How and Why to RSS
by Richard Keir
RSS feeds and blogs (and blog and pinging) are part of the latest hyper-frenzy in internet marketing. Tools and services are mushrooming all over. But there seem to be some rather distorted ideas about all this.
Unless you want to get into the technical stuff, exactly what an RSS feed is doesn't really matter. Now I care because I use them for a lot of things, work with code and do geeky tech stuff. But from a marketing perspective the underlying technical structure is only relevant because it clues us in on what to use an RSS feed for. And that's the thing you have to understand.
An RSS marketing feed is not about the feed's content in most cases. Feeds that carry large quantities of content are usually referred to as data feeds and that's not what people are going to put in their RSS aggregators. A basic RSS feed consists of a varied number of items with title, a link to the full content source and a short extract or description from the full source. There's more but that's the basics.
If you subscribe (by email) to something like the daily New York Times headlines, think about what a typical item looks like:
++++ Big deal thing happens somewhere ++++ By A Writer
++++ Once again an astonishing big deal thing has happened...
++++ Read Full Article: URL-link-to-news-story
Title and author - short description - link to full content
Just like an RSS feed item.
What should be obvious from this example is that RSS feeds are about change. New content. Updated information. They are not about static content.
The group you want to reach, people who surf via RSS, are looking for an efficient, fast way to identify new content that they are interested in. So if you're going to do an RSS feed, you need it to link to and report on new and updated content.
There are lots of tools available that will let you create your own feeds, manually or with varying degrees of automation. One of the most popular means is by blogging. You really don't need any technical knowledge at all to set up a blog and produce a feed.
You can use a blog just as a feed generator. Basically this is what blog and ping software and services are doing. That kind of feed is not for people, it's for the search engines. It's a way to alert the SEs that a new site with un-indexed pages exists. Blogs used that way are not what I'm talking about here.
You can create a blog about anything. What's important is that new content is added regularly. There are many ways to add valuable content to a blog. You needn't be a brilliant writer, many don't require much or any writing.
The best way to check this out for yourself is to blog-surf. No matter what kind of site you have - or what kind of product you want to promote - there's always a way to write about it, find new information, check and report on similar or related products and sites, report on industry news, provide your own opinions and ideas. As most people quickly discover, it's far easier than it sounds at first.
Your blog will produce at least one RSS type feed. Blogger produces just an atom feed, WordPress and other blog software normally produce one or 2 types of RSS feeds and an atom feed. Services like feedburner.com can allow you to "burn" your feed and then promote a single burned url which will provide any kind of feed a user wants.
Now that you have content and an RSS / atom feed that links to that content, your next step is to publicize your feed. You have two different main avenues since your blog has real content.
First you can add your feed to RSS search engines and RSS directories.
And second, because your blog has that real content and isn't just an RSS feed generator, you can add your blog to blog search engines and blog directories. You could even use blog traffic exchanges like BlogExplosion.
This is a simple, low - or basically zero - cost, yet highly effective way to get new traffic from at least two sources.
First from your RSS feed. Feeds are an increasingly popular way to save time, search and surf. If your content is valuable and interesting people will subscribe to your feed and click thru to those full articles or posts that interest them -- targeted traffic from a group that is relatively affluent and tech savvy.
Second, blogs are extremely popular. A good blog will get linked, reported, commented on, other blogs may pick up your feed and report items from it. All of this exposure can bring valuable free traffic.
And finally, as an extra good thing, search engines like blogs because of the regularly updated content - they are nuts about fresh content - and the easily spidered structure blogs use. So as your blog pages get indexed in the SEs, you can also get direct search engine traffic.
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