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Using RSS To Promote Your Website

You have the website, the product, and compelling content to attract readers to purchase your book, your CD, or whatever items you choose to sell. You may notice a surge in traffic as you build your site and employ various search engine optimization tactics, but are not wholly satisfied. You know you can attract more visitors if you could just reach them. You have a weblog attached to your site, and you write wonderful articles which receive much praise. What else is there to do? Have you considered syndicating your content and products to users with an RSS feed? Do you even know what RSS is? Simply defined, RSS is an XML-based format. XML, for the novice, stands for Xtreme Markup Language, a special coding language that represents information for resources in the World Wide Web.

Using the XML, one can permit the distribution, or syndication, of content to users who collect such data through specialized aggregators, or readers. RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication, and once you get used to the idea it really can be simple. By creating an RSS "feed" (think of a news ticker on a cable network, providing up-to-date information in real time), one can distribute product content, articles, pictures, and even embedded video, audio, and links.

This information is used to entice users to click through to the host site. RSS allows a person's computer to fetch and understand the information, so that all of the lists that person is interested in can be tracked and personalized for them. RSS differs from a traditional website in that the information is usually presented elsewhere.

Say for example an Internet user has a personalize start page with My Yahoo! On this start page is information on various sports teams so the user can keep track of the playoffs. Yahoo allows the user to edit what information is displayed so only the information the user wants is visible. The user may aggregate information from various sports websites that offer RSS data, and place it on the Yahoo page.

When the user visits his start up page, he will see headlines from the many sports websites fed into the page. If there is a headline that appeals to the user, a click on the link will direct him to the site. Think of RSS feeds as puzzle pieces, brought together to create custom designs for Web users all over the world. Sites that allow for the opportunity to generate updated, fresh content can benefit from offering an RSS feed. Whether you sell products or services, want to promote a new book or film, an RSS feed attached to your site can extend your site's reach and increase traffic. Having an RSS feed attached to a site also allows for the opportunity to submit to RSS specific search engines, thereby increasing awareness of the site.

As you research RSS, you may find there are feeds for just about every subject of conversation, from sports to movies, multi-cultural issues to religion. Shopping sites use RSS to advertise sales, while travel site promote discount airfares for frequent flyers. There is no limit to what you can promote with RSS. Creating an RSS Feed Now that you have decided to promote yourself and your products with RSS, it is time to create a feed and attract the traffic you want. Creating a feed is different from creating website.

Though there is content involved, you do not need to worry much about presentation and design, as different RSS readers tend to presently only the text and links associated with the feed content. If you are unfamiliar with hand-coding XML, it would be best to create your RSS through either special software or through a third-party website that creates and hosts feeds. A quick Internet search on "RSS builders" and "RSS host sites" will lead you in the right direction.

If you have a weblog with a third-party host, you may note that this content is already being syndicated. If so, you may want to consider changing the focus of your blog to better sell your products, or create a second feed for better sale emphasis. Once you have decided on the method of production, it's time to produce! Writing RSS content can be likened to ad copy. You want to use attention-getting headlines that will entice readers to click through to your site. As some RSS readers display only the headline rather than an abstract of the content, you want to be concise and compelling. "Save now on special purchase," "Buy one, get one free!" Make the reader want to click to read more.

Depending upon the RSS aggregator, the reader will immediately click-through to your site, or be taken to your RSS content. Either way, it is important that all clicks eventually lead to the point of sale. Keep RSS posts short and direct. Tempt the reader to click through to your site to learn more about buying your book, CD, or product. Link to the sale page rather than the home page so a reader won't become frustrated with having to navigate your entire site. Hot link a photo of the item using the IMG tag to give your feed an attractive look.

If you use an RSS software or third party site, you may be able to use such coding, be sure to check. Promoting with an RSS Feed As search engines become more adept at collecting information, they are devising new ways to get this data. Some engines, like Google, have special spiders that mine the Internet solely for RSS-based information. If you want your RSS feed to be found, whether you host it on your site as an RSS or XML file, or host through a third party website, you will need to have the URL of the feed on your front page so people can subscribe to it.

Clicking on the link will not open the feed like a website, but depending upon the browser being used to view the feed it may take the user to an option that allows him to save your feed's information. A quick Internet search on RSS tutorials will give you a special code you can put on your site to alert spiders to your feed, too. Also, there do exist RSS search engine where you can submit your feed for inclusion.

The one advantage to having an RSS feed is that what content you provide remains available to users who find it during search. To improve the likelihood of traffic increases, add to your RSS feed regularly, advertising all news and specials related to your books, music, or services. Your ability to prove Internet savvy can attract a new audience to your site, and in turn improve your sales.

Kathryn Lively is The Write SEO, writing for CINIVA Systems Virginia Beach website design.

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