RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication, and acts as a sort of transcript for your site. It provides a hierarchical list of all your pages, posts, and other elements for consumption by search engines and applications. Updates to the site like new pages and posts are added to the feed in real time.
RSS readers are applications that consolidate the content from various RSS feeds, allowing the user to stay abreast of updates from many different sites at once. The popularity of RSS readers may have declined in the last few years, but RSS feeds themselves are still relevant particularly for email lists.
How does that work?
The mail service checks the site's feed at a specified time each day or on certain days. If it sees new material that wasn't in the feed previously, it emails the list the new material. This is a useful tool for keeping readers aware of new posts, since you can't count on a reader manually thinking to keep checking your site for updates.
When search engine crawlers (software bots) visit a site, they're trying to understand what the site is about and determine how relevant it is to various topics. The clearer it is how pages relate to each other the better picture it will paint for these crawlers.
RSS feeds also work similarly to how a sitemap gives crawlers a break down of the material throughout the site.
Not every website has an RSS feed by default, though it has become far more common these days with software like WordPress and Squarespace being so prominent. This is great for the site owner, since those types of site software automatically generate and update the feed with no setup required.
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