- Category: November - December 2008
In exactly the same way how people subscribe to e-mail newsletters, they can subscribe to RSS feeds, too: Whenever there is something new, all subscribers receive the information automatically, therefore the protocol is ideal for feeding users regularly with new content and thus tie them down to the own company.
RSS is an XML-based communication protocol and stands for "Really Simple Syndication" or “Rich Site Summary”. The format is mainly used to inform users about new content on websites and is often mentioned in connection with weblogs, as weblog systems can generate RSS feeds by default. To receive an RSS feed, the user has to copy the ad- dress of the XML file into its reader program (RSS). The program informs afterwards promptly about new content and shows the appropriate headlines and text inclusive of links to the articles.
Thus, RSS is an ideal tool to generate traffic, customer loyalty and sales. However, the usability of feeds is still in need of explanation and the dissemination of relevant reader programs still low. The following tips from the checklist however can help to increase the number of RSS subscribers as well as to integrate RSS effectively into the online marketing mix.
Content and format
Think about what kind of content can be offered as RSS feed. Typical RSS contents are for instance weblog posts, news, jobs, special articles, press releases, search results, promotions and service instructions.
Offer RSS contributions with a sufficient length of text. Many users prefer to read the complete articles in their RSS reader. If you don’t want to provide a full text feed, pay heed to a sufficiently long teaser text. Bear in mind the need to of frequency: If over a longer period there are no new contributions, many users will delete the feed. Some RSS readers even automatically delete feeds that are inactive over a longer period. However, on the other hand there shouldn’t be too many messages per day.
Use images in your feed. RSS readers ignore a large part of text formats, images, however, are displayed by most readers, and are thus an ideal opportunity to gain the attention of the user. Particular attention should be paid to the name of your RSS feeds, because your feed is fighting against many competitors that intend to attract the interest of the user.
Choose an interesting and memorable name that intrigues.
Even more important than the name of the feed are the titles of individual contributions. It is worth to reflect on the title, as it is often the "door opener" whether the respective contribution is read or not. Keep the title as short as possible and arouse the readers’ curiosity to the content of the contribution.
Are you publishing reports on various topics? Then it may be worthwhile to edit the most important issues as own RSS feeds programs. In this way the user can choose exactly those feeds they are really interested in.
Make sure your feed is considering the standards and is error-free. With http://www.feedvalidator.org you can check your feed.
Add the RSS link in the header of your Website. It ensures that browsers display the availability of a feed through an icon in the address bar and thus enables users to subscribe easily to the feed. The code for the header is as follows:
Place the RSS icon most prominently on your website and link it with your feed URL. Under http:// www.feedicons.com you can download the icon in different formats and sizes.
Place the RSS link on your confirmation page as well, which is loaded after the newsletter registration and login page - perhaps the user prefers the information in this format?
Design a page where you explain RSS and display your available RSS feeds – the best is if you include an overview of recent contributions from the feeds. This page you can for instance link next to the RSS icon ("What is RSS?"). Explain on this page briefly and precisely, the benefits RSS offers for the user and provide links to RSS readers. Don’t confuse users with too many RSS formats – RSS 1.0, RSS 2.0, or Atom. Most visitors to your site probably won’t know the difference and will be unsure as to which format they should subscribe for. It is usually quite sufficient if you offer the feed in RSS 2.0 format as this format also has the highest circulation.
Marketing of the feed
Register the feed in the major RSS directories, for example all4rss.com. Consider whether it is worth to offer an own RSS reader. A "Branded Reader" in your corporate design can offer your feeds already preset and thus alleviate the registration process for the user.
Besides an RSS reader with preselected feeds it may pay off to offer widgets with the current RSS postings for the main platforms (Windows Vista, Mac OS, Google Desktop). Widgets are small programs that the user can install with a few clicks on his desktop. RSS contents can be provided with Widsets.com or Mobispine.com even for mobile devices and in this way increases the range with a few clicks.
E-mail marketers have pinned their hopes for quite some time on the so-called co-registration in order to generate subscribers. It means that users get the offer to subscribe during the newsletter registration for another one at the same time. The same principle you can use for RSS as well.
- Look for partners who also place a link on their RSS page to your feed, too – inclusive of a small list of past contributions.
- Do not rely solely on RSS, instead also offer as an alternative, an email newsletter as well. This is simply to be safe as the proliferation of RSS readers is still low.
- Analyse the success and use of your RSS feeds. The key figures and information: number of RSS subscribers, clicks on contributions and links, as well as used feed reader.
RSS has its own list of advantages. For one thing, it has helped spam go down to a great extent and made bulk messages a thing of past.
Here are the many benefits of RSS in a nutshell:
No need to worry about spam filters
RSS can help you distribute your content directly to your subscribers, without any spam filters interfering. Your messages will never get blacklisted and blocked and will always be delivered promptly, unless and until your subscribers choose to end the relationship themselves.
Easy Subscription which better ensures privacy
Your subscribers don't have to worry about giving out any of their personal details to subscribe and read your RSS feeds. All they need to do is to add your feed to their online or desktop RSS reader and that's it. It is then as simple as ABC to receive and read content from you without any hassle.
Unsubscribing is not a headache
Removing your subscriber's email from your email list automatically has its own share of problems, and it doesn't work all the time. However, when it comes to RSS, it's easy for your subscribers to unsubscribe from your publication. They can stop receiving messages from you any time by simply deleting your feed from their RSS reader, and can rest assured that it works.
Whenever you have something new to publish, all you have to do is update your already published feed and your message gets updated everywhere it's subscribed. There’s therefore no more worrying if your subscribers manage to get your message or not.
Never get accused of sending spam
It's very easy to get accused of sending unsolicited mail nowadays since people often forget they even gave you their email address. RSS solves this problem completely, as the messages which you send out, will appear directly in your subscribers’ RSS readers. So the question of contacting them via email does not exist.
Establishing Long Lasting Relationships
RSS builds a strong relationship with your existing subscribers but also helps in attracting new subscribers who are actually interested in what you offer. People who subscribe to your feed want to receive content from you and hence, can be regarded as subscribers you can count on.
While the benefits of RSS can be quite a draw, RSS should not be used solely in place of email marketing campaigns. Instead, it should be used to enhance what is already in place.
For most marketing decisionmakers, this is the easiest and best way to start implementing RSS into their marketing strategy. RSS feeds combined with email marketing provide a secondary method of subscriber acquisition and an alternative way to reach audiences. One way to do this is to find an email marketing software provider who offers an easy way to publish RSS feeds.
A good way for marketers to get started with RSS is to send feeds along with the emails announcing press releases, podcasts, and corporate blogs. Subscribers are used to receiving this kind of information via RSS, and it’s an easy way for companies to become familiar with RSS technology. It also provides organizations a way to send this important information to subscribers without it coming across like an advertisement for business; yet it drives subscribers directly to the organizations’ websites. Marketers can track how many times the RSS feed has been viewed and how many subscribers have clicked through to the landing page. However, due to the open nature of RSS, they won’t know who the subscribers are.
It is important to bear in mind that not every email should contain RSS feeds. RSS feeds need content that subscribers will find interesting, informative, and new. Email marketing should still be used for communications that need to be personalized to the user, presented in a company template, and tracked for measurability.