Sometimes you just want total control over what you consume on a website, without an algorithm or newsletter telling you what's important. RSS feeds capture every new post on a website in real-time, so you can make your own choices about what you want to read.
RSS by Zapier is a tool that harnesses the power of RSS—short for Really Simple Syndication—beyond an RSS reader app. It lets you easily take info from RSS feeds and send it somewhere else. You can also use it to turn any app activity, such as new Slack messages, into an RSS feed.
When you use RSS by Zapier in our automatic workflows—which we call Zaps—you can take control of your online activity. We've gathered a few Zaps to help you automate RSS feeds for social sharing, calendars, and more.
To get started with one of our pre-made workflows, click on it and we'll guide you through the set-up process. You can read more about setting up Zaps here.
You'll need a Zapier account to use the workflows in this piece. If you don't have an account yet, it's free to get started.
Post on social media
Almost every website has an RSS feed, which is great news if you want to automate some of your social media posting schedule. For example, maybe you want to ensure you're sharing your latest blog posts or interesting articles related to your company's expertise, but you're crunched for time.
If you want to streamline your social media browsing, these Zaps will do the reverse: Add social media posts to an RSS feed. From there, you can add the RSS feed to a feed reader app or use another Zap to deliver new items however you'd like.
Create your own email or team chat alerts
I have a lot of respect for newsletter writers. They deliver valuable content right to my inbox, and I know from personal experience how hard it is to put together a newsletter that's engaging.
If you want to find a way to get every post or article emailed to you or your teammates, these Zaps will help get you started creating a no-frills newsletter.
Read more: Turn any website into an email newsletter.
If you'd rather see these in your team chat app, you can swap the email step above for posts in a program like Slack or Google Hangouts Chat.
So whether you're tracking user reviews for your app, traffic reports for your morning commute or notifications for new episodes on Netflix, RSS can deliver a wide range of new items to you. Choosing how you digest them is up to you, too, because with RSS and Zapier there are hundreds of possibilities.
Learn how you can make even more powerful integrations in Slack with our guide to building interactive Slack Bots.
Add new RSS items to a spreadsheet
Some people really like working from a spreadsheet because the information is organized in one place, whether it's a budget or a to-do list. Whether you love or hate spreadsheets, they're a quick and easy way to track anything.
Perhaps you want to track articles you've written, brand mentions on Twitter, or other items that go to an RSS feed. Skip the manual recordkeeping with these Zaps, which will automatically add RSS items to your favorite spreadsheet app.
Simplify calendar sharing
Any good calendar app has calendar sharing for a good reason. It saves you time on scheduling meetings with coworkers and it's also helpful for wrangling your home life.
It can get tricky if you're trying to share your calendar outside of your work organization. You may not want to make your calendar public, for example, but need to share your schedule of meetings with a family member so they don't burst in on an important Zoom meeting.
Try these workflows, which will automatically add calendar events to an RSS feed. From there, someone can subscribe to that RSS feed, or you can create another Zap to send the feed in an email, SMS, or another delivery method.
Take your RSS feeds to the next level
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Find Obscure RSS Feeds
Depending on your work and location, though, standard RSS feeds might not do the job. You need to find the feeds that have the info you need.
Your best bet is to find feeds from sites you already know have the info you need. Most browsers used to show an indicator in the address bar when a site contained an RSS feed. Today, though, browsers all-but ignore RSS, so you’ll have to resort to other tools to find feeds on sites you find. The simplest way to find a feed is via a link on the page; use your browser’s search tool (CMD+F on a Mac or Ctrl+F on a PC) and search for feed or RSS on the page. If that finds a link, just right-click and copy it, and you’re all set.
RSS feed hard to locate? See our tips for how to find the RSS feed for almost any site.
Otherwise, you’ll need to resort to other tools. If you use a feed reader like Feedly and have their respective browser add-on or bookmarklet installed, you can just use them to see if there are feeds on the site, then copy the feed URL it discovers instead of subscribing to it. Or, you can use the RSS Auto-Detect bookmarklet to find feeds on sites, right-click the View original feed liank on the resulting page, and copy the feed URL from there.
If all else fails, you can always find feeds manually by looking at the source for the site. Open your browser’s source view or developers, and search for "rss+xml". That should uncover a line like the following; if so, copy the link after the href text, as that’s the feed you’re looking for.
<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" href="http://site.com/feed">
Create Your Own RSS Feed with Zapier
No matter how hard you try to find them, some sites just don’t publish their updates in RSS feeds. Some sites, like YouTube and Twitter, have turned off their public RSS feeds, and others simply have never had their updates in a feed. The data’s there, but you’ve got to make it work for you on your own.
One route to create an RSS feed that's not currently available is to configure one using Zapier, setting the source of the data as the trigger app ("when this happens") and the RSS as the action app ("then do this").
Using Zapier in this way opens up hundreds of RSS possibilities. Here are just a few:
Use Filters to focus your feed
Of course, RSS-powered notifications in your apps can easily get as overwhelming if your feeds have too many updates. You might just want to be notified about some of the things they’re writing about. That’s what Zapier’s RSS conditional filters are for. After adding your RSS feed and any info needed for its paired action app, you can add filters to your RSS feed to get just the info you want. The simplest option typically is to filter the RSS title for specific words you’re looking for.
Say you want severe weather alerts just about incidents that’ll directly affect you, or want to know when a certain blog mentions your company. Just use the Title → (Text) Contains filter and enter the appropriate term. Now, Zapier will only notify you with the updates that are most important to you. If you’re still getting too many notifications, you can always come back and add more specific filters later—or switch to less restrictive filters if the updates you need aren’t coming through. And, if it just so happens that you’d rather still get your RSS notifications in your feed reader, you can still use Zapier to filter out the items you don’t want to read and make your own RSS superfeed with just the content you want in a new RSS feed.
All that’s left now is to repeat these steps with all of your important RSS feeds, using enough filters to keep from being overwhelmed with all of the information. With a bit of tweaking, you’ll get the automated notifications system you’ve always wanted with RSS, Zapier, and your other apps working together to make sure you know what you need to know, when you need to know it.
This post was updated in February 2021 by Krystina Martinez. It was originally published in 2014; that version was written by Matthew Guay with editing and contributions from Danny Schreiber.