A feed is a list of articles or posts that is packaged in a standard manner that can be easily and safely transported all over the Internet. It's actually written using the Extensible Markup Language (XML) which is the standard way of carrying information from one web site to another. In other words it is actually an XML file that contains information about the articles that you have posted in your blog.
A feed can contain a full copy of each of the articles you have posted in your blog but you would normally choose to include only the first paragraph or 250 words in the article. You can also limit the total number of entries included in the feed so if you have decided to include only 20 articles, only the 20 latest posts in your blog will be included in your feed.
The beauty of feeds is that they automatically update every time you upload a new post in your blog. You don't have to manually include a new post so in a sense it is an updated and condensed version of of your blog. And since it is just a small file, it can very easily and quickly sent and received in the Internet. This is true if you have used a feed service like Google's Feedburner. Otherwise, you have to manually update your feed every time there is new content in your web site or blog.
Your readers use a feed reader or an Internet browser to read your feed. Your feed is actually like an updated table of contents of your blog which your user can conveniently peruse anytime and click on a link there to read more of the article he is interested in. So it works like a brochure for your product which is actually your blog or web site. The good thing is that users can look at your feed and if they find something interesting, they can just click on it and they will then be brought to your web site. That is how actually the feeds work.
You use a feed creator to generate your feed. There are programs that you can download from the Internet that can be used to create your feed. These programs produce the XML file which contains a summary of the articles in your blog or personal web site. This summary of articles is what we call a feed. You can then upload the XML file to your web server and put a link to it in your home page. You can include that link everywhere on a web page that you own and you can also send it to someone who will allow your link to be placed on any of his web pages.
There are two competing standards for the creation of your feeds: Atom and RSS. Atom is the default feed creator for blogs created at Google's Blogger free blog site. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and it seems to be the most used platform for the creation and management of feeds.
A feed is a very essential promotional tool that bloggers and personal web owners should use. There are gadgets that you can use to make a feed gadget that you can place anywhere on a web page and it would display a summary of the latest posts in your blog. Google's Feedburner offers an easy to use tool for generating the HTML code that you can insert on any part of a web page which would display a certain number of new posts in your blog which when clicked will automatically bring the reader to your blog or web site.
You can also put AdSense ads on your feeds but Adsense will only accept feeds that were created using Google's Feedburner feed-making tool. If your blog is hosted on Blogger and you want to place AdSense ads on your feeds, you will have to redirect your Atom-created feed to the one that you have created using Feedburner. Feeds can also be used as a substitute for sitemap and submitted to the Google search engine. You can use your Webmaster tools to submit your sitemap to Google using your blog's feed.
When your readers are surfing the Internet using their favorite browsers, they are alerted to the presence of a feed by showing the orange chicklet logo somewhere on the browser page. Search engines like Google and Yahoo offers customized web pages where readers can choose to incorporate feeds from their favorite web sites on their customized page. So every time that they check their emails for example using the search engine provided email service, your feed will be shown on the user's customized feed when your user closes his mail reader.
You can submit your feed to feed promoting sites in the Internet. I have submitted my feeds to BlogCatalog and Bloglines which are two of those I found accepting feeds from bloggers and other web site owners. Make a search for feed submission sites and check first their web site before you submit your feed to them. Read the frequently asked questions and if your impression about them is good, then go ahead and submit your feed to them. What you are submitting would be the URL of your feed. Be ready for the title and description of your site and the categories to which your feed should be classified.
An advantage of using Google's Feedburner to create your feed is that you can change the title and description of your blog or web site in the feed. This can be a good way to include promotional information and also explain what information you are offering on your site in more detail. A good rewritten title and description can convince someone looking for feeds to subscribe to yours.
With Google's Feedburner tool, you can also monitor how many readers are subscribing to your feeds. If you also have two or more sites, you can create a small feed of one of your sites in Feedburner and place the feed on some pages of your other sites thereby enabling cross promotion among your sites.
Feeds are a convenient way for your readers to check what's new or what's inside in your web site or blog without actually going to your blog or web site. From your feed, users can just select what looks interesting to them and that's the time that they go to your web site. It is very important that you use catchy titles in your articles so that your readers will have a good chance of clicking on an interesting link on your feed and thereby reaching your web site.
You can submit your feeds to as many feed submission sites as you want. There is no danger of having duplicate content unlike in an article where search engine will not include web pages that have identical content in the search page results. This is actually a limitation of using articles to promote your web site or blog. However, there are programs that you can use to generate different versions of an article that are unique from each other so that would somehow make web site promotion through articles a little bit sustainable.
So don't dismiss feeds as a promotional tool since it can be easy to use if you avail of feed services like the Google Feedburner. But you can also do it manually using programs that can be downloaded from the Internet. Which method you choose, feeds are a flexible and versatile tool that you should not do without. If you hit on a good feed submission site, you can tremendously increase your traffic via subscription to your feeds.
It works like a leaflet or a brochure that you can just give to anyone or place in feed submission sites where people on the lookout for interesting articles go looking for one. Your readers may be overwhelmed by the volume of information that can be found in your blog or web site. A feed contains just a subset of your contents that your readers can conveniently use to choose from and look only at those information that would be of interest to him.