How You Can Instantly Tap Into
an Unlimited Source of Content, for Free!
By Brad Callen
Are you looking for dynamic, automatically refreshing, sticky content to
spice up your website?
If you are a webmaster, you'll know how difficult it is to create fresh
content to attract your subscribers and new visitors to your website. Paying
freelance writers can cost you a fortune when you are just starting out and
don't have site revenues to fund expenses, and writing the articles yourself
takes way too much time and takes you away from other important tasks (like
actually running the site and making sales happen).
Luckily, there's a little-known but extremely easy tool that you can use to
instantly jazz up your website and provide your traffic with valuable
information. In fact, you might have heard of this tool before. Headline
syndication, aggregators, XML format?
Yup, I'm talking about RSS Feeds.
If you haven't heard about RSS Feeds, or what they are, I strongly urge you
to print out this article, go to a quiet corner where you won't be disturbed and
literally devour every word of the rest of this article. Not only will it
probably save your business, but it will revolutionize the way you think about
And if you've come across RSS feeds before or used them, then skim through
the next section to refresh your memory (seriously, there is a lot of useful
information that you might be missing out on) and then dive into the meat of
this article, which will show you how to set up RSS feeds on your website to
display dynamic, self-updating content with very little effort.
What Is RSS?
RSS stands for "Rich Site Summary, although other terms such as "RDF Site
Summary" (which emphasizes the file format) and "Really Simple Syndication"
(which highlights the main selling point of RSS) are also useful in defining RSS
by the book. However, bookish definitions don't always explain things very well.
What really is RSS?
RSS is a platform over which a webmaster can instantly deliver summarized
information about the latest / most important content on his website. This
summary is usually a list of headlines and snippets – the headline will
instantly inform the reader of what this new article or page contains and the
snippet (usually the first few lines of the article) is to further entice the
reader into visiting the website, or to simply give the reader more information.
RSS has evolved into a commonly accepted XML standard, and many websites
currently use RSS Feeds (XML files containing the summaries) to publish
"updates" about themselves.
From the webmaster's point of view, an RSS feed is meant to allow visitors
and subscribers an easy way to keep themselves abreast of fresh content on their
website (without having the visit the website first). Additionally, an RSS Feed
also allows the reader to "preview" this fresh content, thus letting them decide
immediately if the new article / content is interesting to them or not. All in
all, RSS Feeds have the main purpose of enhancing user experience.
Keep that last point as we go through the rest of this article – it is an
underlying mindset to making RSS Feeds work effectively.
Using An RSS Feed
As an Internet entrepreneur, one of your most valuable tools can be an RSS
Reader. This is essentially an aggregator – a collection of RSS Feeds (that you
can add or remove) from different websites that you are interested in. A typical
RSS Reader would include RSS Feeds from news sites, sports sites, and perhaps a
few niche sites (such as SEO forums, blogs on SEO, etc.). The main purpose of
this software is to keep you informed of the latest news and content on websites
that you are interested in.
If you have used My Yahoo! or
Bloglines, you've probably used RSS Feeds
already. These are online RSS aggregators – you get to choose from numerous
websites and within minutes you can have your own launch-pad for knowing
everything that's happening in your niche, in the world, or in sports.
As a first step to understanding how RSS Feeds work, I'd suggest that you use
at least one RSS Aggregator – either an online RSS tool or RSS reading software
like SharpReader – and subscribe to a
few RSS Feeds to learn how it works from a user's perspective.
Marketing and RSS
Using RSS Feeds, websites can:
- Attract more customers/ visitors.
- Keep subscribers informed of new developments
- Allow subscribers to instantly learn of new articles, content and products
on their website.
- Reduce the load on the subscriber's inbox by reserving newsletters for
important news, special product offers, etc.
As a webmaster, you can use RSS Feeds to your advantage. Since blogging
became insanely popular over two years ago, RSS Feeds have become mainstream. In
other words, no matter what your niche, there's a good chance that you'll be
able to find a few authority sites that publish RSS Feeds, thus syndicating
their latest headlines.
How can you use this?
By providing your visitors relevant, self-refreshing content in the shape of
the "latest news" by using RSS feeds from niche-relevant websites.
I'm not saying that you should cover your whole website (or even one whole
page) with RSS Feeds. Such practice is frowned upon by search engines and will
actually get your website banned from every single search engine index! RSS
Feeds are meant for headline syndication, not for content scraping.
Instead, you could use headlines from the top 3 forums in the weïght loss
niche to show the latest discussion threads on one side of the "News" page of
your own weïght loss website. The rest of the page would, of course, be covered
with information (i.e. latest news) about your own website.
Or you could put a news ticker on your politics blog to not only give your
blog a look of "being updated" but to also provide your readers with relevant,
If you sell sports goods and own an online store, you could run a "sports
news" feed on your main page to attract the attention of your visitors and give
your website a more authentic look and feel.
There are many different ways you can use RSS Feeds to add value to your
website. Make sure though, that you are merely using these Feeds as "icing on
the cake", and not as the whole cake itself.
Finding RSS Feeds
Finding RSS Feeds is easy; there are several RSS-specific directories and
niche search engines for you to browse through. However, the surge of blogging
in the last two years has meant that any RSS search tool is inundated with blog
sp@m. This makes it a bit harder to find RSS Feeds that you can actually use.
I've listed a few resources below that can help you get started in your
search for finding relevant RSS Feeds.
Once you've found the RSS Feeds of your choice, it's time to find out how to
set them up on your website.
Setting up an RSS Feed to Display on your Website
Internet Marketers are a particular breed; we're always looking for an
'easier" or "quicker" way of doing things; not necessarily shortcuts, but just
ways to work smarter. It's the same with RSS. When I first came across it, I
immediately went to Google and not only picked out a tool that could help me
syndicate my own website (so I wouldn't have to spend time learning XML), but I
also found several tools that I could use to display RSS Feeds from other
websites onto mine! These tools are ridiculously simple, and I'd fully suggest
that you try them before venturing into learning how to display RSS Feeds on
your WebPages through code.
If your website is in PHP, you can use the following software:
This software also has a free version, which displays a simple ad in the
middle of the news display saying something like "these news headlines brought
to you by CaRP". Try it out; it's easy to use, and will teach a lot about
managing RSS Feeds.
There are JavaScrïpt alternatives available as well (in case your website
uses plain HTML).
Like CaRP, Jawfish also has a free trial, which is once again easy to setup
if you can follow step-by-step instructions.
Another JavaScrïpt alternative is FeedRoll – this is perhaps the easiest to
use of the three mentioned here, but it offers less flexibility and choice of
feeds compared to the others.
Of course, if you want more options (or have ASP or something on your
website), go to your search engine of choice and type in "How to display RSS
Feeds on my website" to get a quick listing of articles, tutorials and more
tools to help you out.
RSS is an amazingly versatile platform that can be used from anything as
simple as running a news ticker to something as topical and time-sensitive as
providing weather alerts to affected areas. In fact, any information that is:
- regularly updated
- time sensitive
can be a good candidate for an RSS Feed. The key here is to remember that
there are always new uses for information and technology... it's just a matter
of pinning them down.
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