Big Fat RSS SymbolIf you run a blog you probably already know all about RSS feeds. If you read a blog, you probably do too. If you don't know what an RSS feed is then I'll give you a few minutes to go read Wikipedia's RSS page. Go ahead, just come back here when you're done.

OK, everybody caught up? Good.

So now you're wondering what this has to do with you. Perhaps you "just" sell products. Or maybe you "just" have an information site. Or you "just" do some other thing that doesn't require an RSS feed. In your line of work you don't really get into the whole blogging, news headlines, audio, or video thing, so this post isn't for you, right?

Not so fast. While every site may not need an RSS feed, you may still benefit by having one or more RSS feeds available for your audience.

To Feed or Not to Feed

I frequent a handful of sites on a regular basis that would significantly improve user performance if they added RSS feeds. Let me give you a few examples:

I have a Netflix account and I am often adding new movies to my rental queue. Every week I see what's new in the theater and then search Netflix so I can get it in the queue, often times six months before the movie is released on DVD or blu-ray. Netflix does a great job of adding these new movies into their database, but a terrible job of letting people know about them. As near as I can tell, they don't provide any kind of list of new theatrical releases.

So I visit Fandango on a weekly basis. Fandango has some nice RSS options. You can get a feed for movies hitting the theater of your choice each week, or a feed for all new theatrical releases. For a long time I was going back to Fandango weekly, but with RSS the specific information I want is provided to me in my feed reader.

Fandango does a great job of integrating their feed with their site. Each feed item allows you to view the movie poster artwork and click a link that takes you to the movie details page. From there I can get movie details, local show times, fan reviews, play movie trailers, or buy tickets. Fandago could improve their RSS performance if they provided a better description of the movie in the feed, but this is a decent start.

Wikipedia is another site that I try to keep track of. Not the whole site, just a few pages that I like to know when they have changed. Unfortunately Wikipedia only offers an RSS for all pages that have changed. With all the pages that change on a daily basis it is cumbersome to sort through, especially when I am only interested in a small handful of topics. Wikipedia could create an RSS feed for every page so frequent visitors can be notified when their topic of choice has been changed, without going back to the site all the time.

DrudgeReport has no RSS feed, which is terrible for a news site. If you visit the mobile version of Drudge you'll get the closest thing to an RSS feed, though you can't import that into your feed reader. But seriously, a news site without an RSS feed? Guess he really wants to rack up those impressions for bragging rights.

Bookins has RSS feeds, but I've never been able to get them to work, at least not the one's I want. I have a number of "saved searches" that I'll go back through on a daily basis to see if anything becomes available, but I have to make the regular effort to do that. They have an RSS feed for this but it's never worked for me. It would also be handy to have an RSS feed for new additions allowing members to see new books and movies that are added each day. This type of feed would likely create many more trades.

I get regular emails from LiveNation which tell me about concerts coming up in the area which is nice, but I could do without the extra junk mail. I'd like to get their updates (no-fee ticket days, etc.) and concert information via an RSS feed. They do provide a feed for upcoming concerts to each venue, but I find this overly cumbersome. What would be nice if they allowed you to customize your RSS feed, adding all the venues you are interested into one feed. As an alternate, they could provide a feed for a geographical area.

I should point out that TicketMaster fared far worse when it comes to RSS feeds and concert updates by area.

Now on to music. I visit two music sites regularly, YourMusic.com and Musichristian.com. Both of these sites would benefit from a new release RSS feed. Even better, if you're interested in specific bands it would be great to have individual RSS feeds so you know when new albums are available by those bands specifically. Amazon provides this with book authors, sort of. You can tag items and get the RSS feed for a tag. It's not perfect but it works.

(RSS) Feed Your Faithful Visitors

With RSS feeds you provide people a way to get specific information the want on their time. You are pushing them content that they care about without having to wait for them to come back to you to see what's new. Most people won't visit your site on a weekly basis to see if you have any new products. But they will be willing to subscribe to a feed that let's them know when new products are added.

