I was emailed this question recently, so I wanted to post the answer to it here just in case anyone else could benefit from it. The question went a little something like this:
As I'm trying to dive a little deeper into the blogging world, I'm coming across terms and language I have never heard before. Can anyone give me the 'dummy' version of what the difference is between Atom, RSS, your regular blog website, and feeds in general?
I know this is a VERY broad question, but the Google explanation is a bit over my head at this stage.
One specific question I have is which of these should I be submitting to the search engines? I've seen a few that specifically ask for the Atom or RSS URL, but most just ask for the general URL. Should that just be the page address?
Blogging technologies aren't always simple for blogging newbies to grasp right away . And hell, sometimes they're not all that easy on those who have a decent, measurable amount blogging experience. So don't worry!
Regarding your question about submitting to the search engines...If they ask for your URL, then just submit your URL (and yes, that is your web page address). If they ask for your Atom or RSS URL, then simply submit your web feed URL. If they ask for both...then for the love of Pete, run and hide!!! Just kidding. ;) Obviously, submit both.
What is a web feed - A web feed (or site feed) is a data format that's used for giving people frequently updated content from your site or blog. For example, here's my site feed. People can "subscribe" to your feed so that whenever you publish a new post on your blog they'll be alerted to the fact that you have some newly awesome, superbly exciting, immensely tantalizing content there for them to read! Hooray!
In the most simplest of forms, I like to think of a "feed" as something kind of like a newspaper or magazine subscription. Each time a new issue comes out, it's delivered directly to those who've subscribed to it. In essence, that's pretty much how feeds work as well.
What is Atom - Atom is a feature-rich syndication format or feed for your blog. When a site that is updated regularly (such as a blog) has a feed, people can subscribe to it using a newsreader. What's a newsreader? A newsreader is simply a type of software or web service that is used to read the syndicated content. It can also be referred to as a: feed reader, RSS reader, feed aggregator or search aggregator.
People enjoy using newsreaders for blogs because they allow them to catch up on all of their favorite blogs at once. It's kind of like checking email...but without all the nasty spam! :)
What is RSS - RSS is simply a family of web feed formats. The acronym stands for Really Simple Syndication ("simple" being the key, operative word here). RSS delivers its information as an XML file which is called an RSS feed, a web feed, an RSS stream or an RSS Channel. The acronym XML just stands for Extensible Markup Language. In other words, it's just a way to describe data.
Doing More With Your Feed
There are services like FeedBurner that improve upon this whole process. FeedBurner is the leading provider of media distribution for blogs and feeds. It helps bloggers and podcasters promote and profit from their content. If you're not already using FeedBurner then I suggest signing up for a free account right away.
In addition to FeedBurner, there's also FeedBlitz. FeedBlitz basically turns your site feed (RSS and Atom) into emails. It reads your blog's feed, then sends instant updates to your subscribers via email. Plus, it also allows you to monetize your subscribe page. Oh yeah!
Why FeedBlitz? The FeedBlitz service is excellent for your blog readers who don't use a feed reader, but would like to have your blog posts emailed to them instead. I've been using FeedBlitz for a while now and it's definitely a service I recommend.