Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is a web distribution format that allows readers to automatically receive content, and thus lends itself to content that changes frequently such as news articles and blog entries. For businesses, RSS can be used to increase corporate communication, visibility and brand profile.
RSS as applied to traditional SEO is mainly a link building tool. Of course, feeds can be optimised for RSS-specific/blog search which can potentially put content in front of an entirely new audience. Despite the age of RSS, it's still a 'new technology' for many people, and so for businesses can be an investment in something that is likely to become a much bigger acquisition source over time. There can be good direct traffic in RSS/blog search, depending on topic. The other steps to improve subscribe rates and clickthroughs are often more of a traditional copy-optimisation task than SEO per se.
Quick Tips for Successful RSS Feeds:
- Make sure the feed is valid - you don't know what technology people will use to access the feed or how fault-tolerant it is
- Include a good number of items per feed (20+ is recommended, just don't restrict yourself to a small number like 5 or 10)
- Snappy but keyword-friendly headlines are key, similar to SEO (making sense out of context is especially important)
- You don't need the usual H1 etc. or indeed any HTML tags in a feed
- You may want to supply subscribers with a snippet from the article to encourage them to clickthrough to your site for the full story (although this may be unpopular with some RSS subscribers who expect the whole article)
- The 'full article' link should be a straight link that search engines can follow. If tracking strings are used they need to permanently (301) redirect, otherwise you lose the link benefit from others republishing your content
- Tracking clickthroughs and subscribers is as important as with any other web activity. There is a 'hack' to do this in analytics packages such as Indextools, if you don't want to use a 3rd party like Feedburner
- Make your feed as visible as possible by implementing auto-discovery on your site, and 'pinging' the major update services whenever content is added (like Weblogs.com)
- Some of the aggregator services (like My Yahoo) have historically needed at least one subscriber before they pay much attention to a feed, so consider subscribing yourself in those types of service to increase visibility
- While RSS feeds do make it into traditional search engines, this does not seem to cause duplicate content problems that might be expected with other types of duplication which is one less worry
- Remember that by nature you are making it easy for people to re-use your content. You need to monitor this to avoid unauthorised content theft
- The major problem with most business RSS feeds is a lack of subscribers, which in the short term means that development investment may not see obvious returns
If you want to know whether RSS is suitable for your online content, and if so, the steps to ensure success, contact Receptional.
Andy Langton - Chief Technical Officer, Receptional Ltd