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Using RSS Feeds to Your Advantage

Using RSS Feeds to Your Advantage

August 22, 2012
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We see RSS feeds are everywhere these days.  We see them on blogs, news sites and other types of content.  Affiliate programs offer RSS feeds as a part of their promotional tools, and Web developers use them as a way to increase awareness and visibility of their sites and pages.  Utilizing RSS feeds as part of an overall marketing campaign used to be a high priority.  Today, many webmasters take these feeds for granted, relegating them to an included "aside" that appears automatically in their WordPress program, but nothing that they really pay much attention to when marketing their sites.

RSS feeds are an important resource that can be used in bigger and more important ways - they should not be overlooked.  This article will focus on the many ways that you can use RSS feeds as a promotional and interactive tool that will help to increase your traffic and your profits with very little work on your part.  Once you understand RSS feeds and gain a better appreciation for how they work, you will be able to use them to your advantage.

Promotional RSS Feeds

Let's begin with the most profitable way to use RSS feeds - as promotional tools.  You can instantly use RSS feeds provided by sponsors and affiliate programs to help add more content and value to your website and, of course, as a means to push your traffic toward conversion.  This section will outline a couple of examples where RSS feeds can be used, but like any other tool, once you start using them you'll find even more ways to apply them to your overall business model and continue to benefit from them.

BLOGGIING

Most people automatically think about blogging when they consider RSS feeds.  After all, blogging is where RSS feeds really made their mark.  Blogs are a great place to use sponsor-provided RSS feeds as they provide an instant source of fresh content to keep your visitors entertained, informed, and coming back for more on a regular basis.  This is also the easiest way to implement the use of RSS feeds into your business model.

It is important to note that when using sponsor-provided RSS feeds it should be taken into consideration that hundreds or even thousands of other webmasters will be using these same feeds on their blogs and websites.  Duplicate content can sometimes be an issue with search engines and particularly blog engines, but there are ways to tweak these feeds to maximize their potential and reduce your risk of being penalized by the engines.  Like anything else, once you get these tricks down pat, you'll be able to easily make even these sponsor-provided RSS feeds appear to be unique enough to get credited by the search engines.

For best results you should make sure to use RSS feeds from at least three to four different sponsors.  This will give you a good mix of content and prevent your blog from becoming redundant with the same type of content, same sponsor links and same promotional offerings.  You will definitely still want to make changes to the posts on the individual post pages, but having a mix of sponsor content on your blog will definitely make it easier to please the search engine bots.  Another advantage to this is if one of the sponsors you are using suddenly stops updating their feeds, you'll still be getting a steady stream of content from the other sponsors you are using.

In between all the sponsor-provided RSS feeds, you should also be writing your own original posts to mix in between the sponsor posts.  This will help give your blog an original look, feel and sound - use your own voice, create a personality to post "as" in your blog, and make it fun.  You are selling a product - get excited about it.  Take current events and put a relevant spin on them to use in your posts.  It might even help you get a boost in the search engines and at the very least Google Blog Search, which can help your popularity and overall traffic drive.  Just make sure the items you use are relevant to what you are selling - you don't want to "bait and switch" your traffic.  All that does is burn bandwidth, waste time and cause your visitors to leave with a bad taste in their mouths.

How many posts should you make each day?  Starting out with a single post from a sponsor and a single original post is a great way to launch your blog site.  As you layer in extra sponsor-provided posts, you should be sure to add additional original posts to balance it out.  Another tip to remember is that the search engines love consistency.  Wordpress and most other popular blog programs allow you to set posts up in advance.  Schedule your posts at the same time each day with equal space between them.  For two posts, schedule them for 9am and 9pm; for four posts, schedule them for 3am, 9am, 3pm and 9pm; and so forth.  The more consistent and equally spaced out your posts, the better.

LINK LIST & GALLERY SITES

While many of today's webmasters look at link list sites, thumbnail gallery sites and movie (video) gallery sites as a bit "old school," these sites are still widely used and relevant - if done right.  You can upgrade the formula of these sites, modernize them with bits of new technology and maximize their potential.  Adding in RSS or XML imported feeds is a great way to bring in more content to keep your visitors happy and coming back for more.  In most cases, with a solid plug-in, you can build the content-end of sites like these and never touch them again, yet they would still get updated regularly with fresh photos, videos and links.

Automating the process is a real time-saver and a great way to build up the volume of your business.  If you don't have to mess with updates every single day, you can add more and more of these sites to your business network, handle more niche-specific, targeted traffic and increase your conversions.  Many sponsors have content feeds that are designed to work with these types of sites, including a thumbnail image, link to a gallery and short description - very easy to just plug-in and move on.  As the sponsor adds new galleries, your feed will get updated because the script will automatically check the feed for new content.

There are other ways to use this always-updated sponsor content, such as adding the feeds themselves into the sidebars of your pages.  What this does is (1) give your visitors more content to check out; ( 2) give you more opportunities to push your visitors to sponsors for commissions; and (3) gives the search engines more text and links to spider and associate with the relevance of your page.  With this type of content, blogs are best, however it can be done with link lists, TGPs, MGPs and other types of industry-specific free sites.

HUB PAGES

Sometimes referred to as "landing pages," setting up a hub network filled with niche-specific, highly-targeted Web pages can be a great way to use these RSS scripts and feeds.  A hub page is the primary page where all of your content, free sites, mini-sites and teasers are all located.  Sometimes a hub page is like a home page, other times it's just a page within the network that ties everything together.  It is sort of like a site map if you think about it, just designed to be more visually appealing and set up with sales and conversions in mind.

Sponsor-provided feeds are a great content source for these pages as well.  You can utilize RSS integration scripts to add some dynamic content in with all of the other static links and images.  You can also add in an RSS feed module, which allows you to offer a self-updating content section.  These tools will help boost your relevance in the search engines by making it appear as if you are hand-updating your pages every day, and also by providing fresh, relevant content that will help boost your popularity among visitors.

How to Properly Use RSS Feeds

In addition to all of the tips included above for site-specific usage, there are some guidelines that you should remember about using RSS feeds in your website.  First, don't just go out and start grabbing RSS feeds from other websites.  Some sites offer free use of their RSS feeds because it works to boost their link popularity with the search engines, but other sites do not like other websites using their feeds.  This is particularly true with commercially-based websites.  Your best bet is to contact the site owner direct if you are in any way unsure if you are allowed to use their feeds on your website.

Another thing you need to know is that you are NOT allowed to change or alter the RSS feeds that you get from sponsors or from other websites in any way if you are going to use them on your website.  Making changes to the feeds is like taking the content out of context.  Have respect for the sponsor or site owner and leave the feed as-is - even if that means providing a link to their website.  If you don't want to link back to them or use a particular image or logo, then don't link to them at all - it's that simple.

Basically when it comes to using RSS feeds on your website, it all boils down to common sense.  If it doesn't feel right - don't do it.  If you have any questions or aren't 100% certain - ask someone before you do it.  Sponsors will drop you and you could lose all of your commissions and sales if that happens.  It's better to be safe than sorry - your mother was right again. 

More information on the proper use of RSS feeds soon...


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