This post is the first in a three-part series that covers how to subscribe to this site, share posts on it, and navigate it. Recently I have been working with some clients to attract readers to and retain them on their websites; these articles reflect some strategies we’ve implemented. This series isn’t just to encourage the use of those features here, but also to help other bloggers add them to their sites.
When I first started browsing the Internet, I had about 30 sites bookmarked that I read regularly. Once or twice a day I’d run through all of them and see if they had been updated. This process was time consuming and a pain, as many of them only had new posts once or twice a week.
Eight years later, I still have about 30 regular reads (albeit mostly different ones). But checking them takes a lot less time. And I never look at pages that don’t have new material. How? With one exception, I read all of them via an RSS feed.
What’s an RSS feed?
How Does RSS Work?
Basically, when a new article is posted or a change made to a webpage, RSS keeps track of the changes and delivers them to you. RSS feeds are most often attached to text, images, podcasts and video, but they can be used with any document (word processing and spreadsheets) that has content that changes.
Who Benefits From RSS?
Anyone who has been frustrated at the time it takes to find what you want on the Internet can appreciate the time-saving feature of RSS. If there are web pages you visit daily or regularly—let’s say you always read the front page of The New York Times and your best friend’s weblog—RSS eliminate the need to check for updates. Every time something changes on the page, it comes to you. RSS always shows the most-recent changes.
How Do I Use RSS?
To view RSS feeds, you need an RSS reader (also called an aggregator), which trolls RSS feeds across the Web to regularly update content. All are pretty easy to use, offering users the chance to read, e-mail, save or clip content with a click of the mouse. There are many free, web-based readers, all which compile and update feeds, all which allow anonymous access to their feeds from any computer with Internet access. For heavier users, there are desktop, application-based readers that offer more features.
The link to this site’s RSS feed is in the sidebar to the right (under the Subscribe heading). Most browsers also have a link to it next to the URL in the toolbar. You also can access my RSS feed here.
I publish my feed through Feedburner. It helps readers
- subscribe to my RSS feed by including links to RSS readers in the feed
- read the feed by ensuring it is compatible with most RSS readers
- e-mail a post, comment, or share an entry on a social bookmarking or news site (I’ll cover them in the next post) by having links to those functions in the RSS feed
For those of you who want to subscribe to this blog, but don’t feel like using an RSS reader, you can do so via e-mail here (the link also appears under Subscribe in the sidebar).
The e-mail updates also are distributed through Feedburner, but unlike with an RSS feed, which usually notifies readers of an update within 15 minutes, the e-mail updates lag about 18 hours after a new entry was posted. For a site like this one where the posts aren’t time sensitive, that wait isn’t a big deal. But it would be a concern if you subscribed to, say, a newspaper.
You can subscribe to the comments for a particular post as well (after all, the comments feature on a blog is supposed to foster a dialog).
- RSS feed—On the page for an individual post, select “Subscribe to comments” next to the orange RSS-feed icon. That link will bring up that post’s RSS feed.
- E-mail—If you’d like to be notified of new comments to a post via e-mail, select the box next to “Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail” underneath the box where you can add a comment. Unfortunately to be kept abreast of new comments via e-mail, you need to have written a comment yourself (that’s not the case for subscribing to a comment’s RSS feed).
The next post will cover features on this blog that allow you to easily share the content with your best friend—or a complete stranger. And, as with the subscription methods described herein, they are easy to replicate on your own website.