How to Use RSS Feeds

Want to make sure your marketing message doesn't end up in your customers' spam folders? Get the word out with an RSS feed.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the February 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

RSS isn't just for news junkies. Creative marketers are feeding readers everything from special offers to product promos--without risking a trip to the junk-mail folder. And this in-the-know audience is more likely to research products for purchase online--40 percent of RSS users do research online, whereas only 18 percent of non-RSS users do, according to Forrester Research's "Consumer Technographics 2005 Benchmark Study." How can you get your product in front of these hungry shoppers?

E-mail spam has ignited RSS adoption because RSS is 100 percent opt-in. Users subscribe to a reader such as Bloglines, Newsgatoror Pluck, then choose the feeds they want to receive--no spam allowed. And although Forrester estimates that only 2 percent of U.S. adults use RSS, this number is climbing quickly.

Your first job is to decide what information to syndicate as an RSS feed. Blogs, special offers, company news, events, product announcements and articles make compelling RSS content.

Next, you need to prepare an XML file. For a sample, go to www.usatoday.com, click on "Add USAToday.com RSS feeds" at the bottom of the page, and then click on one of the topic links. You can also read about RSS specifications at http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss.

Your third step is to get RSS aggregators to pick up your feeds. The process is similar to submitting your site to search engines. Fortunately, the RSS readers mentioned above are also aggregators, so start with them. Also, submit your feed to major search engines such as Googleand Yahoo!. If your RSS feed becomes popular with readers, other aggregators crawling the web will find it.

RSS doesn't replace e-mail marketing, but it's becoming an increasingly important marketing tactic as more internet users who are fed up with e-mail spam turn to RSS feeds for their content. Consider offering an RSS feed soon to stay connected with them.

Speaker and freelance writer Catherine Sedaowns an internet marketing agency and is author of Search Engine Advertising.
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