But before we get ahead of ourselves, let me set the scene...
Being the web-mistress of a resource site about search engine marketing, I'm always on the lookout for new ways to promote my site. Like many other web site owners, I don't have an enormous marketing budget and must rely on my own resources to spread the word about my content.
As you would expect, one effective method of promotion that I utilize is search engine optimization. This ensures the search engines regularly visit my site and update my pages in their indexes. Another is the circulation of a regular newsletter. But the real secret to attracting more traffic is to add bucket loads of fresh content. Providing you promote this new content effectively, it can act like a magnet on your site, pulling in new visitors every single day and giving you the opportunity to turn those visitors into loyal followers or, (if you sell products and services), paying customers.
Fresh content improves the "stickiness" of your site too - giving visitors a reason to return to your site on a regular basis. And of course the search engines reward popular sites with more link popularity and a higher search ranking. Adding new site content is one thing, but just how do you spread the word about this new content and place it in front of potential visitors?
Well take my site for example. I had recently added a web log (known on the Internet as a "blog") about the search engine industry, which I updated daily with news and articles. I had seen similar sites having their content syndicated on industry news portals such as Moreover, ClickZ, ZDNet etc and I wanted a piece of the action. Problem was I had no idea how to go about this.
A fellow moderator in the ihelpyou search engine forums (Dan) told me I required an "RSS Feed" - a special file containing the content I wanted syndicated - so that the news sites could grab it from my site instantly. Dan offered to give me a hand to set up the file and so began our quest! I'll let Dan take over from here and explain exactly how we did it and how you can set up your own news feed. Here's Dan...
[Dan] Thanks Kalena. An RSS news feed provides information about your site's content that enables other sites to effectively link to it. There are actually a few different flavors of RSS – for purposes of this article, we'll work with RSS version 0.91, which is the most commonly used on the web today. We'll also focus on the very basic elements of a news feed, and leave the advanced stuff for another time.
The RSS file itself is a fairly simple text file. Although it uses an XML language format, the code will be pretty familiar to anyone who has worked with HTML to edit web pages.
Let's look at a simplified version of the RSS file we created for Kalena’s site:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-1" ?>
<title>Search Engine News Blog</title>
<description>search engine news web log, tracking daily developments in the search engine optimization industry</description>
<title>Search Engine News Blog</title>
<description>Search Engine News Blog</description>
<title>Google Defines Ethical SEO</title>
<title>Yahoo Offends Gay Community in UK</title>
An RSS feed consists of one or more "channels." A single channel will be sufficient for the majority of sites. Each channel, in turn, contains information about one or more news articles.
A channel consists of the following required information:
The first two lines in our RSS feed example define this as an RSS feed. The <channel> tag comes next and contains the required information about this news channel (as listed above). Optional information follows these items and includes language, copyright info, contact email addresses, and an image (logo) that can be displayed with the channel's headlines. The above example contains all these options, but you can leave these out of your own feed if you prefer.
In addition to the required information, the channel must contain at least one news item.
>> News items consist of the following:
The first two elements are the minimum expected by nearly all sites that carry headlines. The description field is optional, as some syndicators will ignore this field altogether, posting only the item headline. Because of this, Kalena’s RSS file does not include item descriptions.
Below that, you’ll see two news items listed, "Google Defines Ethical SEO" and "Yahoo Offends Gay Community in UK". Additional news items would follow the same format and be listed directly below within <item> </item> tags. Finally, the last two lines of the feed are closing tags - XML, like HTML, requires opening and closing tags.
To preview what Kalena’s RSS feed looks like when syndicated, click here:
You can create your own simple RSS file with just about any text editor - I set up the sample above with Notepad. Once you’ve created the text file, do the following:
So, that's the basics of RSS! We have only been able to scratch the surface in this short lesson, but it's enough to get you started. A complete description of the RSS 0.91 format can be found at http://backend.userland.com/rss, and more resources on creating your own newsfeed can be found here:
Content Syndication With RSS (Blog about RSS)
You only need to do this once and then syndicators tracking your feed automatically pick up your new feed items as you update them. You can also download one of these RSS readers to examine your own newsfeed:
So there you go. Not as difficult as you thought huh? With a little effort, your site can be rubbing shoulders with the big players on major news portals. Enjoy the traffic!
December 20, 2002
Search Engine Marketing Columnist
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