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Simple Syndication (RSS) — where’s the payoff?

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How RSS really does pay off…

by Scott Frangos, Managing Partner – WebFadds.com, a modern web development company focused on eCommerce, Content Management Systems, and Blogs.

Have you heard of RSS (Really Simple Syndication)? Did you know you can syndicate your news stories from your website? You probably have seen some orange buttons around the web with the letters “RSS” on them. They allow other websites to link to your news stories with just a click. Simple. Syndicate.

Ok. Now, you know about Really Simple Syndication… but where’s the payoff? Let’s look at the ways that RSS can pay off for you. And, pay off, it does — when you use this emerging technology effectively.
Now by “emerging technology,” we mean it is relatively new, and people are still learning about it. But already many savvy webmasters are “aggregating” RSS feeds — pulling common topic feeds together at their websites. And, big players like Yahoo, and Amazon are offering up RSS solutions. You can “subscribe” to a selection of news feeds on your personalized home page at Yahoo, for example.

Feed me… feed me…

There’s even a search engine just for RSS feeds, called Feedster.com, that currently returns over 4,645,164 feeds indexed and fully searchable. Last August, there were only a quarter of a million feeds. Feedster reports that around 5,000 new feeds are being added… per day. Someone’s hungry. And this hunger for feeds is being fed by millions of “blog” websites that use automated “Content Management Systems” to turn out their RSS news feeds. At Feedster.com, you can simply search through millions of them, or you may “subscribe” there to the feeds of your choice, creating a sort of customized electronic newspaper for yourself.

Looks like RSS is here to stay, so what does a “pay off” from RSS mean? Will it mean increased traffic to your website? Yes. Could it mean an increase in sales of your services or products? Yes, but probably not as immediately as direct advertising would. What about P.R. value? Yes… most definitely.

Traffic Boost: It’s key to understand that when your stories are well-written and of interest (two major considerations — write professionally for your best success), people will subscribe to your RSS “feeds.” They will want to read them. Next, when they like your story, and its focus, they will naturally be curious to learn more. Include links to your site in your news. From this you can boost the traffic to your site. This is a sort of new generation of what was known as “reciprocal linking” where, in its simplest form, you got more traffic to your site by exchanging links with other websites covering similar material. Now instead of a link… you provide full articles which may reference your products, services, websites, and perhaps those of your clients.

Public Relations Value — the P.R. Factor: Does your firm have a Public Relations strategy? It should. Does it include RSS? It must. You see Public Relations professionals are already talking about RSS in glowing terms like how it is “providing additional channels to amplify supportive messaging.” Hey… translated this means any word you can get out on the street makes your business and its market offerings stronger and much better known. What’s that worth to you? Advertising execs are talking about how this can help boost “brand loyalty”. Huh? Hey, if you’re in business, your company identity gets branded (or not, unfortunately) into the minds of customers and prospects. A good brand wins loyal customers. RSS news feeds, done properly, do precisely this for your company. And one more thing… RSS installed on your site automates a process that can cost quite a lot done manually by a big P.R. Agency. Shhhhhss.

So where are the sales? The formula is simple: the more your company and its offerings becomes known and favored by customers and prospects alike, they more sales will result. How many sales? To take a shot at a preliminary answer, I did searched for it using… you guessed it… a search of RSS feeds about advertising results. I’ll end this article with an overview of articles reporting on those results, but please be clear about one thing — people want NEWS in their RSS feeds — news they can use. Advertising is secondary, and many sites are reporting the rejection of blatant and direct ads. Remember, banner ads are dead. “Product placement” (like when you see an Apple computer in a movie) — mentioning of related products and services in news, blogs, and RSS feeds is not dead. It’s working.

Initial RSS Marketing Results… proceed with caution

Here are a couple of links to articles that have studied the results of RSS, and ads in RSS feeds:

  • RSS Advertising Case Study. Overview. Pheedo reports that by integrating online advertising into an RSS feed, a new online advertising technique, it has achieved measurably better results than e-mail for its client.
    Read More

  • Blocking of Ads in RSS feeds already envisioned. Of course. People want news to be news. They might put up with informative links, but not blatant, outright, defiant, in-your-face advertising. You can read a blog of comments on this issue at Kottke.org

What are you serving?

The feed goes on. Advertising and no advertising. Straight news articles, and Public Relations pieces with positive spins on your company and its products. The bottom line? If you’re going to have a website and write professional content, why not syndicate the news articles and greatly extend your reach and influence? It’s really simple, and it doesn’t cost that much.

Resources (Free trial): We like the “Feed For All” program from NotePage, which helps you create, edit, and publish RSS feeds from your PC. Take a FREE trial now (click here).

Books on RSS at Amazon

Scott Frangos is a writer, designer, and eCommerce marketer with over 20 years experience in Advertising. He has taught eCommerce, HTML, and Business courses at the college level in Portland, Oregon, and currently is Managing Partner of WebFadds.com.

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  • Eric Olsen

    great info Scott, thanks and welcome!

    What are your thoughts on RSSing headline, link and summary (much like our front page, in other words) vs sending out whole articles. We do the former because we want them to come here for the full article.

  • http://www.webfadds.com/mambo Scott Frangos

    Hi Eric –

    Thanks for a great blog here, and also for your question. I know that blogs are about posting opinions, but there is an old saying, that goes, “judge a man more by his questions, than his answers,” (and of course, I extend that to both genders). Now with that in mind, I will give you an answer with the understanding that since RSS feeds are an emerging publishing method — the jury isn’t in yet.

    Let’s consider the two alternatives you put forth in your post:

    1) RSS an entire article: The first advantage goes to the website that posts the entire article, since readers will “stick” at their site and not visit the source site to finish the article. But, if links are allowed in text, then they could click on those and exit the site. I think there is an advantage for the reader in this version, since my gut tells me (have not seen a scientific study) that readers prefer to read the enire article at one location.

    2) RSS Headline & lead-in only: In this scenario, the advantage is mostly on the side of the source website — the place where the articles originate. The reader must return to the source to finish the article, and that website may capture and hold them (if it is well designed to suit that purpose). At least the reader pursuing the link to read the rest of the article will be impacted by the “identity” (logo and corporate graphics) at the source site. But this is the same experience that I’m wagering is annoying to some readers.

    BOTTOM LINE: I’m leaning now toward the solution that your site provides — the entire article found at the same website, since it avoids the “site jump annoyance factor” and increases the length of the visit at the blog. What’s interesting, is that this solution runs counter to the prevailing RSS feed strategy. Hmmmmmm. Now you see why I liked your question.

  • Eric Olsen

    very interesting and logical Scott, I’m glad you’re around!

  • http://www.morganmclintic.com Morgan McLintic

    Interesting stuff Scott. BTW on the PR front, I picked up that theme just yesterday, looking at how publishers and companies are commercializing RSS.

    http://www.morganmclintic.com/pr/2005/02/commercializati.html

    The CEO of Nooked.com replied that they are working on enhanced security and content rich functionality within RSS, which will ignite this technology.

    Morgan