I've recently done some research on how you can follow a blog or website that is not made using a big blog platform, like my own website. When you have a blog on Wordpress, Blogger, Squarespace or something similar, it is very easy for readers to 'follow' your blog. If they have a blog themselves on the same platform they can just click a follow button and whenever you write a new post it will appear in a feed on the homepage of the blog platform together with all new posts from the blogs they follow. Most blog platforms also provide widgets that allow people without a blog to signup for your blog and receive an email every time you post something new. However, if you have a custom blog (like me) you'll have to make these follow plugins yourself. At first I had no idea how to do this, but after googling for a bit I found the solution: RSS.
RSS stands for Rich Site Summary and is basically a document with a summary of your updated content. A lot of websites use RSS and it's quite likely you have seen the RSS icon
. "Subscribing to a website RSS removes the need for the user to manually check the website for new content. Instead, their browser constantly monitors the site and informs the user of any updates." (Wikipedia)
If you use a blog platform, the RSS feed of your blog is automatically updated whenever you write a new post. This document is then constantly checked by the browsers of people who follow your blog. If their browsers find that the RSS feed has been updated, they show that updated content. So in fact, clicking a 'follow' button means subscribing to the RSS feed of a page. Because I don't use a blog platform I have to update my RSS feed manually but that's very easy once you've figured out how to do it.
RSS is written in XML format which ensures compatibility with many different machines and programs. You can write as little or as much in a summary as you want, but you at least have to include a Title, Link, and Description. I personally also included an image and publishing date. I'd recommend following this tutorial
if you want to create your own RSS feed. This is the XML I wrote for my last post:
Whenever I upload a new post and update my RSS feed, your browser will know this. That is, of course, if you somehow 'subscribe' to my website. There are lots of different ways to do this. I have tried the following:
- Bloglovin - Bloglovin is used by a lot of bloggers. It looks very stylish and you can download it as an app as well. The only downside of bloglovin is that you need to create an account and it's quite female focused. My blog on bloglovin: https://www.bloglovin.com/blogs/merel-theisen-14144975
- Chrome plugin - This is a Google Chrome plugin where you can add the feeds you want to follow. It shows you if any of the feeds have been updated and allows you to immediately click on the new post. The cool thing about this plugin is that you can follow any site that has an RSS feed, not just blogs. For example, you can follow newspaper sites, reddit, and so on. This is the link you have to add to follow my site: www.mereltheisen.com/feed
- Feedreader - Feedreader is similar to bloglovin, but more basic. It's suitable for any kind of user and you can also log in using Facebook or Google+. And just like with the chrome plugin you can follow any kind of website. Use this link to follow my blog: www.mereltheisen.com/feed
So from now on you will be able to know whether I have written a new post without having to manually check my website!