If you’re wondering how to get started with RSS marketing, here’s a basic 7-step plan that should provide some needed guidance. Use these steps as your personal RSS marketing checklist to get you started and help you see whether you’re on the right track.
1. Start using RSS as an end-user
The first step to getting started with RSS marketing/publishing is getting your own RSS aggregator, subscribing to other RSS feeds and just seeing and understanding how it all works.
There’s a variety of RSS aggregators to choose from. Just a small sample:
- Web-based RSS aggregators (websites): http://my.yahoo.com, http://www.pluck.com, http://www.newsgator.com, http://www.bloglines.com
- Desktop RSS aggregators (software): http://www.awasu.com, http://www.bradsoft.com/feeddemon/, http://www.stevenwood.org/stories/2003/06/08/voxLite.htm
- Integrated RSS aggregators (integrate with IE or Microsoft Outlook): http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/ (browser with integrated RSS features), http://www.newsgator.com, http://www.pluck.com, http://www.attensa.com/index.php?ys=1
2. Plan your RSS feeds
Planning your RSS feeds might be the most important thing you do with RSS. You most certainly need an RSS feed for your e-zine, your news section, your articles etc.
But, how you decide on the RSS feeds you wish to offer and how to package the feeds, amongst other important issues, are much more complex than we can cover in this space. A precise overview of all of the opportunities is available in the “Unleash the Marketing and Publishing Power of RSS” e-book at http://rss.marketingstudies.net/book/t/
You might also want to do follow-up (autoresponder) RSS feeds, feeds for your affiliates, feeds for your employees or business partners, feeds for the media, and so on.
3. Create a list of RSS marketing/publishing requirements
Then create a list of requirements for the RSS marketing/publishing solution you will be getting to publish your feeds. The list should answer the basic questions, such as:
- Do you want to integrate RSS publishing with your existing content management system?
- What RSS metrics you’ll want to watch? For example, are you satisfied with just a rough idea of how many people are reading your RSS feed, or are you interested in more precise subscriber counts, clicks and even individual content item popularity?
- Do you need feed personalization, such as personalizing your RSS content with the recipient’s name and other details?
- Do you want to provide your subscribers with the ability to precisely select the content they want to receive in your RSS feed (customization), such as by content topic, keywords, authors and so on?
- Do you want the RSS feeds to be hosted on your own server?
- Do you need the ability to target promotional messages or other content to your individual RSS feed subscribers, for example based on their previous clicks and reading habits, or even their subscription data?
- What’s your budget?
More information on all the different possibilities provided by RSS is available in the free Business Case for RSS report at http://rssdiary.marketingstudies.net/case/index.html?src=sa13
4. Choose an RSS publishing tool and create your first feed
After you’ve prepared a list of requirements you can start searching for the appropriate tool.
These come in a few general categories:
a) Desktop feed generation tools
Desktop software you can use to inexpensively, quickly and easily generate RSS feeds, but doesn’t allow for more advanced features such as content targeting. The market leader in this category is http://www.feedforall.com.
b) Hosted online RSS publishing solutions
If you don’t want to be bothered with a desktop tool and having to constantly upload your RSS feeds to your server, you could try a basic hosted online RSS publishing solution, such as http://www.myrsscreator.com. Using their simple service you don’t even need your own website to publish via RSS. Another good choice, especially if you’re in PR, is http://www.press-feed.com/
c) Advanced RSS marketing solutions
These will cover more advanced RSS marketing capabilities, such as metrics, scheduled autoresponder messages, database building capabilities and similar. The strongest contenders in this market are http://www.simplefeed.com, http://www.nooked.com, http://myst-technology.com and some other strong players as well. Solutions aimed especially at smaller companies include http://www.rssautopublisher.com and http://www.market-soft.com/bypass/
d) Other options
There are many other options as well, one for example being using your existing content management system to publish RSS feeds, or using a blog publishing solution such as http://www.movabletype.com
5. Promote your RSS feeds through your own channels
a) Create an RSS presentation page
On which you explain: what RSS is; how the visitor will benefit from using RSS; where they can get a free RSS aggregator (recommend one yourself!); how they can subscribe to your RSS feeds; and why they should subscribe to your own RSS feeds.
Then, on this same page, include the links to all of your RSS feeds. In addition to the standard orange RSS button, also include direct links for subscriptions via MyYahoo! (get it here http://my.yahoo.com/s/button.html) and other relevant services, such as Bloglines (http://www.bloglines.com).
b) Now promote this RSS presentation page
As much as you can using all of your available channels.
c) Promote your RSS feeds
Directly below your e-zine subscription box, and always “above the fold”. Promote your RSS presentation page (telling your visitors that’s where they can subscribe to your feeds) on the most prominent locations of your site.
d) If you’re publishing more than one RSS feed
Using a couple of focused topic feeds, promote each of them next to their topics on the site.
e) Promote your RSS feeds
In all of your e-mail messages and e-zine issues.
f) As for the content
Don’t just say “Subscribe to receive news from my site”, but rather prepare compelling copy to specifically show your visitors why they need to subscribe to your content in the first place and why they should subscribe specifically to your RSS feeds.
e) Enable Auto-discovery
Just include the following piece of HTML code in the <head> section of your webpages and you’ll be all set:
<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="RSS" href="ENTER_RSS_URL">
6. Promote your RSS feeds through external channels
a) Submit your feeds
To the appropriate search engines and directories. A good list can be found here: http://www.masternewmedia.org/rss/top55/
b) Ping the RSS aggregation sites
Each time you update your online content, letting them know that new content is available to be indexed. You can use this free service: http://pingomatic.com
7. Other key RSS activities
a) Measure and optimize your feeds
b) Syndicate your feed content to other web media
c) Display third-party RSS feeds on your site
Rok Hrastnik is the author of »Unleash the Marketing & Publishing Power of RSS«, acclaimed as the best and most comprehensive guide to RSS for marketers by leading RSS experts. The complete guide on RSS for marketers: http://rss.marketingstudies.net/book/t/