By Kim Roach (c) 2006
RSS is changing the way we consume information online. Instead of being overloaded with mounds of information in our inbox, we can pick and choose exactly which content providers we want to hear from.
On the other side of the story are the publishers. Not only is RSS changing the way visitors view information, but it is also opening up vast opportunities for publishers wanting to syndicate their content across the Internet.
RSS is turning into one of the most popular distribution channels for webmasters, publishers, article writers and news syndicators. With RSS, you have the opportunÃty to have a continual digital conversation with your readers. You can use RSS to syndicate a wide variety of media formats including text, video, and audio.
No longer is the Web all about text. You can use RSS to syndicate your very own talk show, weekly podcast, or a collection of video tutorials.
With over 100 RSS and blog search engines available online, it’s time that you started integrating RSS into your marketing mix. This article will outline how you can combine the power of RSS with your current marketing activities.
To begin, let’s start with email marketing. Some people have predicted that RSS will one day overtake email as the top communication model. However, this is not likely to happen considering the differences between these two technologies. Instead, the two should be combined to form a powerful marketing duo.
Email Marketing and RSS Intertwine
You can complement your email marketing campaigns with one or more RSS feeds. By providing your readers with alternatives, you will reach a much largÃ«r number of subscribers.
There are a number of ways that you can integrate RSS into your current email marketing campaign.
1. Use RSS to announce each new issue of your ezine. Announce your e-zine in your RSS feed as a single RSS content item. When your subscribers click-through, they can access your newsletter in full on your website, drawing additional visitors to your content.
2. If you are currently using email autoresponders, provide those very same autoresponders as RSS feeds. You can do this at http://www.zookoda.com.
Using RSS, you can syndicate a wide variety of content. One of the most obvious uses of RSS is to deliver content updates to your users. RSS is an excellent communication medium for delivering daily updates of your web site content. You can’t expect your visitors to come back to your site every day to chÃ«ck for updates, but with an RSS feed they can quickly pick up any changes that interest them.
However, this is just the beginning of what is possible with RSS.
Deliver Content Updates, News, and So Much More…
You can also use RSS feeds to deliver news announcements, forum discussion updates, new product releases, quick tips, quotes, new coupons, job listings, classifieds, and real estate listings.
RSS can even be used to deliver content that is not available on your site. Let’s face it, you cannot possibly publish all of the great information that is available on your site’s particular topic.
However, you can supply your users with a content aggregation service that directs them to the best content within your industry.
With all of the digital junk that is currently being delivered online, you would be delivering an extremely valuable service simply by syndicating the most important and relevant information within a particular niche.
Keep in mind that relevant information goes beyond whether or not the content relates to your visitors’ interests. Relevant information can also speak to each individual user. Just like email marketing, you can use personalization within your RSS feeds to increase your response rate.
Speak Directly to Your Visitors with Personalized RSS Feeds
One of my favorite examples of personalization can be found at Babycenter.com. As soon as you enter the site, you are asked for two pieces of information:
Your due date or your child’s birthday and…
Your email address
After you submit your information you start receiving a weekly e-zine that is relevant to your pregnancy stage or the age of your child. If you have a 2-year old, you’ll be receiving articles, tips and product recommendations for that age.
Do you see the power in this? By using profiling, webmasters are able to send information that is highly relevant to their readers on a case-by-case basis.
You could use this same idea with your RSS feeds.
Basic personalization might include elements such as the reader’s first name, while more advanced personalization might deliver personalized content, product recommendations and so on.
Once you have decided on what type of content you would like to syndicate, you must then start organizing content for your feed. If you want to use RSS to its full potential, then I would highly advise you to create multiple RSS feeds for your users.
Use Multiple RSS Feeds to Increase Your Exposure
You can do this by creating RSS feeds for each category of content you cover. This extends your reach and marketing capability. Do not pack all of your content under one generic RSS feed. This is not beneficial for you or your visitors. By breaking your RSS feeds into categories, your visitors will be able to tap into the exact information that they are looking for.
For example, visitors who only want to keep up with forum updates shouldn’t have to sift through articles, news, and other content.
When you begin marketing your RSS feeds, keep in mind that this is still a fairly new technology.
RSS Isn’t Quite Mainstream, So Educate Your Visitors
Take your visitors step-by-step through the process of locating, subscribing and reading an RSS feed. By doing this, you are informing your website visitors and helping to promote the use of your own RSS feed.
To see a really good example of this, go to BBC News.
There is one last step to integrating RSS into your overall marketing strategy. This one is often overlooked, but can be extremely powerful when executed properly.
Take Your RSS Marketing to the Next Level with Your AffÃliates
Provide your affÃliates with an RSS feed of your product catalog. They can then use your feed to syndicate your latest product releases on their own websites. Whenever someone clicks on a headline, they would be directed to your web store. If they decide to make a purchase, the referring affÃliate would make a commission on the sale.
Of course, this type of RSS would most likely need to be customizable, allowing the affÃliate to carry only the products updates they feel would be a good match for their website.
Amazon.com has implemented this very same technique and it’s time that the rest of us do so as well.
RSS is one of many ways to communicate with your customer base. RSS should not be your only communication mechanism, but rather simply a piece of the marketing puzzle. When RSS is combined with other communication models, including email and postcard marketing, your message will finally receive its true potential. When any of these techniques are used alone, they lÃ¶se much of their marketing power.
Start combining your communication models to see much higher response rates.
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