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Step by Step RSS Feeds for New User
Okay, so you have a website set up to promote the books, music, and other products you want to sell. With a little web knowledge, you’ve created an attractive design to catch the eye of the web user, and with your subject matter expertise you’re able to provide thoughtful and stimulating content. You are confident that your site is optimized for good search results, with good keyword saturation in your content. Your site is simple to navigate, fun to read, yet informative enough to be highly valued by engines. You are ready for the world!
However, you feel as if what you are doing is not enough. Maybe you’re enjoying a steady increase in traffic through traditional online marketing means, occasional metadata adjustments, and email advertising. Offline advertising is not in the budget right now, and you want to try another, cheaper alternative before delving into pay-per-click advertising. What else is there to do?
Have you considered creating an RSS feed for your website? If you are in the business of promoting and selling many products and services, adding an RSS feed to your site can be helpful in attracting new visitors to your site. RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication, and it is a specific format for aggregating news and information to other websites and Internet users who read news through special aggregators, or readers.
Think of RSS as a distant cousin of the news tickers you see on your favorite 24-hour news or sports network. When new information is published, the threads pick up the story and pass the content on to interested third parties seeking information to distribute. The All Sports Network, for example, will select only the latest sports news from various syndicates to put on television. RSS works in a similar way.
Not sure how? The next time you connect to the Internet, look at your activation page, if you use My Yahoo or My MSN or anything similar. what do you see? You may have updated news stories from the Associated Press or Reuters, daily comic strips, weather and horoscopes, and so on. You know, of course, that such pages can be adjusted to show only what you want to see. If you’re only interested in entertainment news, you’d adjust your page to only get movie gossip and reviews, and news from the top entertainment magazines, right? All of this information is syndicated, and your landing page acts as a backlog, collecting only the relevant information you want it to collect and display.
Now, stay with me, because here’s the fun part: by creating an RSS feed, you can become a syndicate! Let’s say you’re a romance writer and come up with a series of passionate stories that you know romance fans will love. You can create an RSS feed with news about your books and information related to writing, the romance genre, and the publishing industry to create usable content for aggregators. With proper promotion and distribution, users interested in romance novels can add your feed to their private readers, or even to their websites, thus increasing your exposure. This in turn can increase traffic to your website, resulting in more sales!
Sound like something you want to do to further promote yourself online? If so, great! But if you’re new to the RSS concept and not sure how to get started, don’t worry. Once you learn the basics of creating and promoting an RSS feed, you’ll find it’s as simple as creating a website. Here’s a basic step-by-step guide to creating a simple update. Once you understand RSS content and want to work with something more advanced, a good how-to guide on Real Simple Syndication can help you achieve much more for your books, music and products.
For now, though, let’s cover the basics.
Before you even think about messing with RSS software or manually encoding the correct markup language, you should carefully consider the type of content you plan to use for your feed. Syndicated content in this context will differ from regular website content in that it should entice readers to click through to your website and buy your books or take advantage of your services. If you give too little away, readers may not be interested enough to visit your site. Give too much, and readers may be overwhelmed, or think they shouldn’t click on your links.
Learn RSS feeds that feature what you plan to distribute. Especially if you are trying to promote a book, CD or other items, you want to look at shopping RSS feeds specifically to see how they are performed. Think of your content as a 30-second commercial: Depending on the types of aggregators used to collect your feed data, users may only see a headline at first, so think of one that grabs attention. Use easy-to-understand language in your content: sharp, encouraging and to the point. Highlight purchase links and any sales incentives or discounts.
Some RSS aggregators accept a code for images, so take advantage of that. Display your book or CD cover, a picture of your product or your logo. For readers who don’t collect pictures, be sure to use the ALT option and describe the item.
Plan ahead for your update. An RSS feed should be treated as a normal news network. So if you feel you don’t have enough content to warrant a regular update, consider supplemental information related to your site and figure out when you plan to add new items to your feed. Once you have a working schedule, now you can get to work creating your feed and have some real fun!
