how do rss feeds work

How Do RSS Feeds Work?



Imagine being able to log into one dashboard and getting the latest news and events from all of your favorite websites, blogs, or podcasts? With RSS feeds, it’s possible!

Checking each site one by one will take forever. Signing up for their newsletters could ensure you keep up with the latest updates and information, but it’s also easy to mistake the emails as spam or to ignore them altogether in your crowded inbox. Then again, relying solely on the site’s social media updates might mean you miss something important you wanted to know about.

In an RSS feed, these updates and notifications are gathered, organized, and updated in real-time into one convenient dashboard. Awesome right?

Click here if you need a RSS feed for your podcast.

What is RSS?

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. It refers to files easily read by a computer called XML files that automatically update information.

This information is fetched by a user’s RSS feed reader that converts the files and the latest updates from websites into an easy to read format. An RSS feed takes the headlines, summaries, and update notices, and then links back to articles on your favorite website’s page.

This content is distributed in real time, so that the top results on the RSS feed are always the latest published content for a website.

An RSS feed allows you to create your own customized eZine of the most up-to-date content for the topics and websites you are interested in.

man sitting on chair

How Does the Information Get from the Website to Your Feed?

The author of your favorite website or podcast creates an RSS feed that maintains a list of new updates or notifications.

You can check this list on your own, or you can subscribe to the feed so updates will show up in your own feed reader. This keeps you apprised of updates immediately.

example of a rss feed reader

What Does the Information Look Like?

In a feed reader, you’ll see brief and basic information about the full content. These are posted in chronological order so that the top entry is the latest published entry.

The RSS feed shows you a title, description, and link back to the original content. This helps you to quickly weed through what interests you and what doesn’t. When you find something you like, you can click through for the full content.

girl sitting on couch with laptop

It’s All Thanks to an Aggregator

So how does this really work? An aggregator is responsible for the convenience of RSS feeds.

The RSS aggregator checks websites for new content automatically. It immediately pulls that content over to your feed reader so you don’t have to go and check each website individually to find new content.

The aggregator even keeps track of what you have and have not read by listing the number of articles or pieces of content for each website you are following that has not been seen. This helps you quickly scan content from the websites that interest you.

How Can You Add Websites to Your RSS Feed Reader?

More and more, websites are making this process simple for you. When you are on your favorite website, look for a small orange icon with the letters RSS or XML. When you click on that icon, you add that web address or link to your reader. You can also search for a website within your RSS reader and add it to your feed.

The beauty of RSS feeds is they are typically very customizable within your reader or from the website you’re following. For example, you could choose to be updated only on the sports or art section of your local newspaper.

You can also select a specialized Google news alert to be delivered to you via your feed. Set search parameters on Craigslist for something you’re hoping to find, and receive updates that match your search qualifications.

Even with countless ways to receive information these days, the RSS feeder still holds its own as an important way for you to stay updated on what’s important to you.

Customizable to your tastes, an RSS feed ensures you don’t miss or forget the information that is important only to you.

What Are Some Examples of an RSS Feed Reader?

Here are six RSS Feed Readers or Aggregate Apps:

  1. RSS Feed Reader Chrome Extension by
  2. Feedly
  3. Feeder
  4. NewsBlur
  5. Inoreader
  6. Feedreader Online

Note: Some of these readers will charge a fee based on usage. We’d advise you to check pricing information and read reviews before making any commitments.

How to Use RSS feeds in Social Media Marketing and Email Marketing

Once you have the content you care about curated by RSS feeds, you can use it for inspiration for your own social media posts, your newsletters and website content.

Here are a few ideas you can use:

  • Connect an RSS feed to social media account using a social media scheduling tool: With Hootsuite’s RSS Autopublisher for example, you can automatically share content on Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin from up to 25 feeds.
  • Auto-populate text for an email to send to your list: Mailchimp and similar email platforms allow you to connect RSS feeds to automatically point your readers to content you want to share.
  • Use the links in your RSS feed reader to inspire your content: Not sure what to share with your audience on social media or email this week? Your RSS feed is rich with inspiration. Simply by keeping up with the latest industry news in your niche, you’re likely to come up with lots of new ideas for content in the form of videos, blog posts you could write and expand on, or even full podcast episodes to record.
  • Find opportunities for visibility on Linkedin, Quora, and even Reddit: Subscribe to the RSS feeds of industry or niche specific threads or forums and you might find opportunities to answer questions from the public about topics you are well versed in. Include a link back to your website in your profile on each of these platforms, and when it’s not violating the forum’s rules, link back to relevant content on your site.

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