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Marketing with RSS

Adriana Iordan

In a world dominated by widespread Internet access and chronic information addiction, the number of websites that a person visits on a regular basis increases daily. At a certain point, this number becomes so impressive, that it is getting harder and harder to actually access all the websites that may present interest and quench a person's thirst for information. This is where RSS comes into action.

By using RSS, web users have the possibility to see what has been published on each of their favorite sites without actually accessing those sites and, the other way round, companies can reach potential customers without them necessarily having to access those company websites.

What Is RSS?

RSS (which stands for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary) is a means of regularly extracting updated information from a website. An RSS file is a simple XML format text file containing the synthetic description of the content. You can deliver various data by integrating it in this format and you can gather data from multiple sources in this format. The sources are designated by the name "RSS feeds". Certain Web browsers can read RSS files directly, but you can also use specialized applications called "RSS readers" or "aggregators".

Created by Netscape in 1999, RSS feeds were first used by news sites. They were sending news summaries and headlines to interested parties. There are no less than 7 versions of RSS, of which version 0.90 is the first public version created, while version 2.0, the latest one, comes from Userland Software.

Out of the 7 versions ever created, the 0.91, 1.0 and 2.0 versions are the most popular ones. Version 0.91 impresses with its simplicity, and even if it has been outdated by version 2.0, it is still quite popular, as it is used for basic syndication. While version 1.0 is used for RDF-based applications or advanced RDF-specific module, version 2.0 is used for general purposes. Both 1.0 and 2.0 versions are characterized by a stable core and active module development.

Why Use RSS?

RSS is an open protocol for publishing information on the Web. Information that is placed on the web usually reaches its intended audience much faster than information that comes from other media. It would be safe to say that RSS marketing (placing the most important information in the form of RSS feeds for your audience to simply "reach out and grab it") is a sure means of converting visits on your site into profit. To make it short, RSS attracts money. Serious money if the job is done right.

RSS feeds facilitate the communication between the publisher of a certain website and its readers. Typically, headlines, press releases, articles and promotions are published by means of RSS. Thanks to RSS readers, it is easy for individuals to quickly scan the information that is delivered to them via RSS feeds.

By subscribing to RSS, web users are kept up-to-date with news that appear on the sites that they choose to track via RSS readers, without necessarily visiting them on a regular basis or subscribing to "Newsletters", and therefore decreasing the probability of receiving spam messages or even viruses.

RSS marketing can put you ahead of your competition.

The RSS feeds on your web site will give it more visibility on the web and will increase its chances of appearing in the topmost results in major search engines. RSS is a powerful SEO strategy. It brings about an increase in search engine ranking, in the amount of qualified traffic and, last but not least, in the conversion rate (visits vs. sales).

If you're interested in RSS submission for your web site, you'll have several choices to make:

Main tags of RSS

The content of an RSS document is always placed between rss tags. They always contain a version attribute that specifies the version according to which the RSS document was created. On the next level there is the tag, which comprises the metadata of the RSS feed (mandatory or not), and also the list of contents.

Metadata

There are three mandatory elements:
title: Defines the title of the feed.
link: Defines the URL of the site corresponding to the feed.
description:Describes the feed in a succinct manner.

Other optional elements are:
pubDate: Defines the date when the feed was published.
image: Allows the insertion of an image in the feed.
language: Defines the language of the feed.

Content

For every article, an item tag is added to the document. Within this tag there is data corresponding to specific items, marked with tags. All elements of the item section are optional, however at least one of title or description must be present.

The most common tags are:
title: Defines the title of the item.
link: Defines the URL of the feed corresponding to the item.
pubDate: Defines the date of the item.
description: Contains a succinct description of the item.

Other tags found here are:
author: Defines the author's email address.
category: Places the item into a category.
comments: Defines the URL of a page for comments relating to the item.

Where and How Can RSS Be Used?

RSS feeds can fall into many categories, such as blog feeds (on blog sites), article feeds (news sites), forum feeds (forums), schedule feeds (schools, clubs, organizations), discount / specials feeds (stores), or news monitoring (companies).

Given that RSS is so versatile, there are industries where RSS feeds have become one of the many ways of marketing, promoting and communicating.

RSS advertising is a must in industries such as real estate (to let potential clients know about newly-arrived properties or inform them about certain opportunities), IT (to let users know about software updates, new virus definitions, etc.), or human resources (job openings, job fairs, various information). This shows that RSS can meet communication needs of each and every sector of activity.

If you feel ready to use RSS advertising to boost your business, you have to devise an RSS marketing plan.

Conclusion

Generally speaking, RSS offers diverse and concentrated information to web users for which knowledge is essential . In order to get to and use RSS feeds web users just have to follow these simple steps:

The RSS reader can be easily configured to check the websites for new information at regular intervals, or this can be done manually (from the application).

"Visiting the website is dating; getting a daily e-mail is going steady - but subscribing to an RSS feed, well, that is like getting married to a news source. It's really the highest commitment you can make." (Jason Calacanis, founder of Weblogs, Inc.)

See other articles by Adriana:
* Do colors influence web site visitors?
* Learn how to write good documentation for your software
* Optimizing for MSN? Is It Worth the Effort?

Using RSS Feeds as a Marketing Strategy
author = Adriana Iordan
url = http://www.avangate.comaudience = General: cross platform anyone

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Copyright © 2007, www.avangate.com all rights reserved. This article was written by Adriana Iordan, Web Marketing Specialist at Avangate B.V. Avangate is an eCommerce platform for electronic software distribution incorporating an easy to use and secure online payment system plus additional marketing and sales tools.

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