Really Simple Syndication or RSS provides a channel for webmasters to distribute their content online. RSS won’t help you to build links directly, but as a tool to keep your audience up to speed with developments on your site; it can have a powerful knock-on effect.

Rather than walking down to the newsagents every morning for your daily paper, RSS effectively delivers the news straight to your door. And the easier you make it for people to hear about what’s happening in your world; the more online noise you’ll create.

There are two faces to RSS, depending on whether you are a ‘subscriber’ or a ‘publisher’, and as a webmaster you need to know about both:

RSS for subscribers: RSS delivers fresh information from any number of websites directly to subscribers, thereby saving them the bother of travelling from site to site to see if there’s anything new.

Subscribers can sign-up to receive entire ‘feeds’ or use keywords to define the type of content that they are interested in. Then as soon any fresh content is published it will be pulled-in to the subscriber’s ‘RSS Reader’ or on to their website.

Subscribers can then use this information for personal consumption (RSS proves a great way of keeping track with developments in SEO, and of keeping an eye on what your competitor’s are up to) or to publish feeds directly onto their website or blog.

Keeping readers on your site (and keeping them coming back for more) is likely to provide positive rankings signals by increasing time spent on page and decreasing bounce rate. However, any benefit needs to be balanced against possible harm caused by republishing duplicate content. Google remains tight lipped on the subject although has said that any information must be bang up to date.

RSS for publishers: As a publisher the potential benefits of RSS are immediately apparent. However, unless you’ve got something genuinely interesting or unique to say; you are wasting your time with RSS. For RSS to really work you need to attract subscribers, and the best way of attracting subscribers is to give them exactly what they want.

First consider the number of feeds on the Web; then consider how to make your feed stand out. Get it right and you’ve got a great way of pushing news, link bait and press releases right under the noses of your target audience.

As a publisher the first step is to set up a RSS feed on your website. If you don’t have the technical know-how to build your own XML feed; although as the name suggests it really is simple.

Think carefully about the information you want to include in your RSS feed and don’t put-off potential subscribers by overwhelming them with content. Webmasters tend to limit RSS feeds to their ‘News’ section, while bloggers typically go ‘all in’.

As a SEO you’ll also need to be aware of the potential negative impact of republished links proliferating with the same anchor text pointing back to your site and it’s worth considering adding the no follow attribute to avoid getting on the wrong side of Google.

How to write RSS headlines that stick

There is no point in producing sticky content which doesn’t stick from the outset. To make sure that your RSS articles, press releases and link bait have every chance of working; you must first hook the reader’s attention with a tantalising title.

Searchers are drowning in information and spend just a fraction of a second scanning your title before deciding whether to continue reading or not. Add in the fact that most RSS feeds display little more than an article’s title; and you can begin to see how important it is to get it right.

Which of the following links would you be most likely to follow? ‘Weak websites are the cause of company losses’ or ‘How SEO could save your business’

And just because you are trying to catch a reader’s eye; doesn’t mean that you have to descend into the ‘GOTCHA!’ tabloid vernacular. Try out the following for size:

  • Top 10 ways to [X]
  • Cheap and easy ways to [X]
  • The secret of [X]
  • [X] uncovered/ laid-bare/ exposed
  • Little known ways to [X]
  • 10 things you never knew about [X]
  • Get rid of [X] once and for all
  • What everybody needs to know about [X]
  • Does [X] never end?
  • How to [X] in five easy steps

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