What is RSS and How do I Use it?

Written by  June 4, 2007

With all these acronyms like RSS, XML and terms like “syndication feeds” floating around the Internet, it can become confusing to say the least understanding what each actually means and more importantly how you can use them to benefit yourself and stay up-up-date on the latest content posted to this site.

I’ll go into a few details below on these terms, but in short, if you “subscribe to a feed” (as it is called) using RSS, then what you are in effect doing is getting all the latest updates (posts and download contributions) from this site sent to your computer without the need to check email. The updates are sent directly to your computer via your internet browser or your chosen “feed reading software” (more on those below).

As an example, if you use Yahoo, Google, MSN, AOL, etc… as your “home page” (the page you are taken to when you open up your Internet browser), then you could have new posts that I put on this site show up directly on that page. It’s just like getting the “weather” or “news” sent to you. It’s easy, and convenient, and you don’t have to check email to stay up-to-date. 🙂

Readers like Yahoo, Google, MSN, AOL, etc… are called “web based readers” because you do not need to install any software on your computer to get them working, and you read the content directly from your web browser.

Definitions

The best place to get information and definitions on the terms I am talking about here is through Wikipedia entries on XML, RSS, Web Syndication and Web Feed. If you have never utilized Wikipedia in the past, you may want to bookmark it as it contains a wealth of information on just about any topic you want.

RSS Basics

You use RSS (Really Simple Syndication) to syndicate or subscribe to the feed of a website, blog or almost any media content online (that of course offers an RSS feed). Feeds can be for music, videos, content, articles, or just about anything you can think of. When you “subscribe” to the feed of a web site, it means you do not have to go visit the website to read the latest content. Instead of you “visiting the site”, think of it as the “site coming to you”. The purpose of subscribing to an RSS feed is to therefore make it more efficient for you to read your favorite content.

How to Subscribe to a web site’s RSS feed

Sometimes the best explanation is a good sample visual. So, I have put together a short video tutorial on how to subscribe to this web site’s RSS feed using a web based reader. In this example I am using Google as my “home page” only because that is my preferred search engine of choice and the one I have set to show when I open my browser.

At the top right corner you will see an orange RSS link button. To subscribe to my feed all you do is click that link. If you do not have a feed reader yet, most of the time you can register for the one of your choosing after clicking that link and selecting it. You may also use the search box further down this post to search Google for a large variety of information on RSS Readers.

Here is the video tutorial on how to subscribe an RSS feed using ZenCartOptimization.com as an example.



What can Happen if You Provide an RSS Feed To Your Shopping Cart?

So, now that you know what an RSS feed is, and how it works, you should already have an idea of how it could be used to increase sales from your online store.

Imagine this — every time a user opens his or her browser window, along with the daily news and weather report comes a listing of YOUR products, right from your store! Yes, it can happen, but you have to first offer them an RSS feed. And if they are constantly seeing a listing of your latest offers or products, you can be sure they are qualified to buy (or they wouldn’t have subscribed to your feed in the first place).

So, you have an idea of how many “potential” customers are viewing your “feed” (i.e. your stores products) each day. Now, it’s your job to put the right content and offers in front of them to make them buy! The limits are now endless (and you don’t have to worry about your email offers being blocked as spam etc…) In short, you’ll have a target base of qualified customers that are “listening” to you with open ears. Give them what they want, and watch them buy.

Where to Find Feed Reading Software and Web Based RSS Readers

As indicated, there are currently two types of feed reading methods available. The “Software” route, and the “Web Based” route. For your convenience, below is a handy search box that will allow you to search Google and get a list of any number of RSS Readers. I already pre-filled in the search box for you, all you have to do is click “Find RSS Readers”. I’ll leave it up to you to choose your preferred one.


Google












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Comments

3 Responses to “What is RSS and How do I Use it?”

  1. lloyd Borrett on September 26th, 2007 12:29 am

    So just what add-on to Zen Cart do you suggest we should use to provide people with a RSS feed?

    What are your thoughts on have a feed to submit to Google Base Feeder?
    And if you do recommend using Google Base, which add-on for Zen Cart do you recommend?

    Best Regards, Lloyd Borrett.

  2. econcepts on September 29th, 2007 8:29 am

    There is no “add-on” as such for RSS Feeds yet, however, I am close to completion of one that I am using. It should be ready for release within the coming weeks.

    As far as Google Base goes, any additional way you can get exposure to your products is probably smart. I use Google Base feeds all the time.

    There is a good add-on I like for Google Sitemaps etc.. at the following link:

    Google Sitemap Support

  3. econcepts on September 30th, 2007 11:06 pm

    Lloyd,

    I just noticed that there is an RSS Feed module just released in the Zen downloads section. I like it, and you may want to take a look at it. I will not release my version as this has some great potential and there is no need to recreate the wheel.

    Zen Cart RSS Feeder

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