RSS promotes blog, enhances user experience, makes spiders happy
RSS lives up to its name -- Really Simple Syndication. It is really simple. As a webmaster, one can syndicate any kind of list with RSS: a list of posts on a certain topic, a list of contacts, products, songs, TV shows... whatever. As a website consumer, one can be notified every time one's list of interest updates. It's great.
In improving the experience (and thus promoting the usership) of a website or blog, RSS (or any other xml syndication format, really) is vital because it does two things: It both pushes and pulls.
RSS pushes your content out there. I have multiple feeds on all my sites. On one site I have a music feed, a couple of blog feeds, category feeds (for each tag), product feeds, and a main site feed. All of those feeds get pushed out to the aggregators. If I add a new product, my site's main feed subscribers find out about it instantly, but it also goes out on the product feed, which also gets spidered. Someone could subscribe to the product feed. They could subscribe to a category feed if they want to see everything I write on a certain topic.
So how does this enhance the user's experience and ultimately drive traffic? If I make a blog post about butterflies, I can ping three different feeds -- the main feed, the blog feed, and the butterfly feed. That does several things: it adds incoming links (from the aggregators), it helps the spiders to "understand" how to index, and it may even look to spiders like my site content updates more frequently than it does (I know -- sneaky). It also provides a great content filter for the site's visitors. Maybe they love everything I do and want to feed on all of it. Maybe they're not interested in my music or my products but they do want to read my blog. Maybe they are butterfly researchers and they don't give a hoot about anything else I have to say. The point is, it pushes the content out there in an organized way, and both humans and search algorithms like well organized content.
Another great advantage is that a lot of people read RSS feeds through their Google and Yahoo readers. I have no way of proving this, but I would venture to guess that search engines ascribe more authority to the site if their users are subscribing to it.
You push (feed) RSS to spiders and content consumers, and RSS pulls targeted visitors to your site
RSS also pulls content to my sites. On one site I have a news feed in a block. It updates regularly. To search engines, it looks like the site updates every couple of hours. To visitors, it provides a convenient way to get fresh news on a particular topic within the context of the site's other content. It's beautiful.
RSS lets you slice up your broadcasts and pull in useful stuff in a logical way that gives you a lot of bang for your buck as a webmaster. As a user, it lets you form the great clay of the Internet into exactly the content stream that you desire. It's a wonderful tool.
No, I'm not going to give you a link to some stupid e-book that you can buy for four bucks, promising to change your life by divulging the hidden secrets of unlocking the pure power of RSS. This isn't that kind of blog.
Oh -- and if you enjoyed this post or found it useful, you might want to subscribe to my feed.