Promotion of a Web site by RSS

The RSS term is often used to be simple to indicate any format of syndication of a site or a blog, even they are different. Some became popular: Really Simple Syndication, RDF Summary Site and Atom.
Syndication is used by news agencies (Reuters, AFP), online magazines. And maybe also by yourself! So that your articles are more widely known and so that you obtain more backlinks, but if it is a tool for referencing there are many other uses...

Uses of RSS

Beside articles and news, RSS tend to spread and each day new uses are found to it.
A company launches a new product, the information becomes an element of feed. A site diffuses announcements, it is practical to place them in a file of feed as an easily distributable newspaper. One wants to make known the changes inside a site, or in a software, one publishes the list of changes in a feed. In the same way for the reports of bugs, or last calls concerning a product. Nothing impeach to find new applications to it.
That made on an important website one more one RSS file may be found, but a quantity according to various uses. As example, Sourceforge.net which propose a feed for new projects, for most visited, the categories of projects, etc.
The RSS format allows many extensions starting from a standard base, of which we will give a description below.

Overall description

It is interesting to see at which point the RSS 2.0 format seems simple. It requires a minimal general structure as follows:

<rss>
    <channel>
        <item> </item>
        <item> </item>
        ...
    </channel>
</rss>

The root container is rss. It specifies a channel which is the Web site and a list of items corresponding to the articles or any other contents which one want to promote.
The channel and each item contain a list of descriptive tags which are the same ones:

<title> Title of the article (or channel)
<link> The URL.
<description> A summary.
<pubDate> Optionnally publishing date.

That gives us the following overall structure, more detailed but which remains simple nevertheless:

<channel>
    <title> ... </title>
    <link> ... </link>
    <description> ... </description>
    <item>
       <title> ... </title>
       <link> ... </link>
       <description> ... </description>
    </item>
    <item>
        ... 
    </item>
    etc.
</channel>

One thinks that programming a script to extract information from a so elementary format, or to display the feed itself, should not be very complicated! In fact ready to use scripts are provided on this site, they are given in the resources section at bottom of this page.
The basic format can be extended with specialized modules.
We have described the RSS 2.0 format, but there are several formats.

Choosing a format

Even if one limits oneself to the three main formats, it is a dilemma for the webmaster, which format must he use?
While simplifying a little, here are the advantages of each format:

  1. RSS 2.0: it is very simple and extensible and is appropriate for all uses.
  2. Atom: it is precise and without ambiguities and can be treated automatically by elaborate software.
  3. RSS RDF 1.0: it is conceived for integration in the semantic Web and its online tools.

For a more detailed comparison of these formats, see the article Which Syndication Format To Choose?.

Tools

Whatever the format, many tools exist to display or generate automatically a syndication feed.

Displaying

The displaying of a RSS feed can be done by a recent browser, who (almost) automatically recognizes the presence of a feed and thus makes specialized aggregators useless.
But one can also to want to display a feed inside a page, to promote its the content of the site to to offers links to articles from other sites. For this purpose several scripts are provided on this site, and mainly the common reader who recognizes the three formats mentioned.

Generating

If your site is a blog or a CMS, and thus you are using a page management as Dotclear, Joomla, etc, you have a built-in function of feed generation.
But that have a disadvantage, too rudimentary, they are restricted to the list of the last 15 posts or articles and do not allow any selection.
To provide a better tool, that allows to choose the articles to be promoted and to compose oneself the feed, a software without equivalent is available on Scriptol.com, it is the ARA RSS editor.

Validating

If you want to be certain that your file is well formed, and conforms strictly to the XML format, an additional validation step has to be performed. Many online RSS validators are available, including the Feed Validator.

Revealing the feed

Once the file generated, stored on the site, validated, it remains to let known its existence to browsers.

A small modification must be made to the main page (or the page of a project) of the site, for recent browsers who display RSS feeds.
Inside the HEAD section of the page, add the following line:

<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml"
      href="http://www.scriptol.com/rss.xml" title="Your  title">

Of course, you replace scriptol.com by the domain name of your site, as well as the name of the file and the title.
If the format of the file is atom, you also replace rss+xml by:

atom+xml

For your readers, add a link to the file using an image, small or large .

<a href=" http://www.scriptol.com/rss.xml><img src= "rss.gif" >Your text</a>

Now you have just to make known the existence of feed to the community of the Web, some tracks below...

RSS, promotion tool

You think that your articles reflect the actuality, and provide a unique information. Collaborative sites of news are there to make known them. Digg and other such site can extract the info from you feed..
Around RSS, many services have grown: directories of general and specialized feeds where you register yourself your feed, search engines specialized in site of social networking.

RSS was once the main component of the Web 2.0. Essential tool for SEO, it helped to increase the traffic of a site and make backlinks. Still relevant for some sites who need to communicate their news to a concerned audience, it is less usefell today.

Participating to the blogosphere

Always working in silence, the W3C, the organization which defines the standard of the Web, including HTML and XML, develop a project that is not very well known, but whose applications appear little by little however, it is the semantic Web. It is intended to give the meaning of Web pages for what they are useful, their context, in a form which the computer can process. There are already several standards that are derived from RDF format.

Other components of the blogosphere are OPML for describing a plan, a synopsis, a list of feeds, the menu of a Web site and thus allows to syndicate it, the blogroll, the list of favorite blogs, one can promote it by a RSS feed. Podcast consists in uploading audio and video files on a site, and to make them known, syndication is used. In this case RSS files provide the link, the title, the date, a description of each video or audio file. Thanks to what one calls podcasting it is thus possible to directly download the selected pieces starting from an advertising feed.

For a blogger, all this is a bit overwhelmed by the use of social sites like Twitter and Facebook that provide the same type of services without having to manage complicated formats but for a commercial or professional site, RSS is a essential tool of information.