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What is an RSS Feed?

21. November 2009 19:52

You may have noticed lots of blogs and websites using small buttons similar to these.

RSS feed buttons

These services use a technology called XML to allow websites to distribute their content beyond the confines of the pages of the site.  They make it possible for users to subscribe to websites to receive updates either via email or via a news reader.  They also allow the content to be bookmarked, aggregated or packaged into widgets and displayed on other websites.

What is a Podcast?

A podcast is a special type of RSS feed that contains links to audio files.  You subscribe to podcast in much the same way as you subscribe to plain RSS feeds.

The Benefits of RSS

Enabling feeds allow the readers of your website to be kept up-to-date with your latest web content without remembering to return to your site.  By subscribing to blogs and websites of interest with a news reader such as Google Reader visitors can follow as many blogs as they wish all from one place.

For the website owner it enables visitors to subscribe to your website which should encourage users to return more frequently.  Using a tool such as FeedBurner you can also give your readers the option of subscribing via email and you can begin building a subscriber list.

From the advertiser’s point of view distributing your latest content via RSS bypasses SPAM filters that usually affect email broadcast, it also enables you to display adverts on the actual feeds themselves.

How do I get a Feed for my Website?

If you own a blog already there is a chance that you already have an RSS feed enabled on your website.  Popular blogging platforms such as Typepad, Wordpress or Blogger publish feeds automatically.

There are also tools such as FeedBurner that enable website owners to gain useful information about feed subscribers as well as lots of free ways to advertise and market your feed.

How do I Start Reading Feeds from my Favourite Sites?

There are many ways to subscribe to feeds, sometimes these tools are called news aggregators, some are installed on your computer whereas others are web-based services, and the good news is lots of them are free!

Google Reader user interface

Many news readers use an interface similar to an email inbox with each blog post appearing in a reading pane.  The posts are listed in chronological order and you usually have the option of selecting all the latest content or content only from certain sites you subscribe to.

Click here to find a suitable RSS feed reader.

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Category: Blogs

Basic Blogging Tools

29. June 2009 15:08

There aren’t many tools you need to blog.  In fact most blogs will just require a web browser such as Internet Explorer or Firefox and an internet connection because they use a web-based interface for posting to your blog.

There are however lots of tools on the internet that make the process of blogging even easier and you will probably find you will discover your own favourite blogging tools as you continue to develop and write to your blog. 

There are tools such as RSS (Really Simple Syndication) readers to help keep you up-to-date on what the blogosphere is discussing on the subjects that matter to you.  There are social services such as Twitter that allow you to follow and share information with peers, colleagues and “thought leaders” within your industry; there are also online bookmarking services such as Delicious which allow you to bookmark web pages which can be accessed from any computer, anywhere in the world and also shared with people in your network.  Other tools like Microsoft OneNote which is part of the Microsoft Office package allows you to collate snippets of information as you browse the web.

A fairly recent discovery for me was Microsoft’s Live Writer, a free Windows blog editor which works with most blogging platforms and makes blogging as easy as writing a Word document. 

If you spend a lot of time away from a computer and an internet connection, its always handy to carry a paper-based notepad where you can jot down any blog topic ideas and outline or even write full posts.  If you have internet access on your mobile phone, you might find Google Reader Mobile useful to read your news subscriptions on-the-go.

5 Free Blog Tools

  • A paper-based notepad – jot down blog post ideas, post outlines or full blog posts
  • An RSS reader – keep informed of the latest topics of discussion (e.g. Google Reader or Bloglines)
  • Live Writer – a free Windows blog editor
  • A social bookmarking account – gather share and organise interesting web pages (e.g. Delicious)
  • A Twitter account – network and share information with peers and key figures in your industry.  Tweetdeck is a must-have application for all Twitter users.


Category: Blogs

10 Reasons to Start a Business Blog

26. June 2009 15:08

If you are unsure whether your company should be blogging on your corporate website here are ten reasons why you should consider it.  You might also want to read our overview of blogging to understand what all the fuss is about.

  1. A blog is an inexpensive marketing tool.
  2. They allow you to talk to your customers in an informal way.
  3. A blog is a good way to inform and educate visitors about your products and services.
  4. A blog can make your company seem more approachable.
  5. Having a blog on your business website can help its search engine ranking overall.
  6. A blog can help you generate sales leads.
  7. You can start a two-way conversation with your customers and show that you listen to what your customers have to say.
  8. Your customers comments can help you develop products and services that better match their needs.
  9. A blog lets you communicate your company's expertise within your sector/industry.
  10. Positive comments left on your blog from happy customers act as recommendations for your product or service.

What Exactly is a Blog?

24. June 2009 15:07

The term “Blog” is short for “weblog”, blogs are essentially a type of website which initially became popular through personal online diaries and slowly gained in popularity from 2000 onwards around the time Blogger.com was launched.

Why do people use blogs?

Blogs became popular because they made it possible for non-technical people to publish their thoughts online with ease.  Blogs also opened up a two-way conversation with the blogs audience through the “comments system”.  Blog comments allow readers to voice their opinion by appending messages directly beneath the blog post for all the other readers to read and join in the conversation.

Blogs normally focus on a particular subject and contain text, images and links to other web pages and blogs.  Now-a-days blogs can be categorised in many different ways and written in lots of styles.

There are corporate blogs which are used for either internal communication or external marketing, branding or public relations purposes.  There are personal blogs which are essentially online diaries or commentaries about the lives of ordinary citizens. Then there are lots of blogs which are focused on a particular genre such as gadget blogs, travel blogs, music blogs etc.

The structure of a blog

Blogs are formed of numerous “posts” which are individual entries posted to the blog.  The blog posts are usually arranged in reverse chronological order so the latest post is at the top of the main page.  Each post maybe categorised using a number of “tags”, these tags are essentially categories the author (“blogger”) has created to categorise his or her blog.

A blog website is formed of a main page which features the latest dozen-or-so posts, archive pages which are usually formed of a number of pages containing a months worth of posts.  Tag pages featuring posts categorised with a particular tag, and finally individual post pages, which contain just one blog post each.

This structure allows visitors to easily browse a blog by category (tag), date, or simply read the latest entries.

What is a blog feed?

Another way blogs differ from other forms of website is that they facilitate “syndication” which means visitors can subscribe to a blog feed and read the latest blog posts as they are published without visiting website directly.  This functionality can be found on most blogs where you see the orange RSS symbol, like the one below.  RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication”.

Subscribe to our blog

Clicking on the orange RSS button will normally take you to your RSS reader of choice, depending on the web browser you use and if you have configured an RSS reader.  Once inside your blog reader you will typically be informed of your subscription to the blog to which you just subscribed. 
Examples of popular blog readers are:

If you are new to blogging and are interested in starting your own blog or joining the conversation in the Blogosphere.  The first step is to begin by signing-up for one of the RSS readers above and subscribing to blogs of interest to get a grasp for how blogging works, how they differ from other forms of media and from one-another, their informal editorial style etc.  This research will give you the confidence and knowledge to begin blogging on your chosen topic.


Category: Blogs