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Using RSS and Data Migration Tools in WordPress 3

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In this lesson, you learn what RSS is, the value of having an RSS feed, and how to set one up. You also learn how to back up and migrate your data to another blog.
This chapter is from the book

Syndicate Your Blog with RSS

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. It is a method by which readers can subscribe to your blog by means of an RSS file, often called an RSS feed.

When your readers subscribe to RSS, they don't have to visit your website periodically to check for new content. Instead, programs such as Mozilla Thunderbird, Google Reader, NetNewsWire, Microsoft Outlook, and Internet Explorer download the RSS files from all sites readers subscribe to at regular intervals. The postings are then displayed much like email to make it easy for the readers to quickly glance over the headlines and open postings that are of interest.

RSS feeds are available from most blog and news sites. They are typically indicated by an orange icon (see Figure 7.1) or the words RSS or Subscribe.

Figure 7.1

Figure 7.1 The RSS icon is a quick way to indicate people can subscribe to a site.

If your blog does not currently have an RSS feed available, consider adding one to increase readership. With RSS functionality becoming more popular in applications, a large number of people on the Internet use RSS readers almost exclusively for content delivery (see Figure 7.2).

Figure 7.2

Figure 7.2 RSS applications like Google Reader deliver websites directly to you.

Setting Up an RSS Feed

You can set up RSS feeds for posts or comments. The most common feed is the one containing your most recent posts. To create an RSS feed, follow these steps:

  1. Select Appearance, Widgets.
  2. Add the RSS Links widget to your sidebar by dragging it from Active (or Inactive) widgets to the sidebar.
  3. Click the downward-facing triangle on the right side of the RSS widget (see Figure 7.3).
    Figure 7.3

    Figure 7.3 Use the RSS Links widget to allow your readers to subscribe to your blog.

  4. Provide a title for your sidebar widget. Many people simply put "Subscribe".
  5. Indicate which feeds to display. You can choose to have either a feed for your posts, a feed for your comments feed, or one of each.
  6. Select how your feed links will be displayed with the Format option. You can choose to display an RSS icon (image), text, or both.
  7. Click the Save button to save your changes and then Close to close the widget.

Now when readers want to subscribe to a feed on your site, they right-click on the orange icon, copy the link location, and paste it into their RSS reader. From then on, they will automatically know when you have posted something to your site.

Your link shows up on your page similar to the one shown in Figure 7.4.

Figure 7.4

Figure 7.4 Sample RSS links and icons using the RSS Links widget.

Adding Other RSS Feeds

You can also add feeds to other sites using the same widget by including their RSS feed. Having a feed from another blog is useful if you have multiple blogs that are related and want to show the latest content from one on the other. For example, I have a personal blog that has a sidebar widget with links from my various podcasts. When I update one of the podcasts, the content on my personal blog is updated automatically via the RSS feed (see Figure 7.5). To obtain the RSS feed from another site, follow these steps:

  1. Visit another website or blog and look for the orange icon, Subscribe, or RSS.
  2. Right-click and choose the option to copy the link location.
  3. Paste the link location into your RSS feed URL space in the RSS widget.
  4. Click the Save button and then the Close link.
Figure 7.5

Figure 7.5 The RSS widget allows you to show content from another feed on your site.

Using a Redirected Feed

An RSS feed is a convenience for your readers. However, you might want to better understand how many people are subscribed to your feed and what posts are generating traffic. You can do that by using a redirected feed.

Using a redirected feed might sound like something the "big guys" use to track statistics and drive traffic, but it's also useful for occasional bloggers to just find out the health of their feed.

A common way to do this is to create one feed that you make public and keep your real feed private. The public feed sends subscribers through a service that gathers statistical information about their habits. One popular service is called FeedBurner. It offers basic stats free and extended services for a fee. To get set up with FeedBurner, do the following:

  1. Go to the FeedBurner site (http://feedburner.google.com).
  2. Create an account or log in with your Google account if you already have one.
  3. Enter your blog or RSS feed URL in the box under the label Burn a Feed Right This Instant (see Figure 7.6).
    Figure 7.6

    Figure 7.6 FeedBurner makes it easy to collect subscriber statistics.

  4. Click Next.
  5. Edit the Feed Title and Feed Address if necessary. In most cases, the default values work fine.
  6. Click Next.
  7. The critical part is done. FeedBurner displays the URL of the feed you can publish to the public. Use this as the URL in your RSS widget described earlier. If you want to collect additional feed stats, click Next one more time and check the options you like; otherwise, click Skip Directly to Feed Management.
  8. Click Next.

Log in to FeedBurner and check your stats, growth, and readers' behaviors at any time.

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