I'm going to try to demystify some of the hazy confusion about having an RSS feed on site - and how it differs from having RSS feed items displayed on your site. My previous article, “RSS Feeds Display - The Input Side of RSS", offered a an easy basic way to think about the differences.
What I suggest is to think about RSS in terms of Input and Output. On one hand what comes to your site and does something there is input. What originates on your site but is available off your site is output.
When you display RSS feed items on your site, they come from RSS feeds that are found on other sites. You can, with the right feed items display program, collect items from multiple feeds in your market area and display some on your site as new and updating content.
However, when you can also extract content from your site's own pages, build an RSS feed and make it available for syndication - that's output.
Various programs are available which include RSS feeds as part of the created site structure. Most notable are the blogging platforms, though not all produce RSS. Content management systems (CMS) may also produce feeds. Some directory and page generation programs also create feeds.
Feeds live on content. A static feed, one where the content is not changing, is not going to do much for your site. Feed readers can track items and feed build times. RSS feed directories do the same thing.
Why exactly would you want your own RSS feed? To assist in getting your pages indexed. To reach new customers. To build traffic. To gain backlinks.
These days an RSS feed is becoming an indispensable part of site marketing. The use of RSS readers and aggregators continues to increase. And it will continue to grow as the use, availability and popularity of RSS-enabled browsers, like FireFox and soon Internet Explorer, increases.
RSS feeds that update and ping (send a notification of a newly built or modified feed to ping sites such as pingomatic.com, which in turn notifies additional sites) are a draw for spiders, they include deep links to your sites inner pages, they can be picked up and subscribed to by users and syndicated on other sites. You can add them to RSS feed directories for even more exposure.
Unfortunately there is no single solution that will quickly and easily build an RSS feed for any site. Site structures vary a great deal and many sites will have pages that shouldn't be in the feed. Some sites lack meta keywords and meta descriptions - or the meta descriptions are unsuitable for a feed since they are nearly identical on all pages.
You can use various tools, including some free online tools, to build a feed for your site. This tends to be a time consuming, basically manual process. And would need to be partially redone whenever you update. (You can search Google for free RSS feed builders).
One reason many people have begun using blogging platforms such as WordPress as their site builder of choice is because the RSS feeds are automatically constructed and can be pinged each time a post is made. A blogging platform is basically a CMS (Content Management System) and with the variety of templates available - and a little ingenuity and a few plugins - can be an excellent option for site building. And an RSS feed is an integral part of the package.
Whatever type of site you build, an RSS feed is a very significant asset. While it may be difficult or too time-consuming to add an RSS feed to older sites (at least until a good tool is available), carefully consider your site building choices from now on and make sure your choice allows for a live, updating on site RSS feed. You need the edge to compete - and in some cases, just to stay even.
Copyright 2006 Richard Keir
Richard is a writer and a programmer/developer with several products in the field of RSS feeds. SiteFeeder, http://SiteFeeder.net , builds RSS feeds for XSP sites. RSS Wrapper, http://RSS-Wrapper.com , displays RSS feed content on your site.