If you were creating websites back in the early 2010s, you probably remember a time when a website’s Feedburner RSS subscriber count was its measure of worth. In those days, a high RSS subscriber count was like a huge Facebook fan page following is today….
It was social proof that your page was popular and beloved.
Nowadays, the once ubiquitous Feedburner RSS subscriber badge has fallen out of favor, which has led some people to conclude that RSS is, if not dead, on its deathbed.
I’m here to tell you that RSS is not dead (or dying). And in this post, I’m going to explain exactly why that is. But first…
What is RSS, Anyway?
If you weren’t active on the web back during the RSS boom, you might not be familiar with this little three letter acronym. So before I tell you why it’s still valuable, I want to take a second to…tell you what it actually is.
Depending on who you ask, RSS either stands for Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication. Don’t worry – they both mean the same thing and are used interchangeably.
It’s basically a way for people to subscribe to content from a website…without needing to visit that website. Human readers can subscribe to read all the latest content from a website and computers can subscribe to do interesting things with another site’s content.
I don’t want to go too deeply into what RSS is here. So if you’re interested in learning more, you should check out our beginner’s guide to RSS.
What’s The Benefit to Using RSS Feeds?
Despite prognostications of its death, RSS feeds are still just as beneficial as ever.
As I mentioned, RSS feeds can benefit both individual humans as well as websites.
If you’re an individual, you can subscribe to your favorite website’s RSS feed using something called a feed reader and get immediately notified whenever that site publishes a new post. No need to constantly visit the site’s homepage!
Then, depending on the site’s settings, you can either read the full post in your feed reader, or you can read an excerpt and then go read the full post at the website.
And because you can subscribe to different website’s feeds in your feed reader, you can get updates from multiple websites in one easy to access spot.
Beyond that, RSS feeds can actually benefit you as a webmaster. How so? Because they give you a method of importing content into your own site. It could be something as simple as displaying the latest news headline on a topic, or as advanced as importing targeted Amazon products into your site.
In the next section, I’ll dig deeper into how you can use RSS feeds to enhance your own WordPress website.
How Can You Use RSS Feeds in WordPress?
Because you can still find RSS feeds for almost anything, the potential uses of RSS are pretty eclectic.
Let’s look at a couple of examples…
If you’re a freelancer or business, you could use RSS feeds to pull in your latest work from around the web or the latest news articles mentioning your brand for an “In the news” section.
How about another one…
If you’re a YouTuber, you could use your channel’s RSS feed to pull your latest videos into your website.
And that’s nowhere near all you can do with RSS feeds. Here are even more ideas:
- Create a niche job listings site collecting all jobs for a specific industry
- Build a community blog that imports posts from blogs on a specific topic
- Automatically create an email newsletter from your own recent posts
- Showcase upcoming events for a specific area or topic
- Import products from Amazon or other sites to earn money as an affiliate
- Display photos from any public Instagram account
As well as literally anything else where there’s an RSS feed available!
Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t give you the functionality to import RSS feeds by default. But by using a plugin like WP RSS Aggregator, you can collect RSS feeds as either a list or as actual WordPress posts.
How Do You Find a Site’s RSS Feed?
To actually do all of these cool things with RSS feeds, you’ll need to be able to find a site’s RSS feed.
To that end, let’s spend a second learning where you can actually locate a specific site’s RSS feed.
Most websites nowadays still have an RSS feed (another mark that it’s not dead!). For example, every single WordPress site creates an RSS feed by default and most major news sites, as well as a number of eCommerce stores, also offer feeds.
So how can you actually find an RSS feed when you land on a random site?
Your first option is the obvious – look for the RSS logo. Many sites still display an RSS logo that links to their feed, though that position has been usurped by social media follow buttons on many sites.
If you don’t see an RSS feed, you can almost always find a WordPress site’s feed by just appending “/feed” to the end of the homepage or category archive pages.
And if that still hasn’t revealed a site’s RSS feed, you can always take a peek at the source code and use “CTRL + F” to search for RSS.
Examples of Websites Powered by RSS Feeds
I’ve spent a lot of time telling you how RSS feeds can still benefit your website. But I think the best way to really cement this point is to showcase some websites who are successfully using RSS feeds in a variety of interesting ways.
Here are a few examples of sites using RSS feeds in creative ways:
WP News Desk
WP News Desk is a news aggregator site that pulls in the latest posts from a variety of popular WordPress blogs around the web. Fans of WordPress are happy because they can get all their WordPress news in one place.
And WordPress blogs are also happy because WP News Desk drives them traffic. It’s a win-win…all powered by RSS feeds.
Travel Blogger Community
Travel Blogger Community applies the same concept as WP News Desk to a different niche:
The…travel blogging community.
Travel Blogger Community displays an excerpt of every post and then links out to the original source for the full article. Again, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship that’s 100% powered by RSS.
The Courier is a news publication out of Findlay, Ohio. Rather than using RSS feeds as its sole source of content, The Courier writes their own content on Findlay, Ohio and then supplements that content by using WP RSS Aggregator to pull in content about the greater Ohio area from other news sources.
It’s a good example that you don’t have to use RSS feeds as the backbone of your site. They work just well as a supplemental content source for your own unique content.
RSS Is Not Dead, And It Won’t Be Anytime Soon
RSS may no longer be the main measure of a site’s popularity, but the technology is far from old hat. It’s still incredibly helpful to readers who want all of their favorite sites’ content in one place. And the popularity of startups like Feedly prove RSS’ value to humans.
And beyond making it easier for people to consume content, RSS feeds are also an invaluable tool for webmasters. RSS feeds can help you do everything from curating content to importing YouTube videos and Instagram photos.
And for those reasons, I feel confident in saying that RSS is not dead…nor will we be seeing its obituary anytime soon.