How to generate RSS: automatic and manual ways

Author of the article: Linar Biktimirov,
web programmer at SEO.RU

What is RSS and why is it needed?

RSS is a family of XML formats for describing news feeds, article announcements, blog changes, and the like. With the help of RSS formats, you can collect, process and present information to the user in a form convenient for him. For this, special aggregator programs are used, and it is also possible to import into services for subsequent display – for example, Yandex Turbo pages.

The most commonly used versions (formats) of RSS are:

  • RSS 0.9x is used to publish structurally simple information.
  • RSS 2.x – Used to publish general data.
  • RSS 0.9 and 1.0 are standards-based RDF and XML formats.

In the recent past, RSS feeds were used solely to collect updates on sites – news, articles, and so on. They were collected using various aggregators a la Google Reader, Feedly, Yandex.Lenta, My Yahoo. Many of these services are no longer active. For many, this serves as a confirmation that the days of RSS feeds as a permanent source of content are over. Now this function is firmly entrenched in social networks, where you can at least leave comments on posts (and express support with likes) and do not require any additional configuration from the owners of news sources.

Nevertheless, RSS is still a significant tool for the modern web, including for the same social networks. For example, if the site has a group or public “Vkontakte”, you can connect an RSS feed from the site to publish posts in the group. Also an example would be the publication of news on one site from the RSS feed of another. A typical case is creating news feeds on educational or regional websites and displaying them in the right place on the page.

And, perhaps, the most relevant: RSS is used in working with Yandex services – Zen, Turbo pages.

The Turbo technology has many advantages: you can organize a full-fledged online store with the correct price display, shopping cart, chat, call button and other useful interactive elements. The Turbo Pages function is enabled in the Yandex.Webmaster service: to do this, you need to enable the transmission of content via the RSS 2.0 channel.

As for Zen: when adding articles from the site to Yandex.Zen, you can avoid transferring unnecessary content and control the appearance of the article card, as well as increase the number of interested visitors by specifying the topic more accurately. It is RSS today that serves to receive dynamically updated information from the site in a convenient format.

rss-example-yandex-turbo

Example of RSS markup for Turbo pages

RSS feed on the site: cons

Using RSS for the site is also not without its drawbacks:

  1. Filters from search engines are possible. Information from RSS feeds is indexed faster than from primary sources. This is dangerous because search engines can perceive site data as non-unique, copied. To prevent this, you need to upload article annotations to the feed and encourage users to switch to the full-text source.
  2. Your materials easily and quickly become the prey of the owners of other resources even before they are indexed. Because of this, your site may lose its position in the search results. Largely because of this, most of the site owners began to abandon the RSS feed.
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In the following, we’ll discuss the ways in which you can create and customize an RSS feed on your own site. However, it should be borne in mind that for each separate service – be it Yandex.Zen, Turbo pages or Yandex.News, you need its own, separate channel version, which differs from the standard (for example, generated by CMS means) in structure. For example, an RSS feed prepared for the Yandex.News service differs from a feed for Zen by the set of required attributes and other requirements for the size of illustrations.

Manual RSS feed generation

You can create XML markup for an RSS feed and update its content. But today such an approach can hardly be found anywhere, except where information is updated very rarely.

Typically, if an RSS feed is needed and used, it means that the information is updated frequently and that there is a lot of it. Therefore, automation is indispensable here. If you have enough knowledge of web programming, then you can easily write the code to generate the RSS feed yourself. What is needed for this?

  1. Prepare a file template with ready-made markup.
  2. Update its content using a special PHP script that will check if the site was updated at the time of requesting the XML file by the appropriate services or according to a specified schedule on the server. If there are updates on the site (for example, new products have changed, or a new article has been published), then the script will update the XML file. New information will be delivered to its destination, be it another script or a living person scrolling through the news feed in his favorite reader.

Automatic generation by built-in CMS and plugins

Ready-made solutions are the easiest and fastest way to get a working RSS feed. As a rule, common CMS already have built-in options for generating RSS feeds, and also have a set of add-ons (plugins, modules) designed to work with the corresponding services. Consider the available solutions for the 3 most popular CMS according to CMS Magazine – WordPress, 1C-Bitrix, and Joomla.

WordPress

Built-in rss feed

The WordPress CMS creates multiple site RSS feeds by default. Of these, 2 main ones are important (relative URLs are indicated) – the main page and the last comments.

  • Recent posts / feed /.
  • Recent comments feed / comments / feed /.

You can configure what to show in the WordPress site feed in the admin panel on the Writing tab:

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rss-settings-wordpress

In the item “Display the latest … items in RSS feeds”, you need to specify a number, and in the item “Display for each article in the RSS feed” select what exactly you want to display – an announcement or full content.

