Thursday, April 12, 2007

RSS - A New Way of Attracting Customers to Your Web-Site

Primary purpose of any business web-site is to attract visitors from all over the world and convert a part of them into paying customers. Naturally, every business owner yearns for more visitors for his/her web-site and pays directories, b2b portals, search engine specialists and sundry others to promote their web-sites.

In a word - promotion holds the key to success of any web-site, more so for business web-sites.

Traditionally, search engines have played a key role in attracting targeted visitors (i.e. visitors who are interested in your product/service) and a large part of promotion budget is normally
spent on search engine marketing, be it for organic placement or PPC advertising.

RSS is a new way of promoting a web-site that is not dependent on search engines. It not only helps a web-site attract more targeted visitors from sources other than search engines but also helps concerned web-site in getting high rank in search engine results.

So, you get the best of both worlds by adopting this new technology. And the icing on the cake - RSS is completely free in all its forms.


Brief History and a Warning Note

Ironically, RSS started from a failed venture of Netscape. In the nineties, Netscape introduced "Rich Site Summary' or RSS (version 0.90) as a format for building portals of headlines to mainstream news sites. Being too complicated for everyday use, Netscape later proposed a simpler version (0.91) but subsequently lost all interest and abandoned the project.

RSS (version 0.91) was subsequently taken up by UserLand Software, for developing a foundation for its weblogging products and other web-based software. They named their version of RSS as 'Really Simple Syndication'

In the meantime, a non-commercial group started working on a new version of RSS from the original 0.90 Netscape version and introduced a much simpler format RSS 1.0 This format, based on RDF, was named 'RDF Site Summary."

However, Userland Software decided not to join the non-commercial group's initiative and continued working on their version of RSS (0.92, 0.93, 0.94, and finally 2.0)

So, we have a truly unique situation where two versions of same software are developed by two different groups and what is worse document format created by one version may not be compatible for the other version.

In other words, RSS version 2.0 is not evolved from version 1.0. In reality, they are two different formats ! For more precise information on history of
evolution of RSS and incompatibility issues - please visit
http://diveintomark.org/archives/2004/02/04/incompatible-rss

So, which version of RSS should I use ?

As most RSS readers can read both versions (1 and 2) - perhaps you can use any of them without running into much trouble. However, you should remain aware of this compatibility issue and check your RSS feed using a standard feed validator such as RSS validator


What is RSS ?

RSS is a way of distributing content of a web-site. The content to be distributed in this way requires to be prepared in a special format called xml and the resultant xml-document is called RSS feed. Using RSS feed, one can view a web-site's content and check for new additions without visiting the web-site. RSS feeds can be used to publish great content in your web-site or blog easily.

By the way, xml (short for 'Extensible Markup Language') is a universally accepted format for information exchange. Its no exotic stuff - you are already using another such format called HTML (HyperText Markup Language) in your web-site. To see underlying html coding of any web-page - simply right click your mouse on a any web-page and select 'View Source'.


How Does RSS Help My Business

If you have a product catalog that gets updated regularly or you need to be in touch with your customers through newsletters - RSS is the way to go forward. Tell the world about your products and services by joining RSS feed aggregators, submit your feed to hundreds of RSS directories, make Google, Yahoo, MSN and other search engines take notice of your web-site through RSS feeds, refresh your web-site daily with valuable content from noted publishers by using their RSS feeds - there are many more ways of promoting your web-site through RSS and none of these are dependent on traditional search engines.


What Do I Need to Read RSS Feeds

To read RSS feeds, you need an RSS reader or aggregator. Some Internet browsers such as Firefox or Internet Explorer 7 has built in RSS readers. You can use any of these or decide to install a stand-alone RSS Reader in your desktop. There are many free RSS readers such as Awasu that you can download from Internet and install in your computer.


How Do I Read RSS Feeds from My Computer

Once you have a RSS reader ready - next step is to identify Feeds that are of interest to you and subscribe to them. You can find feeds of your choice using RSS search engines and directories.

To give you an example - let's say you are an exporter of agro commodities and are looking for agro commodity importers from all over the world.

There is one such RSS feed at
Agricultural Commodities - Overseas Buy / Import Offers

Visit this page and you will find a small orange button named 'RSS' towards the top of the page. By the way, www.infobanc.com publishes large amount of information on overseas and Indian buyers, agents, distributors, sellers etc. as RSS feeds. These feeds are updated daily.

Now, click on this button and you will reach RSS Feed for this page. Simple copy the
URL of the RSS feed in your RSS Feed Reader and you are done !

Now, every time you want to find latest import trade leads on Agro Commodities - start your RSS Reader and click on this feed. You need not visit www.infobanc.com anymore.

To gather more information about a particular trade lead - all you need to do is to click on its link and you will reach concerned page of the portal without wasting any time.


How Do I Publish RSS feeds in my web-site

RSS feed is an easy and convenient way of publishing latest information in your web-site, blog or homepage. if you have a blog or homepage in Yahoo!, Google, MSN etc. - you may find ready buttons for publishing the feeds.

If you want to publish useful feeds from outside sources in your web-site, there are primarily two ways doing this - through Javascript or PHP code.

Some portals publish ready code that can be easily copied and pasted in any blank web page. In our earlier example of trade leads from overseas importers of agro commodities, you can find such a code by clicking at 'Publish it' button at
http://www.infobanc.com/trade_leads_ov_buyers/indexp_a1.htm

For portals, where such ready 'publish it' code is not available - You may need some webmaster help.



How To Prepare RSS Feed of my Web Site

This lesson needs some hands on training. I shall show you how to prepare simple RSS feeds for your web-site in next article.

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