This week one of my favorite sites, Coudal, went through a redesign. Part of the thought process that went behind the redesign was whether they should include a RSS feed for their Fresh Signals section. Jim Coudal feared that if he included a RSS feed then people would either stop visiting his site or the content wouldn’t have the same feeling since it would viewed out of context. Both legitimate concerns.
However, whether or not to use RSS on your site should no longer be an option. I believe it has become a necessity if you wish to compete with others in your industry.
In the worst case scenario when using RSS a reader will never again visit your site. Since I am unable to track usage patterns for all RSS readers I don’t know how often this happens, but I can tell you from the statistics from my sites (including this one) the number of visitors goes up monthly even with full content RSS feeds. And even if they do not visit your site again, at least they are still reading your content. This increases the odds that they will link to you from their site or spread the word about your site.
It’s always nice for people to continuously return to your site and understanding the different reasons for them to return is essential to your site’s success. Before RSS, there were three main ways for readers to come back to your site.
- Link from another site or search engine
- Personal bookmark
- Email updates to your audience
For many users today, bookmarks have become useless since we have too many of them. Bookmarks allow for information overload just as easily as RSS does, but the difference is that RSS allows updates through all that information overload. A bookmark gets hidden, but if you update your site then the RSS feed will reflect that and tell the reader its time to view the content.
There are many sites that I keep track of and I will never remember them off the top of my head. I don’t remember all the sites in my RSS reader, but I don’t have to since it does all the remembering for me. With a site like Coudal, since I have not made it my homepage, I often forget to visit the site. Many times I go weeks without visiting, not because I don’t like their content, but because I simply forget about it. RSS wouldn’t allow me to forget it.
With the plethora of sites around fighting for the mindshare of your readers becomes essential. Why lessen your chances by not including a RSS feed? That opens the gates for everyone else to increase their readership. RSS feeds create more opportunities and the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.