Plugins

  • Yandex Zen. It will automatically create a new RSS feed for the Yandex.Zen service on your site in full compliance with the technical requirements of Yandex.
  • Yandex.Turbo. Works similarly to the previous one: creates a new RSS feed (or several feeds) for the Yandex.Turbo service according to Yandex requirements.
  • FeedWordPress. This is a plugin for auto-filling your blog with content from specified RSS feeds. In this case, articles or links are published to them both automatically and in manual mode.

1C-Bitrix

Built-in rss feed

According to the Bitrix documentation, there are 3 ways to export the content of an information block in RSS format. This is convenient, because in typical cases you don’t even need to write any additional code – just enable RSS export in the settings, and that’s it, you can use it. Let’s consider one of the ways.

Before accessing information blocks from the outside, we enable the use of RSS in the information block settings (“Content” > “Infoblocks” > “Types of infoblocks”):

rss-settings-bitrix-1

Select the type of information blocks for which you need to configure RSS:

04-rss-settings-bitrix-2

In the form for editing parameters, go to the tab “Additionally”:

rss-settings-bitrix

We set the checkbox for the “Use export to RSS” parameter, save the parameters. Now we can turn to the RSS information block.

We make a request in this way:

http://sitename.com/bitrix/rss.php?ID=1&LANG=ru&TYPE=content&LIMIT=10

To access the RSS file, you need to make a request to the /bitrix/rss.php script with the ID, LANG, TYPE and LIMIT parameters.

What do these parameters mean:

  • ID is the infoblock ID or the symbolic code of the infoblock;
  • LANG – infoblock website;
  • TYPE – information block type;
  • LIMIT – the number of elements to display.

This is a quick and uncomplicated method that can work in most typical cases. If you need to redo the RSS output, you can use other methods from the 1C-Bitrix documentation.

Modules

Joomla!

Built-in rss feed

In Joomla version 3, the RSS feed is already generated by default. You just need to link to it in a certain place on your site. But it is displayed only in certain categories, the display of which you can configure on the main page of the site.

To configure in the admin panel, follow the path: Menu> Main Menu and open the heading “Home”. In the line “Type of menu item” should be the value “Blog category”, and in the line “Select a category” you need to select a category or subcategory, which will be broadcast on the main page and, accordingly, in the news feed. If you choose “Featured materials”, then they will be broadcast in the news feed.

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Modules

  • ObRSS will help you create an unlimited number of RSS feeds that will not be inferior to the solutions of leading news portals, for example, CNN or the BBC, in terms of interface capabilities. The custom JSON format allows you to create a universal data source that can be easily integrated when developing IOS or Android applications. In addition, you can create several parallel feeds, for example, for multilingual sites where content is published synchronously in several languages, or, conversely, collect several RSS feeds into one.
  • RizVN FeedBurner is a simple RSS feed module with basic functionality. Despite the simplicity of the solution, the interface itself is flawless, including the subscription form. All management and configuration is simple and performed through the administrator interface.

Third-party site parser services

Third-party RSS feed generators such as feed43.com, feedity.com or feedfry.com are the solution for those who don’t want to deal with RSS generation or simply don’t have the time to do it. Many of these services can transform existing RSS feeds to add features that might interest even experienced developers.

There are both paid and free options among RSS generators. As a rule, to receive an RSS feed, it is enough to provide a link to the original site and, if desired, make additional settings: for example, the degree of tracking – all changes on the page or only significant ones; what url to select in the feed. In some cases, you can even manually specify the markup blocks on the page from which you want to take information for output to the final RSS feed. As a result, you will receive a link to your site’s RSS feed (like https://feedfry.com/rss/11ead169f2619e828d148ce026dff2a1), which you can upload and paste wherever you want.

rss-example-feedfry

The main page of the service for online generation of RSS Feedfry

Conclusion: which generation method should you choose?

To choose one or another method of generating RSS, you need to build on the following parameters:

  • does the site have a CMS;
  • how often the information is updated;
  • what you need an rss feed for; and website skills.

If you need a specific RSS feed (for example, for Turbo pages), then common CMS already, as a rule, have ready-made modules and plugins in their arsenal, it is enough to install and configure them.

If the site does not have a CMS or the information is updated extremely rarely, then you can limit yourself to manual generation, or write a script to update the XML file on request or on a schedule.

Finally, if you just need an RSS feed without any special requirements and you have little skills in working with the code or admin panel of the site, then you can look towards online RSS feed generators.

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