RSS feeds are a nifty feature present in WordPress and mos–t other content management systems. They make it easy to read and manipulate content from a website. And in this post, I’ll give you a quick and dirty guide on what RSS feeds are and how you can use a few tricks to find practically any website’s RSS feed.
Then, I’ll tell you about a few creative ways you can manipulate RSS feeds to add dynamic content to your own website.
I never like wasting time, so let’s get right into it!
What is RSS? And What’s An RSS Feed?
RSS, short for both Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication (both terms refer to the same thing), is, at its simplest, just a method for delivering content on the web.
Users can “subscribe” to a site’s RSS feed. Then, whenever that site publishes new content, users will automatically be able to read that new content in something called an RSS reader. The RSS reader is an essential part, because without one, RSS feeds look like this:
Let’s make it a little more personal. Say you love the content published at “supercoolblog.com”. Without an RSS feed, the only way to check for new content would be to manually visit supercoolblog.com every few days, or maybe subscribe to a newsletter. Right?
With RSS, you can just subscribe to Super Cool Blog’s RSS feed using an RSS reader. Then, whenever Super Cool Blog publishes a new post, you get alerted right away, without any manual effort or needing to fork over your email address.
But RSS feeds aren’t just about reading. I’ll also get into some other neat uses later on in this post.
How to Find an RSS Feed URL For Your Own Site
WordPress makes it super simple to find your WordPress feed. If you’re using any type of pretty permalink, you can find your feed at “http://yoursite.com/feed”. If you aren’t using permalinks, you’ll need to go to “http://yoursite.com/?feed=rss2”.
It’s very likely that your site fits the former situation.
Additionally, you can also get a bit more creative with RSS feeds for your WordPress site. For example, you could get an RSS feed for just a specific category by going to “http://yoursite.com/categoryname/feed”.
And if you’re using custom post types (an advanced WordPress concept), you can get an RSS feed for just a specific custom post type by going to “http://yoursite.com/feed/?post_type=post_type_name”.
If you want even more cool ways to manipulate WordPress RSS feeds, you can head to the official WordPress codex page.
How to Find Another Site’s RSS Feed
Ok, so finding your own site’s RSS feed is pretty easy. But finding RSS feeds for other sites can be tricky sometimes. Here are a few tips to help with your RSS feed super sleuth skills:
First, let’s start with the simplest method – many sites make it easy to find their RSS feed by using the RSS Symbol. So if you ever see a symbol that looks something like this:
That should link to a site’s RSS feed.
If you don’t see a visible icon, your next step is to check the source code. Don’t worry – you don’t need to be a code genius to pull this off.
First, make sure you’re on the page of the site you want to find an RSS feed for. Then right-click and choose View Page. It’s the same for Chrome, Firefox, and most other browsers.
Then, you should see a screen full of code. Just press ctrl + F (on Windows) or Command + F (on Mac) to open the Find tool. Then search for RSS:
And there’s the RSS feed URL!
Some browsers also offer third-party extensions that allow you to easily find a website’s RSS feed. But you really don’t need them – the source code approach above covers most situations.
Beyond Reading: Creative Ways to Use RSS Feeds
As I mentioned, RSS feeds offer much more functionality than just reading. You can also use them to manipulate content from other sites.
Basically, you can pull in RSS feeds to your website from a variety of sources to curate content in unique ways. Here are some cool things you can do:
Create a News Aggregator Site
You could automatically display news articles on certain topics by using an RSS feed from Google alerts or a variety of topical blogs. You could either just pull in headlines or parts of the articles. Because of how crowded the Internet is nowadays, curating topical content in one place is a valuable service.
Display a Constantly Updated Portfolio of Your Latest Work
Let’s say you’re a freelance writer who publishes articles on a number of websites. You could use RSS feeds to automatically collect all of those articles on your own portfolio site so potential clients can always check out your latest work.
Display Your Latest Social Media Posts
Many social media sites make activity streams available as RSS feeds. Using such feeds, you can bring in your latest social media posts to anywhere on your site.
Curate Amazon Products
Amazon makes it very easy to grab an RSS feed of the various products they sell. You can then parse this RSS feed to display a constantly updated feed of Amazon products on your own site.
Better yet, you can use this feed to make money through the Amazon Associates affiliate program.
Create a Constantly Updating Job Board
People always need new jobs – but finding them is the hard part. With RSS feeds, you could automatically parse popular job sites to collect only those jobs which fit certain criteria.
For example, you could make a site that displays only WordPress development jobs, or anything else that tickles your fancy!
How to Bring in External RSS Feeds to Your WordPress Site
For all these uses, you will need a little help to do it well. WordPress doesn’t include an internal mechanism to bring in outside sites’ RSS feeds. So to import and manipulate outside RSS feeds, you can use a plugin called WP RSS Aggregator.
It’s a free plugin that lets you import any valid RSS feed, no matter where it comes from. Then, depending on the add-ons that you have, you can filter, manipulate, and display RSS content in any number of ways.
Best of all, you’re not limited to just one external RSS feed. You can add as many content sources as you’d like. And you can easily credit the original authors to keep everything above board.
Wrapping Things Up
RSS feeds are far more versatile than the average person thinks. Sure, you can opt to use them as a simple way to keep up with your favorite websites.
But if you want to get creative, you can use RSS feeds to enhance your own website in any number of ways. Most websites you encounter will have some sort of RSS feed, so it’s really just a matter of finding it!
And with the two tricks I showed you for finding your own site’s RSS feed as well as other sites’ RSS feeds, you should have no problem doing just that.