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Answering No.1 The Question About RSS – Why Should I Care?

Written By: Andrew Henry

Answering No.1 The Question About RSS – Why Should I Care?

Author: Andrew Henry

Website: http://www.pheedcentral.com
Email: andy@pheedcentral.com
Picture:http://www.moneyandmotivation.com/images/Ah.jpg

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Answering No.1 The Question About RSS – Why Should I Care?

There is an obvious need in the marketplace for a common
sense, non-techie guide to what RSS is and how you can use
it to enhance your online presence.

A Since there are still many website owners who are unclear as to why they should care about RSS, I thought I’d take the time to outline the things they care about.

Once you get started with RSS you’ll probably quickly
realize the potential it can have to help you in many areas
that you hadn’t previously realized.

Before we get stuck in, let’s just make it perfectly clear
again that this is designed to help the widest possible
audience by reducing the technical content so that anyone
can improve their business by understanding how RSS can
help, and how to implement RSS in the most appropriate way
for them.

There are many sources of information on RSS that go way
into the technicalities of it, but we’ll leave that aside
for now and just show you how to take action to implement
RSS and the implications that will have.

Once you know How to use RSS you’ll probably start looking
for Where to submit your feeds (sometimes called ‘pheeds’)
and find other feeds. To this end I’ve created
www.pheedcentral.com for you
to locate a vast amount of the places you’ll first start to
look for. This should give you enough resources to keep you
busy and productive for quite a while.

What is RSS?

RSS is most commonly used as an acronym for Really Simple
Syndication (there are various other definitions such as
Rich Site Syndication, Rich Site Summary and more, but they
all refer to the same process) and in its simplest form is
just a way of displaying information that is available from
a remote location.

The most widely used application of RSS is to share website
content from a central repository to multiple sites. This is
the way that a lot of news information is now shared online.

The information is shared in several formats, ranging from
complete content to summarized information with links to the
full content. Sharing in this way allows the site that is
republishing to choose the way that fits their purpose and
some content providers go so far as to even provide
different color options of the feed they provide.

So Is RSS For Me?

The question of whether RSS is likely to be useful to you
will almost certainly be answered by one word… Yes.

So, who could use RSS?:-

1) Webmasters who are required to provide regularly updated
content on particular topics which their website is aimed
at. As most savvy webmasters will be aware, there are many
reasons for wanting fresh new content for the visitors of
your site. These reasons can range from wanting a ‘sticky’
factor that will keep people returning to the site for the
updated information, to the fact that search engine robots
will tend to return more often if a website has pages that
are regularly updated.

2) Website owners who want to manage the content of their
own websites without having to individually modify each page
requiring an update. In this instance it’s possible to use
RSS to save you a lot of work by producing centralized
information files which use RSS supply in the information to
external sites (controlled by the same person)
simultaneously. If you are familiar with Server Side Includes
(SSI) you’ll appreciate the power of this (don’t worry
that is as Techie as we’ll go).

3) Website owners who have content which will be of interest
to other webmasters who don’t have time to try and reproduce
the same excellent information that is already being
provided. In this case, the site owner will use RSS to make
their content available to anyone with an RSS Reader, those
sites will then display the original content when the page
is loaded by using the RSS Reader to call up the information
each time. This way, when the information changes, the page
reflects the new information without the person republishing
having to change anything.

When syndicating content to lots of external sites,
bandwidth usage can become an issue for the content provider
(we’ll talk about how to avoid that later)

There are other methods of syndicating website content but
RSS is set to become the most effective and widely adopted
so we won’t waste your time describing the alternatives.
We’ll go into more detail on why RSS is going to become more
widely adopted in later chapters.

4) How To Create An RSS Feed
Now that you know why you could use RSS we’ll cover how to
get started and create your own feed. (Feed is the term used
to describe a syndicated content channel using RSS)

As we’ve discussed, the 3 most likely things you’ll probably
want to do are:

A) Use an RSS Reader to display another websites content on
your own site.

B) Provide content of your own to other sites that you
control,

C) Create an RSS feed of your own content for other sites to
use (with their reader)

Here are the basics for each of the instances above:-

A) Using RSS to display information from other content
providers on your own site is the easiest thing you can do
with RSS. These Readers, or Aggregators as they’re also
called, are readily available and you’ll find that we’ve
already created a list of the most popular at
www.pheedcentral.com so you
can take a look and pick the one you like the look of. In
most cases there is no charge to use these readers and
they’re very straightforward to configure.

B) To make content available to several of your own sites,
you obviously need to have a main file somewhere that
contains the information you want to make available to your
other sites. This file will be located on your server and
enable other sites to display your information feed/channel.

