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What is an RSS feed and how do you set one up?

According to Pew Research, 86% of US adults get their news from digital sources like news websites and social media. RSS feeds are a great way to access and organize content from many of these sites at once, allowing you to curate your own personalized newsletter and stay up to speed.

You may have heard that RSS is a thing of the past. Yet Feedly, one of the dozens of available RSS readers, went from 3 million users in 2013 to 15 million in 2021. This shows that RSS is far from obsolete and remains a useful tool for marketers and salespeople alike.

In this guide, we’ll cover what an RSS feed is, why RSS emails are so useful and how to use two of the most popular RSS readers.

You’ll also learn how RSS feeds can help you stay on top of industry trends and drive sales enablement.

Table of contents


What’s an RSS feed and why should I set one up?

RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is a way to organize content from other sites into a single feed. By using an RSS reader, you can curate all of your favorite content sources into a single media hub.

An RSS feed contains a list of articles and content that a is posted on a website. It’s maintained automatically and updated in real time with each new post. Each entry is a simplified form of the post itself, usually showing the title, description and a link to the original article.

The RSS feed itself is a simple text file and isn’t meant to be read directly. This is why you need an RSS reader. The RSS reader converts the RSS feed into a format that’s easily read and organized.

Subscribing to an RSS feed lets you receive an up-to-date timeline of a website’s published content, beginning with the latest entry. Each new blog post or article will be listed as an individual RSS item (most RSS readers allow you to customize this view). This can be helpful if you follow a handful of sites that publish frequently, such as news websites or blogs.

How is an RSS feed different from an email subscription?

An email subscription is when you provide your email address to a site so that they can send you curated email content. These are valuable because they are a low effort way to receive updated information from your favorite sources. All you have to do is enter your email address and that site will send you relevant information or notifications periodically.

The problem is that an email subscription means you’re only receiving the content that the email marketing team thinks you’ll like.

In contrast, manually subscribing to an RSS feed lets you receive updates inside your RSS reader on the content you choose. This takes a little bit of preliminary effort, but once it’s set up you receive a complete list of published content from as many sites as you’d like. Because RSS feeds go straight to your RSS reader, it also means you won’t lose relevant content to over-active spam filters.

Companies will sometimes use a tool called RSS-to-email. This is a combination of RSS feeds and email subscriptions which allow site owners to share recently published content using the RSS feed and a simple email template. Subscriptions to newsletters populated with RSS-to-email can be useful, but it still means you’re only receiving news from one source per email.

What are the benefits of an RSS feed?

Whether you’re a site owner or an end-user, RSS feeds can help you to streamline your workflow and stay informed about current trends. For example, RSS feeds can help you to:

  • Save time. For those who follow several sources for information, RSS feeds offer a way to read all of your sites in one place. Instead of going from site to site checking whether they’ve been updated, you just go to one spot and all your headlines come to you.

  • Merge different kinds of content. Your RSS feed can be set up to display content from various formats, including news sites, bloggers, social media, YouTube, podcasts and more.

  • Read the news your way. Most RSS readers offer the ability to categorize your feeds for optimal scanning, taking all of the work out of staying up to date. You can also set the layout and display of most RSS readers so that it’s exactly how you like it.

  • Find your next job opportunity. RSS feeds can help job seekers find their next job. Many job search sites, like We Work Remotely, offer RSS feeds for each category, meaning you receive new post updates in real time.

  • Enhance your workflow. For marketers and salespeople, subscribing to RSS feeds is a quick and easy way to maintain an organized reservoir of information from all of your preferred sources. Below, we’ll go into more detail on how you can use RSS feeds to stay on top of industry developments and increase your effectiveness.


How to subscribe to an RSS feed

There are dozens of RSS readers and how you subscribe to an RSS feed depends on which one you are using. For the sake of brevity, we’ll cover how you can subscribe to an RSS feed using two of the more popular RSS readers: Feedly and NewsBlur.

How to find an RSS feed

You can’t subscribe to an RSS feed without knowing the feed’s URL. A few years ago, most websites had RSS feeds and obvious RSS icons to access them. These days, many websites still have RSS feeds, it can just be a little harder to find them.

Here are a few ways to find a website’s RSS feed:

  • Find the RSS icon. If a website does have an RSS link, it should be present at either the top or bottom of the website (in the header or footer) or in a widget on the side, above or below the article. The RSS icon looks very similar to the Wi-Fi icon. Some sites also have a page with options to subscribe where you can find the RSS link.

  • Search Google. You can perform a web search for a website’s RSS feed. All you have to do is search for “[website] RSS feed”, and if the website has one, it’ll probably be the top answer.

  • Check the website’s source code. Load the website you want the RSS feed for, then right-click the screen somewhere and select “View Page Source”. Use the browser’s search function by pressing Ctrl + F and search for “RSS”. Look for an RSS URL, then copy that into your reader.

  • Use an RSS reader. Some RSS readers have an integrated search function that will automatically find a website’s RSS feed if you paste the website’s URL into the app’s search bar. Even better, some RSS readers will actually create an RSS feed for you based on specific parameters.

