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RSS Feeds - Using RSS on your website or Publishing an RSS Feed




RSS Feeds – a Website Owner’s Friend in Disguise

We’ve all heard about it—it seems like all the buzz right now in the search engine marketing industry is RSS. If you’re a website owner, than there are two ways your website can benefit from using RSS on your website—you can provide an RSS feed or, for the not-so-technically-inclined folks like me, you can use an RSS feed to keep your site’s content fresh.

RSS is a way to syndicate website content. According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS_(protocol)), "RSS is a family of XML file formats for web syndication used by (amongst other things) news websites and weblogs...the RSS formats provide web content or summaries of web content together with links to the full versions of the content, and other meta-data.” Wikipedia goes on to say that “A program known as a feed reader or aggregator can check RSS-enabled web pages on behalf of a user and display any updated articles that it finds. It is now common to find RSS feeds on major web sites, as well as many smaller ones.”

If you’re a website owner, you can use RSS to your advantage in two ways: use someone else’s RSS feed or produce your own RSS feed.
1. Install a script on your website—whenever a web page on your website is loaded the script automatically loads data from an RSS feed. If the RSS feed you choose to use is the latest news, then the latest news will appear on your website. This is fairly easy to set up and is good for search engine optimization purposes. I’ll discuss installing an RSS feed script on your website later on in this article.
2. Provide an RSS feed of your website’s content so others can use it. By providing an RSS feed of your website’s content, you’re essentially allowing people to use the content on their website or through their feed reader. In either case, you’re also providing links back to your website, which is good for search engine optimization purposes—it will also get visitors to visit your website. Providing an RSS feed of your site’s content can be tricky to set up—or it may not be appropriate if you don’t have a lot of content on your website. I’ll discuss your options later on in this article.

If you’re a website owner, then chances are you want to keep your website’s content fresh. By updating the content on a regular basis, the search engine spiders will take notice—they’ll visit your website more often and index the new content and new web pages—which can ultimately bring more visitors to your website. For example, if your website is about real estate, you might consider including the latest real estate news on your website. Users typically search for topics that are related to items in the news, so if those topics and keywords are included on your website you can typically be found in the search engines for those terms. It’s like having your own real estate news staff on hand, 24 hours a day, adding the latest news on your website.

Installing an RSS Feed on Your Website
Installing an RSS feed on your website is not as difficult as it sounds. You simply install a script one time—and then anywhere you want the RSS feed to appear you simply pick a feed and copy and paste some code on your page. The first thing you need to do is figure out which script to use. If your website is using an Unix server and has PHP installed, the the easiest PHP script I’ve found is called CaRP (http://www.geckotribe.com/rss/carp/). You will first want to visit the CaRP download page (http://www.geckotribe.com/rss/carp/docs/download.php) and download the file. CaRP has a free version that you can use on your website. They request that you link back to their website if you use it. Unzip the zip file and upload the files to your website using an FTP program. Then, run the setup file in your web browser, chmod the appropriate files, and continue with the directions given to you in the web browser. Once it’s installed, the script will give you code to copy and paste wherever your want the RSS feed to be displayed on your website. You can even change the font, size, and color of the feed by specifying those attributes before the code.

There are other RSS parser scripts available, but CaRP is the one that I’m more familiar with because its ease of use and ease of installation. To find other RSS parsers, you can search Google for “rss parser script”. CaRP is typically used if you have PHP installed on your website, and RSS parser scripts are available if you’re running a website on a Windows server. If you’re using the PHP version of CaRP then you’ll want to use PHP pages on your website—or you will need to parse your html pages as PHP pages.

Finding an RSS Feed
Once you’ve installed the parser script, you’ll want to find the appropriate RSS feed to use on your website. Keep in mind that a lot of RSS feeds are provided for “non-commercial use only”, so if your website is a for-profit website you’ll need to check the terms of using the RSS feed before you use it.

The best way to find an RSS feed is to search for it. Following my real estate example above, searching for “rss real estate” (without the quotes) finds several feeds. Topix.net provides a real estate rss feed (http://rss.topix.net/rss/business/real-estate.xml). By copying that URL and pasting it into the CaRP code provided by CaRP, you can add that code to any web page on your website and the latest Real Estate News from Topix will automatically appear. Another way to find a feed is to look for a blog on your site’s topic. Most blog software includes an RSS feed, so searching Google for “keyword blog rss” might also help you find a feed you can use.

Adding an RSS feed on your web page won’t get you high rankings in the search engines. A while back I tested this theory a while back by making three nearly identical web pages—one static page, one with RSS feed content on it, and another with a live RSS feed on it. It turned out that after all three pages were indexed and ranked, the page with the live RSS feed actually ranks third—the static page without the RSS content on it always ranks the best. Search Google for “silly burlywood revenue” and you’ll see what I mean.

Although adding an RSS feed won’t get your page top rankings in Google, there are other benefits. For example, updating your web page’s content on a regular basis gets the page crawled more often—and more active crawling can contribute to other benefits, such as ranking for terms that appear in the feed on your site as well as causing new web pages on your site to get indexed faster than they were before.

Providing an RSS Feed of Your Content
Depending on your website’s content, providing an RSS feed of your content might be appropriate. If your website provides news or contains a blog, then publishing an RSS feed might work well. Most blog software automatically publishes an RSS feed of your blog, so you might want to find its URL and start promoting it. If you sell a lot of products on your website, you might consider making an RSS feed available—perhaps one that includes your top selling products along with their prices. Other websites might be interested in publishing that data for their users, and you would receive more visitors and links back to your website, something that will help your site’s search engine rankings.

Publishing an RSS feed is a little more complicated, perhaps to lengthy a discussion for this article. However, there are many good tutorials out there, including Danny Sullivan’s Search Engine Watch article about it (http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/article.php/2175271), as well as the RSS tutorial at mnot.net (http://www.mnot.net/rss/tutorial/).

Whether you use RSS to publish your own feed or you use someone else’s feed on your website, both provide great benefits to website owners—and definitely will continue in the future to be used more and more.


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Bill Hartzer's Website Marketing Blog