Another benefit of syndicating content to your own sites
(and to other peoples sites) is that if the content is
related to the theme of the sites you’re feeding it to
(which it should be if you’re to add value by supplying it)
then the search engines will also see that you have
regularly updated information themed to your own site
content and this will help when it comes to the search
engines deciding where to rank your pages in the displayed
results.

C) Creating your own feed can start to get into the realms
of techie so I’ll be careful what I say here. The basic
principle is simple in that the XML (Extensible Markup
Language) format which the resulting feed/channel will be in
is still at heart, just a text file. You don’t have to start
from scratch when creating your own feed and you can use a
simple template which fits the file format for RSS feeds
(this format has an open license so you can just use it and
insert your own data).

You will find links to more in-depth tutorials at
www.pheedcentral.com as I
complete them.

The other alternative is to use an external RSS host that
will serve your feeds/channels up for you, all you do is
submit your feed and then keep it updated.

If you decide to create your feed yourself, it’s a good idea
to get the code validated to ensure that anyone trying to
read your feed won’t run into problems. This can be done
easily and quickly using a validation service like those
available from sites such as Userland
(www.aggregator.userland.com/validator
) and
Archive.org (www.feeds.archive.org/validator
)

5) Publishing Your RSS Feed
Ok, so now you know how to create your own feed and validate
your file.
The next thing you’ll want to do is publish your feed to as
many places as possible. Why as many as possible? Well it’s
a numbers game, the Internet is a big place, so don’t limit
your information to only the first few feed sites you find
(after all, you only need to keep the source information
updated so it’s not extra work after you made the
submissions to the sites that will show people your feed).

3 of the most popular submission sites for your feed are:-

A more comprehensive list will be maintained at
www.pheedcentral.com .

If you’re just after a feed to add content to your own site,
the 3 listed above plus www.webreference.com/services/news
will get you
going.

To display someone else’s feed on your site, a free script
called RSS Fetcher can be obtained from
www.mimanet.com/scripts/rss_fetcher.html

If you want to check your own feed or take a look at some
other websites feed without any hassles at all, you can
simply go to and select ‘Add RSS
Headlines’ from the options for what information is shown on
your yahoo homepage. www.pheedcentral.com
will contain video tutorials
of several of the processes described within this document
(including using the my.yahoo rss reader)

6) Promoting/Marketing Your Feed
If you haven’t already spotted them, there are several
advantages to using RSS as part of your business marketing
mix. Email marketing has become increasingly at risk of SPAM
complaints and ISP email filters deleting legitimate
business emails. The fact that the ‘push’ approach used by
email (where you ‘push’ the content at people) means that
there’s always a risk of someone forgetting that they asked
for your information. At best it may just get deleted as
it’s received.

The big advantage of RSS is that everyone who reads your
feed has had to select it manually and even though it’s not
subject to the same restrictions as email, the submission
sites will do some vetting before it goes live (they’re
usually particularly interested in the frequency that it
gets updated).

So, in short, you can be pretty sure that when someone reads
your feed that they are interested in it. If you update it
regularly, you can gain access to a readership that your
normal marketing methods wouldn’t have reached.

This is especially of interest to newsletter editors who
regularly release their newsletter as it effectively
publishes the content to a new audience and could even help
improve the search engine visibility of the whole site if
used effectively.

If you’ve been put off of the idea of providing a feed
because you think that people still see the ability to
access RSS feeds as too ‘techie’, don’t worry because as
you’ll see when you start to look around that it’s rapidly
becoming more widely adopted and will almost certainly be
simply another function of web browsers. There are desktop
versions of the reader available and a few are listed at
www.pheedcentral.com . You can
find a browser that already supports RSS feeds, it’s called
Firefox (www.firefox.com )

If you are keen to make the most of the search engine
related benefits of RSS and you want an html version of your
feed instead you can get a tool called CARP
( )
which will convert the feed into html and give you the code
to put on your site (this will then be updated as your
content is).

There are other services that achieve the same result; some
are free, some not.

If you’ve seen some free JavaScript alternatives and are
wondering why we’ve not mentioned them here, it’s simply due
to the fact that Search Engine Robots can’t index JavaScript
so it’s usually best to avoid it unless you have a specific
reason to need to use it.
If you’re a marketer interested in tracking who reads your
feeds then an excellent tool for this is FeedBurner

That should be more than enough information to get you
started on the path to using RSS.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be creating tutorials on
Blogging, RSS syndication, SSI and other content sharing
topics so stay tuned to www.pheedcentral.com.

Andrew Henry

About the Author

About the Author:
Andrew Henry is an Internet Marketing Consultant involved in
teaching small businesses how to effectively market online.
Current Information Websites include www.pheedcentral.com,
www.moneyandmotivation.com, and www.learn-seo.com.

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