How to use Feedly

Feedly is a free feed reader that helps you aggregate all of the sources that you subscribe to into a single place. You can use Feedly via your web browser, the Feedly Android app or Feedly iPhone app, or get RSS feeds via email. Your feeds and settings will be synchronized across each device, so if you read an article on your phone, it will update your feed on the other devices.

There are three subscription tiers for Feedly. The free version of Feedly lets you subscribe to up to 100 sources. Feedly Pro gives you unlimited sources and feeds, no ads and several functional upgrades. Finally, Feedly Teams lets you share articles between team members, subscribe to Twitter feeds and integrate with Google Alerts.

Here’s how you can subscribe to feeds using Feedly.

Step 1: Sign up for Feedly

Access Feedly through your app or web browser, then sign up for a free account.

Step 2: Create a new feed

Once you’ve gained access to the Feedly app, you can create a new feed. This is a folder where all of the updates for each of your subscriptions will be stored. To do so, select “create new feed” from the left-hand panel and give it a suitable name.

Step 3: Add content

The next step is to add the sources you’d like to follow so you can see updates as they’re published. To add a source, paste the RSS feed URL into the search box.

Feedly also has an integrated search function that you can use to find websites based on topics. Just search for the topic you’re interested in and hit the “follow” button to add it to your feed.

Step 4: Start reading

You should now have all of the sources you want to compile into Feedly.

You can easily organize your feed to show all articles or just the new content released that day. Next to each feed, there’s an unread count so that you know how many new articles have been published since you last accessed the reader. Once you’re finished reading an article, you can tick a checkbox to list it as read and stop Feedly from displaying it in your feed.

Feedly is also more than just a way to read articles. You can also save an article that you want to access later or share it with your friends and colleagues with the click of a button.

How to use NewsBlur

NewsBlur is another free RSS feeder available on desktop, iPhone and Android. The key difference between Feedly and NewsBlur is that the latter has AI sorting automation that can filter and highlight the articles that you are most likely to be interested in.

The free version of NewsBlur grants you 64 subscriptions, which is enough to get started. A yearly subscription is $36/year and includes unlimited feeds, a more streamlined feed, more regular updates and custom RSS modules.

While Feedly embeds each article within the app, NewsBlur takes you to the original website. Different users tend to like it one way or another, so try both to see which you prefer.

Follow the steps below to set up your NewsBlur feed.

Step 1: Sign up for NewsBlur

Download the app on your device, or access NewsBlur via your web browser, then sign up for the service.

Step 2: Add feeds

To add a feed on NewsBlur simply hit the [+] icon at the bottom-left of the window and copy/paste your RSS feed URL into the text field.

Unfortunately, NewsBlur doesn’t have the integrated search function that Feedly has, so you will need to manually find your desired RSS feeds.

Step 3: Start reading

Once you add all of the sources you’d like to monitor, you can play around with the different layouts that NewsBlur offers. For example, you can display your feed in a grid, list or split pane view depending on what you prefer.


Use RSS feeds for sales enablement

RSS feeds are a great tool to help inform your sales enablement strategy. Sales enablement is all about giving salespeople the information, content and training that will help them make sales. With well-organized RSS feeds, you can access the information that will help you engage with prospects and customers in real time.

Here are a few ways you can use RSS feeds for sales enablement.

Keep track of leads and prospects

Qualifying prospects is essential in sales. If your prospect or their company is consistently in the news, you can use RSS feeds to keep track of them and find opportunities to develop a connection. This is a great way to react to things they’re doing in your industry as well. For instance, you may see that one of your prospects has recently received new funding and might have a budget for your product.

One way to do this is by following your prospect or lead on social media. If you add their username to your RSS feed, you’ll be alerted each time they post. People often ask for recommendations and advice over social media and you may note an opportunity to reach out and offer your services or recommend your product.

Stay on top of customer needs and pain points

Social media is the go-to place if you want to track how your customers are reacting to you or your competitor’s products (or services). An RSS reader will enable you to subscribe to a specific hashtag or search term on Twitter, for example. This will give you a curated Twitter feed of everything people are saying about you (or your competitors) and will help you see where you’re excelling and where you might need improvement.

Keep an eye on competitors

Following competitor blogs and websites is essential to stay up to date with what your competitors are doing. As mentioned above, it’s also possible to subscribe to Twitter searches for your competitors and specific hashtags.

Your success as a salesperson rests on your ability to sell your business or product’s strengths over your competitors. To do this, you need a deep understanding of your competitors. By keeping track of your competitors, you can build an accurate picture of what they are doing right and where they’re falling short. You can then use this information to improve your own sales strategies.

Stay informed about best practices

Using RSS content to stay informed about your field means that you won’t be in the dark about any latest developments. If you follow great sources, you’ll be able to keep on top of the newest tools, thoughts and strategies that can inform your sales methodology for the best results.

This indirectly benefits sales too. A successful sale comes from the seamless cooperation of many people, including the product development and marketing teams. Staying on top of best practices and the latest tools means that each team will be able to work together to enhance their position or target new markets.


Final thoughts

It’s vital for both marketers and salespeople to stay informed if they want to maximize their effectiveness in their respective fields. With RSS feeds, you can stay up to date with emerging trends, track relevant activity over social media and monitor competitor behavior to inform your strategy and drive up sales.

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