer to browse to www.geeksontour.blogspot.com you will see the orange RSS Feed icon in the toolbar like the screenshot below.  If that button is gray rather than orange, it means that you are on a page that has no feeds.

The RSS Feed ButtonClick that orange button and you will be taken to the Feed for that page.  Internet Explorer will display the feed in a readable fashion like the Blog Feed image at the top of this article.  If you look in the address bar, you will also see the exact URL of the Blog Feed. This is the information you would need to read this Feed in some other Feed Reader.

A Feed's URL

For example, a Geeks on Tour reader recently asked,

“My son wants to read my blog on his cell phone, how do we do that?’ 

First, your son needs an RSS Feed Reader application on his cell phone.  Then, there will be a place in that Reader to put the URL of the Feed you want to read.  Enter the URL you found using the orange button.  Your son should now be able to read your blog posts in a way that works well on his cell phone.

Subscribing to the RSS Feed

Once you click on the orange feed button and you’re looking at the feed, you will have the opportunity to ‘Subscribe’ to this feed.  If you click that, then that blog’s feed becomes a Favorite and you will find it listed on a tab in your favorites area.

IE Favorites ... FeedsThis is an extremely easy way to keep up with all the Blogs you follow.  Just click on the Blog name and you’ll see the Feed.  If you want to just skim the latest content … you’re done.  If you want to go to the full blog, there are links to click on from within the Feed.  There are lots of other Feed Reader programs as well.  For example, if you use Google’s Feed Reader, you will see at a glance how many posts you’ve missed in each blog.

How are RSS Feeds Created?

This is the amazing part.  If you use (most) blogging software, like Blogger or WordPress, or Typepad.  An RSS feed is created automatically.  It’s just part of the whole blogging thing.  Just like archives are created automatically – so are RSS Feeds.  Actually, Blogger uses something called Atom Feeds – but they work the same way – and, if you really need RSS, Blogger supports that too.

Check Settings for your Feed

If you’re using Blogger, there are a few settings that you want to look at for your feed.  The main one is to specify whether you want the feed to include the entire post, or just a short snippet.  If you choose the short option it means that people reading your feed will only be able to see the first few sentences.  Then, they’ll need to click on a link to the real Blog in order to read the rest.  This can be very important if you depend on people seeing the Ads on your blog. 

If you do use Ads – you might also want to edit the setting to put your Google Adsense code at the bottom of each Post Feed as well.   If you *don’t* want a feed created, you specify ‘None’ as the Blog Posts Feed.

Blogger Feed SettingsIf you want to read a lot of Blogs, using an RSS Feed Reader is a great way to easily keep up.  If you have a Blog, and you want the greatest number of people to have easy access to keeping up with you … make sure that your Feed is working and easily accessible.  You can even use Feedburner.com to make the feeds available to subscribers via Email.  hmmm – that sounds like another article … coming soon.

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