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Why add a RSS feed to your site?

By Paul Boag
Posted Saturday, August 14, 2004

RSS has been around for a decade but is only now really beginning to break into the main stream. In this article I attempt to demonstrate how it could benefit your web site.

RSS defined from a publishers perspective

RSS gives you the ability to syndicate the content of your web site in a universal format that can be accessed by other sites or individuals.

If you want to know how the end user can interact with RSS click here.

What has RSS got to offer

So why would you want to add an RSS feed to your web site? Here are a few possibilities:

Avoid the SPAM filters

As I have said in a previous article it is estimated that 70% of the email travelling on the net at any one time is SPAM. The consequence is that both users and email client manufacturers are taking a very tough line on email perceived as SPAM. Even if a user has opted in to your mailing list it can easily be accidentally blocked by a users SPAM filters. RSS avoids this problem because unlike email it is not "sent". Rather it is the news reader which goes and collects the news feed. This means that the user has complete control. He has to request a new feed before he starts receiving it and can cancel it at any time. This system avoids the need for SPAM filters entirely.

Automatically update your users

It can be a time consuming process preparing a email newsletter. Equally it can be expensive to set up a system that notifies users when something changes on the site. RSS cuts through all of this and allows you to inform registered users about all kinds of changes to your site. Some examples of how RSS feeds are used includes:

* Updating users when new articles appear on your site
* Informing users about new news stories
* Providing an RSS feed that informs users when new functionality or content has been added to your site
* Keeping users informed about the latest special offer
* Giving RSS subscribers instant notification about new products added to your site

The list could go on.

Drive traffic to your site

Of course the major advantage of the RSS feed is that it is constantly driving traffic to your site. Every time you make a change to your site all your subscribers are automatically informed. Users no longer have to remember your site and check back on a regular basis to see if anything has changed. The result is more repeat traffic.

Export your RSS feed

Another not so publicized aspect of RSS is the ability to export the feeds to other web sites. In other words your RSS feed could appear as content on somebody else's site if you allowed it. This opens up lots of possibilities. You could actually sell your content feeds to improve the quality of third party sites. Alternatively you could show your special offers or new products on somebody else's site without the need for expensive and complicated database programming. Quick, simple and universally compatible.

Increase link popularity

One of the major determining factors in your sites search engine position is link popularity. By using RSS you can ensure that many more sites link to you. Not only are there many sites that list RSS feeds and link to them but also if your feed appears on other sites these all also link back to yours. As a result your ranking improves.

So why now?

So how come I am only just writing this article if RSS has been around for a decade? Well to date take up of RSS has been slow with approximately only 5% of users having a RSS news reader. However many are now suggesting that 2004 is going to be the year RSS takes off. This is partly because of the increase in SPAM and the need to find an alternative to email. However probably more significant is the way that a number of major web sites are talking about integrating RSS into their systems. For example Yahoo! now allow a users to add RSS feeds to their personalised home page.

I am convinced that RSS is going to emerge as the next big application online and so now is a good time to integrate this technology into your site. Best of all its easy to do and requires very little set up.

About the Author
Paul Boag [ Director ]
Web: strategy, usability, design, development, marketing.
t: 02392 432 829 | m: 07760 123 120

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