RSS feeds work wonders for all kinds of sites. While not every site needs an RSS feed, take a look at what you do to see if you have any information that your audience would benefit by receiving frequent updates. Feeds are easy to create and they provide new options for your visitors. Giving visitors more of what they want is a good thing. Because if you don't, your competitors will

An Alternative When There is No RSS Feed

If you're reading this and you have the same issue as I do, finding sites that don't provide RSS feeds, then I have an alternative for you. I created a program called CodeMonitor that we use for monitoring changes to our client's and client's competitor's websites. But CodeMonitor also does a decent job of notifying you when certain pages of your favorite sites have changed. I use this to monitor Wikipedia pages, Google labs, industry research sites, and all the other sites and pages I mentioned above that don't have an RSS feed.

Just beware, it's a buggy program. The "notify of text only changes" actually ignores changes in text took, so I don't recommend selecting that option. In some cases, pages change on a daily basis for no reason, which gets you looking only to find nothing has change. and that can be problematic as well. CodeMonitor is not perfect, but it's a decent enough alternative when no RSS feed is available.


August 20, 2009





Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.





Comments(11)

Another great article as always and a good point. I agree with you, RSS feeds are a good idea and I try to put them on all the sites I develop so the clients can post updates on the RSS feed so their customers can stay updated.

Thanks for the reminder on RSS feeds. This is definitely an area that is regularly overlooked. I agree with your examples of companies that could do more for their customers by providing regular updates of information. What do you recommend for sites that only have occasional updates? Is it worth it to provide an RSS feed?

I think people like to receive regular information from some sites but may get overwhelmed if you communicate with them too often. I guess the trick is finding a balance that keeps them informed but not overwhelmed.

Many now believe it is faster and more affective to replace RSS feeds with Twitter. I disagree however. Twitter is actually "too fast." Articles and links fed through twitter can be lost in the Twitterverse after a few hours. With an RSS feed you have the option to browse through what you wish no matter if it is dated. Twitter and RSS shoudl be used together. Great post on this topic here by Scott Porad: http://scottporad.com/2009/07/21/thinking-rss-is-dead-is-a-mistake/. What's your opinion on RSS vs. Twitter for your news source Stoney?

Joel Gross
http://www.blog.joelx.com

Twitter is an entirely different tool than RSS. RSS is a tool that creates convenience for the reader. While twitter is a great way to broadcast your information, a user would have to read every tweet for every person they follow. Not likely. I read maybe 10% of the tweets and I follow less than 100 people. RSS will stay.

RSS feed has been a great help for me these past few days. It surely lessened my time of searching for a blog with new contents to read. Just check it out in the morning and see which blog has been updated. It presents convenience for readers and traffic for blog owners. I may say if you want your blog not to be forgotten or regularly visited, RSS feed is a great tool.ss

@ SEO Training

"What do you recommend for sites that only have occasional updates? Is it worth it to provide an RSS feed?"

Definitely yes. RSS is wonderful for sites that don't update a lot. This let's the visitor be informed without having to visit the site to check back. When an update is made, the feed lights up.

"I think people like to receive regular information from some sites but may get overwhelmed if you communicate with them too often. I guess the trick is finding a balance that keeps them informed but not overwhelmed."

Only if the information is junk. I've unfollowed from a few sites that published too frequently, especially when I didn't find the information all that valuable. Keep it good, or build separate feeds for different kinds of content.

A good reminder Stoney, thanks. As Joel also mentions, using twitter means your post has a very short life span and RSS really keeps your work alive for a heck of a lot longer.

BTW, how does your app compare with something like page2rss.com which I use to create RSS feeds for sites that don't have them?

@ Fran - This looks interesting. I added some new URLs and I'll see how it does. On the surface yours looks like a better tool for monitoring text changes. CodeMonitor was designed to look for changes in the code of a page so you can monitor changes made for SEO, I just started using in when RSS wasn't available. I'll see how the two programs compare over the next week.

http://page2rss.com would generate RSS feed for many sites like this. See DrudgeReport feed for example: http://page2rss.com/page?url=www.drudgereport.com/

I use RSS feeds to keep updated on all the sites I visit regularly, it's very helpful!

RSS can be a useful tool for large data sites. But for most small web sites its not necessary at all.

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