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Are You a Syndicated Columnist? How to Make Your Newsletter Work Without You

Written By: Dejan Bizinger

The latest trend in e-publishing is that more and more publishers start using RSS in order to enhance deliverability of their email newsletters or readership of their web sites.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication (someone will say Rich Site Summary). In plain words it is technology that enables publishers to deliver their content more effectively to their visitors or members of their email newsletters. Today, RSS is still a “buzz” word and not mainstream like blogs in 2002. RSS is introduced with blogs because many blog services automatically offer ability to syndicate content using RSS or Atom.

Here are some interesting facts about RSS usage.

– Forrester Research announced in September 2005 that six percent of consumers use RSS feeds once a week or more, compared with 2 percent in 2004. – Only 9% of Americans have a good idea and 65% are not sure what RSS feed is – according to a research made by Pew Internet & American Life Project published in July 2005. – 6 million Americans get news and information fed to them through RSS aggregators – according to Pew Internet & American Life Project research announced in January 2005.

More and more email publishers start implementing RSS in their Internet marketing mix because they are aware of the fact that average deliverability and open rates are not as good as several years ago because of spam problems and email overload. Deliverability is very much affected by your email marketing software. However, even with email marketing software that has high deliverability ratio you can be quite sure that your deliverability is never 100%. Many legitimate publishers are faced with problems that their emails can be blocked by ISP filters and this won’t happen using RSS to deliver your content.

You can use RSS not only if you publish your email newsletter. You can use it if you have a web site, as well. For example, if you have a section with Internet marketing articles you can make a RSS feed so anyone who subscribes to your feed will be automatically notified when you add new articles. This way you will have repeat visits.

There are some debates on email vs. RSS. It can’t be viewed that way. Internet marketers have to use all available tools, technologies and channels to deliver their content. So they should use email, web site and RSS to deliver their content and communicate with their target audience.

Process of RSS content delivery is simple. You have to create a RSS feed. RSS is actually a XML file. You can see its structure if you enter it in your browser. Good thing is that you don’t even have to know to make an RSS feed “by hand” because there are several tools that will do that for you.

As with any other software and services you can choose whether you want to use desktop RSS generation software or hosted online RSS generation software.

If you want a desktop feed service good choice is FeedForAll at http://www.feedforall.com (fee-based, one-time fee) while if you prefer hosted web-based services you can check services like http://www.nooked.com (free and fee-based options), http://www.myrsscreator.com and http://www.press-feed.com (free and company subscription).

Also, you can try free services at http://www.2rss.com and WebReference.com:

http://www.webreference.com/cgi-bin/perl/makerss.pl http://www.webreference.com/cgi-bin/perl/rssedit.pl

As we have mentioned above, RSS is usually standard feature of all blog services so you won’t need additional tools for RSS in case you are a blogger. One of the free blog services that have good RSS support is b2 Evolution http://www.b2evolution.net. If your RSS feed isn’t online you will have to upload to your web server first. If you visit web sites that offer option to subscribe to RSS feed you will probably see RSS feed address that looks similar to http://www.yourdomain.com/rss.xml

After that anyone who wants to get your content via RSS will have to copy this address to their RSS/News reader. The most popular RSS readers are http://www.newsgator.com, http://www.feeddemon.com, http://www.rssreader.com. http://www.attensa.com.

So this way people who want to get your content won’t have to give you their email addresses. RSS is pull-based technology so that means that visitors need to get the content and you can’t send them. That’s why they can’t get unwanted messages, same way when you use double opt-in for email subscriptions with a difference that using email newsletter you *send* your content and using RSS technology your members *retrieve* your content.

When you want to add new content you will upload it on your web site and add a new description to your RSS feed. Usually, publishers include only a brief description in your RSS feed with the appropriate link on their web site. However, you can include complete articles in your RSS feeds. This way you can publish your email newsletter on your web site and place the RSS. This way your subscribers will be automatically notified when you publish a new issue.

If you are email marketer it is recommended that you place a RSS button (orange is standard colour for RSS button) below your subscription form so that your visitors be aware that they can get your email newsletter in RSS format, too. Anyway, if you offer RSS, your orange button has to be highly visible on your web site, to be “above the fold”. You can also include where you will give a brief explanation about RSS.

RSS technology evolves so that now you can measure how many RSS subscribers you have, you can get a click-thru ratio of each RSS feed you have, popularity of each RSS, to personalize your RSS, you can place ads like Google AdSense or Pheedo in your feeds and etc.

When you have your own RSS feeds you should promote them. We can recommend you to make a My Yahoo! and My MSN account and to list your feed URL there. When you place Yahoo! and MSN buttons (with links below) on your web site you can expect to be indexed much faster than usual.

To list RSS feed on My Yahoo!, after you have created your account click on “Add Content”. After that you will see large “Find Content” field and on the right an option “Add RSS by URL”. Enter your RSS feed URL and click on “Add To My Yahoo!” button. In order to enable your readers to place your feed in their My Yahoo! you have to place Yahoo! button (you can put that “Add To My Yahoo!” button but in smaller format) and link it to http://add.my.yahoo.com/content?url=http://www.yourdomainname.com/yourrssname.xml

If you want to add MSN button on your web site, place a MSN button with this link: http://my.msn.com/addtomymsn.armx?id=rss&ut=http://www.yourdomainname.com/yourrssname.xml

You can also use useful services like Syndic8, Pingomatic, Pingoat, FeedShot to promote your web site and RSS feeds to the most popular blog and RSS search engines. Also, useful site if you publish blogs or RSS feeds is FeedBurner.
About the Author

Dejan Bizinger is a Contributing Editor for Infacta. Infacta is email messaging services company providing powerful, yet easy-to-use award-winning Group Mail, software for sending highly-personalized email messages and Group Metrics, software for email tracking. For more information visit: http://www.infacta.com

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