» Fresh Content Free
You’ve seen the light and the benefits of providing RSS (Really Simply Syndication) feeds through your site. This new technology provides numerous, easy-to-implement solutions for small and mid-sized site owners looking for new ways to connect with customers. RSS feeds deliver fresh content (hourly if you want), providing visitors a reason to come back to see what’s new. These feeds build good will and, unlike passive opt-ins, RSS provides a direct, proactive pipeline between you and potential customers. And it costs you nothing.
Which RSS Reader?
To access RSS content, users need an RSS reader that you can offer to them for free. (Visit deskshare.com for details on their free Active Web Reader.). But you don’t want to offer just a free reader, some feeds from which to choose and hope that visitors will select at least some of your feeds. Instead, wouldn’t it be better to provide a reader with your feeds already installed? That’s proactive and that’s very good.
In addition to its Active Web Reader, DeskShare also offers web masters and site owners an Active Web Reader Customizer that enables you to select and incorporate the feeds you want delivered to your visitors. The Customizer is currently a free download, though company insiders suggest that they may start charging for this software as more features are added. However, because it’s free, it’s the best option for those on a limited budget, which includes all of us.
Which RSS Feeds?
Sites offering feeds usually show an RSS icon somewhere on their home pages. But there are already RSS feed directories to help you on your search for the right feeds to meet and exceed your market’s expectations. Two feed directories worth a look are http://www.syndic8.com/ and http://www.NewsIsFree.com/. Not only will you use these sites to locate feeds, once you have your RSS reader up and running, you’ll also want to register your site with these directories, as well.
Using Active Web Reader Customizer, or any number of other aggregators coming to market, you simply visit interesting sounding sites, click on Add Feed and you’re hooked up. It really is that easy. However, selecting which feeds to add to your RSS reader is another issue to consider.
Virtually any kind of content can be transmitted via RSS. The things that will attract more traffic include:
- the latest news and announcements.
- product updates including new products, price changes and special savings opportunities.
- product reviews.
- informational content.
What doesn’t work is sales copy and hype. RSS feeds are designed for reader convenience, not to provide another outlet to bombard computer users with RSS delivered spam. Use your reader for good, not evil and your site visitors will thank you.
As with links, consider the usefulness of a particular feed to your typical visitor — your target demographic. If you’re selling athletic equipment or event tickets, sure a feed from a pro wrestling organization would work. It’s something at least some of your visitors would read. However, if your target demographic is teen girls looking for low-cost alternatives to cosmetics, that wrestling feed isn’t going to fly. But a feed from a cosmetics site sure would.
Remember, when visitors (soon to be customers) download your customized reader, with all of your feeds listed in an interface window, those feeds should be relevant to the reason the visitor came to your site in the first place.
Marketing RSS Feeds
With your customized reader loaded with dozens of useful links, how do you let visitors know it’s there? There are a few things you can do to push your reader and your on-line sales.
Show the RSS logo.
RDF, XML or RSS logos are recognizable to the growing RSS community and they’re available for download on any feed site. Show your RSS logo on your home page and on interior pages, as well. Let that new visitor know that your site was a good stop.
Create a separate feed page.
Sell the service. It’s a wonderful convenience for users who no longer have to surf to find substance. You’re delivering it to them in a neat little package. Be sure to list your feeds and provide a brief description of what each feed delivers, i.e., news, product updates, reviews, helpful hints and so on.
Get Listed with RSS Directories.
The number of RSS feed directories (see above) is growing. You can submit your site and feed information manually or using automated submission software, especially useful if your feeds and content change frequently.
Offer a free RSS reader.
Nothing sells better than FREE!
Your downloadable, customized reader should be maintained and current, just as links to and from your site. RSS feeds aren’t necessarily permanent and content can change every hour.
Regularly validate RSS feeds to make sure they’re still active and still providing good, substantive content. Delete feeds (Click on Delete Feed.) to remove inactive feeds or feeds that have changed their editorial content or slant. The last thing you want to do is send your visitors to a bunch of dead-ends or, worse, ghost sites, so keep your reader up to date by adding new feeds and deleting the ones that are no longer delivering.
Finally, a word of caution…
RSS feeds employ a simple extensible markup language (XML) to distribute the latest to the most interested, and to personalize and customize the reader downloaded from your site requires a basic understanding of HTML coding protocols. So, if this isn’t your strong suit, hire a web designer to hook you up. It shouldn’t cost too much since the software is low-cost (under $30) or downright free.
RSS works when you get it right, so make sure you do get it right by selecting the right feeds, marketing your feeds and keeping your reader up to date. After that, you’re going to love this technology.