If you are completely new to the idea of RSS and have only moderate skills when it comes to web development, you can still build an attractive and effective feed for your website. Before you do, remember one thing:
An RSS feed is a file hosted on your server, identified by an .rss or .xml extension instead of an html extension. Most browser updates will allow visitors to see the feed as it should look if they click on a link to your feed. However, don’t panic if someone clicks on your feed link and claims to see “bullshit”. Most likely they only see the raw code.
Now that you are ready to create a feed, it is highly recommended that you use software designed for this purpose. A web search for “free rss software” or “rss software” will point you in the right direction. I personally use RSS Builder to create my feeds. It is user friendly and simple to install. As you learn more about RSS, you may want to test several programs before settling on one for regular use.
Choose a name for your feed that reflects your products or website. A romance writer might want to use romancenovels.rss or romancebooks.rss, while a freelance consultant might want to try consultingnews.rss. There is no guarantee that such a name will increase search referrals, but a relevant keyword in the file name may help readers looking for content accumulate.
Check your RSS program to see if there are options for entering metadata, or the description of your feed. This is important, as the metadata in a published feed helps RSS spiders determine the relevance of your feed to various searches. As the Internet grows, so does the ability of search engines to mine things like blogs and data updates, so you want to be thorough in this regard. If the metadata options ask for an image URL and logo, provide them.
Now, depending on your plan, you have the options to add and delete topics, set times to publish them, and sort them by appearance. This is the heart of the feed, where the information goes. If you approach this part of creating RSS like you would with a weblog, you’ll find it incredibly simple.
Each topic is a new post. Depending on the volume of news you want to spread, you can create new topics daily or several topics per day. Don’t give away too much information in your posts. Enticing text should guide readers to click through to your main website, where the action (and point of sale) is. Use keyword rich text to attract those spiders that mine data from RSS. As your catalog grows, as you write more books or take on new projects, you will have more material for your update.
Once you have some entries in your feed, you can now upload your RSS file for readership and distribution. Depending on the RSS generator software you use, you may be able to upload directly to your site using the software. Otherwise you may need to use an FTP program to do this.
Make sure you know your ID and password for your website, and make sure the file for the feed is named correctly with the .rss or .xml extension. Once it’s live on your site, check the file in an RSS feed or a web browser that reads RSS to make sure it’s working to your satisfaction. If so, congratulations! You have just published an RSS feed.
But, you’re not done yet. To help website visitors know you have a feed you need to do things. First, you need to place links on your site indicating that you have an update. You’ll do this the same way you create a hyperlink to another URL. In the HREF anchor tag, include the full URL of your feed with a comment that says “Subscribe to our RSS feed.” You may also want to use a small graphic to draw attention to your feed. Many sites use a small orange rectangle with RSS or XML in white letters to direct visitors to updates.
To refer RSS aggregators and spiders to your feed, you’ll need to place a LINK REL tag in the HEAD section of your HTML code. It will look like this (just place a carat before and after
link rel=”alternate” type=”application/rss+xml” title=”RSS” href=”Your RSS address goes here”
This lets the spider know there is RSS content available.
Once your feed is live, you can actively promote it. A quick web search for “RSS search engines” will lead you to many resources where you can submit your feed information. You will submit your feed the same way you would submit a website, just be sure to provide all the necessary information.
Additionally, you may want to consider viral marketing of your feed. Include the URL of the feed in your email signature, or contact other sites on relevant topics and let them know you have content for RSS distribution. Sites similar to yours looking for material may want to aggregate your feed and place the content on their sites. You, in turn, get free exposure and increase your chances of sales.
If you know where to look, there are websites and software available designed to notify, or “ping,” RSS directories and search engines when an update is updated. This is believed to speed up the update process at their end. The sooner they know new information is available, the sooner they’ll familiarize themselves with your feed for data. A quick web search for “RSS pinger” will lead you to information on how to regularly notify users of updates to your feed. Some sources will allow you to notify multiple engines at once, which can be a helpful tool in your promotion.
From writing content to advertising your products, using RSS feeds to enhance your website can be very helpful in increasing exposure to your books and music, services and products. Distribute your content and watch your website traffic, and sales, increase.
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