What is RSS? How to use RSS in WordPress?

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By Editorial Staff

As a WordPress publisher you must have come across RSS Feeds. Each WordPress website automatically publishes RSS feeds for content and comments. Did you ever wonder what is RSS and how you can use RSS in WordPress? In this article we will explain what is RSS feeds, what are the benefits of RSS, how to use RSS feeds, and how to take your WordPress RSS feeds to the next level.

What is RSS

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary however it is often referred to as the feed or news feed. In the early days, if you wanted to keep track of updates on your favorite website, then you had to bookmark it in your browser and manually visit it frequently to see if there were any updates. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could tell your favorite websites to let you know every time they update? Well, this is exactly what RSS does. RSS allows users to keep track of their favorite websites without having to manually visit the website each time.

RSS allowed publishers to automatically syndicate their content, so that people can read it in their mailboxes, feed reader and/or other devices. RSS is basically an structured XML document that includes full or summarized text along with other metadata such as published date, author name, etc. RSS feeds can be read by using programs called “RSS reader”, “feed reader”, or “aggregator” which can be web-based, desktop-based, and even mobile-based. Here is what an RSS feed looks like:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>

<description>Beginner's Guide for WordPress</description>
<lastBuildDate>Tue, 02 Apr 2013 14:13:37 +0000</lastBuildDate>

		<title>How to Fix WordPress Posts Returning 404 Error</title>
		<pubDate>Tue, 02 Apr 2013 11:58:18 +0000</pubDate>
		<dc:creator>Editorial Staff</dc:creator>
		<guid isPermaLink="false"></guid>

		<description><![CDATA[<p>Description of post goes here...]]></description>
		<content:encoded><![CDATA[<p>Post goes here....]]></content:encoded>

Many Web Content Management Systems such as WordPress has built in support for RSS feeds. By default each web page you publish using WordPress contains a meta tag that points to your website’s RSS feed location. You can disable RSS feeds in WordPress, but continue reading and you might change your mind about disabling them.

What are Benefits of RSS

RSS makes it easier for other people to subscribe to your content. Using an RSS feed, they can receive updates from your blog or website directly in their web browsers (except Google Chrome), feed readers, desktop applications, and many other devices and services. Subscribers don’t have to remember your website URL because they can bring the content into a central location where they like to read all of their websites at once. Your content becomes portable and your subscribers can even take it with them for offline reading.

RSS feeds also help build and nurture a loyal following around your website and content. RSS subscribers are more likely to share your content around their social circles and spread the word about your website. A lot of our readers automatically tweet every new WPBeginner article that come out using RSS feed and IFTTT.

By using RSS feeds, you can subscribe to your favorite websites and read them all at one place in your feed reader. As a content publisher, it helps you quickly scan through your favorite news and blog sites. It also enables you to sort your reading lists into categories and groups. By using RSS efficiently, you can really maximize your reading time.

How to Use RSS Feeds

You can subscribe to RSS feeds using a feed reader. We recommend using Feedly, It is available as a browser add-on as well as mobile app for iOS, Android, and Kindle devices. By using Feedly, you can sync your RSS subscriptions across your devices and resume reading wherever you left it. Adding your favorite websites to Feedly is really simple, just enter the url of the website and click the add button to subscribe.

Subscribing an RSS feed by entering the URL of a website

In most feed readers you can search for topics that interest you and subscribe to popular sources on those topics. You can also categorize your favorite sites into topics. Feed readers such as Feedly come with features to print, share, and email articles that you find interesting.

Categorize your reading list into topics

How to Promote your RSS Feed

As a WordPress user your website already publishes an RSS feed. You can encourage visitors to subscribe to your RSS feed by adding an RSS icon to your sidebar or another prominent location. Here is how we do it on WPBeginner:

Display an RSS icon in your blog's sidebar

Burn your RSS feeds using a feed burning service like Feedburner or Feedblitz to get additional statistics regarding your feeds. We have a step by step guide to setup Feedburner for WordPress. Feedburner also offers email subscription box which you can add to your blog’s sidebar. But since there is a little bit uncertainity about the future of Feedburner, you might want to consider using other options to create daily or weekly newsletter in WordPress. Besides FeedBurner email subscription options are not very robust which is why we recommend using either Aweber or MailChimp.

Take your WordPress RSS Feeds to Next level

WordPress automatically generates your RSS feeds, but this does not mean that you don’t have control over them. You change certain things in your RSS feeds to make them more useful for yourself and your subscribers. You can add content and completely manipulate your WordPress RSS feeds. You can add post thumbnail to RSS feeds, or use separate RSS Feeds for categories and custom post types in your templates.

We hope that this article helped you understand what is RSS feed and how to use RSS in WordPress. Don’t forget to subscribe to WPBeginner’s RSS Feed to receive free WordPress tutorials and advice. For questions and feedback please leave a comment below.

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