Marketers Still Don’t Get RSS Metrics – How We Really Can Measure RSS

Even after all that’s been written and explained, even reputable online marketing publications such as ClickZ still don’t get RSS metrics.

In an otherwise good RSS marketing article, Add RSS to Your Marketing Mix, Heidi Cohen has this to say about RSS metrics:

“From a marketing perspective, RSS’s measurability is still evolving and therefore limited. You can’t tell who has received your feeds as you can with e-mail.”

Yes, RSS’s measurability is still evolving and probably will evolve beyond e-mail metrics. In some ways it already has …

And it’s also true that you can’t tell who has received your feeds … if you’re using the most established RSS approaches and just the basic technologies.

However, once you connect your feeds with your existing user databases, you can in fact go beyond what e-mail metrics offer.

Here are some possibilities …

a] Use the “unique feed URL” approach, where each subscriber receives a feed with a unique identifier, based on which you can track precisely what feeds are being requested … namely what annonymous user is requesting what feed.

b] If you’d like to integrate annonymous feed subscriber data with named (registered) user data, you can easily provide feeds only upon registration or only to logged-in users, and actually connect each unique feed URL with a named user. Especially if you provide feed customization this won’t be a problem at all. Once you’ve integrated this data you can measure every and any iteraction your user has with your feed.

c] If you don’t want to force your visitors to register in order to subscribe to your feed, you can still use the unique feed URL approach, which you connect with a user session, cookie or other identifiable information. Once your RSS feed subscriber registers you can integrate the data you already collected based on existing feed interaction and website interaction with his new user account.

d] The other approach you can use is user authentication, where you limit access to your feeds with a username/password combination. If each unique users receives a unique combination, you can track everything based on this information.

There are other possibilities as well, and the actual implementation of those above is somewhat more complicated than it seems at first sight. It does for example also require a more complex internet marketing strategy. It does require using more complex tools than the simplest RSS publishing solutions available on the market. It does require integration with your user database and internet platform.

But the point is that it’s not only theoretically possible, but also in praxis. And in fact simple for companies with their own advanced internet platforms.

Just a quick disclaimer …

a] If your feed gets widely syndicated you can in fact lose view of who’s receiving your feed, even if you’re using unique feed URLs (you can of course measure this as well, by analyzing user agent data). Using the user authentication model solves this problem as well.

b] Even if your feed does get widely syndicated, that’s still comparable to your e-mail messages being passed around by users. And if we take in to account that measuring open-rates is getting increasingly difficult due to users blocking images, e-mail metrics don’t look that shiny anymore.

If you’d like to find out more about RSS metrics, simply start by reading our collection of RSS metrics articles, reports, interviews and news at http://rssdiary.marketingstudies.net/content/cat_rss_metrics.php

I’m also hoping that there’ll soon come a time when responses like this will no longer be needed, because marketers will finally understand the power of RSS metrics.

Copyright 2005 Rok Hrastnik

Create RSS Feeds for Static Websites

The questions often asked by static website owners are: How can I make a RSS feed for my website? Is it only blogs that can have an RSS on their websites?

The answer to the first question is: Yes, you can simply create an one for static websites. And I guess this gives you a clue to what the answer to the second question would be. So, you too can offer RSS feeds on your website.

Having an RSS feed on your static website has a lot of benefits:

  • You can send updates to your website visitors who subscribe to it. You can generate more traffic to your website. When your RSS feed subscribers receive the update in their chosen RSS reader, they will come back to your website to reader the full article.
  • You can leave a link to specific articles on your website when you comment on ComLuv blogs. You know those links you see in comments (XYZ’s last blog post…) You can do that too if you have feeds on your website.
  • You have a lot of control when you create your own RSS feeds because you can choose to send a summary of your updates to your subscribers so that they can come back to your website to read the full article. With the traditional RSS feed that is auto generated, you do not have much control. Most often, the full article is sent to your subscribers so they will not need to come back to your website.

Creating a feed takes four steps:

  • The first step is to create the file itself and save it as yourdomainname.xml. Don’t worry, these are very simple codes. Upload it to your website, to the same folder where you have your homepage.
  • You should then place a link element of the RSS file in the head section of the pages of your website. Here’s an example:
    <link rel=alternate type=application/rss+xml title="www.yourdomain.com RSS Feed" href=http://www.yourdomain.com/yourdomain.xml />
    If you want, you can place it only in the head section of your homepage. But I advise that you place it on all the pages of your website because you never know the page through which your visitors will land on your website. If you have it on all the pages, the RSS icon on your visitors’ browsers will tell them that you offer RSS feeds on your website as soon as they land on your website even if they do not go to your homepage.
  • Find a nice spot on your website, above the fold and place the bright orange RSS icon with a link to your RSS feed. You should also submit your RSS file to Google. It is done exactly the same way as you submit a sitemap.

RSS Mania – Part Two – Outline of How to Create an RSS Feed

Well so now you kind of like, are in love, or are obsessed with RSS. Those little orange buttons are all over and you want to put one up in your web site or Blog or on your wall. That is cool, and it will demand a bit of technical knowledge, some writing, some research and some frustration. So here are the major steps to publishing your RSS feed and giving all that information to the world at large, which I will discuss in depth with examples in this series of articles. Right now we will outline these steps.

1. Sit back, STOP! & Think. (How is that for step one?)

  • a. Do you have information that should or would go into an RSS file? Remember that the unwritten rules of RSS is that you must update the file with “new” and more “current” information if not hourly or daily, but at least on a fairly common basis. No one is going to want to keep your RSS in their reader if the information they see every day for the next month is exactly the same as the day before it.
  • b. Additionally, though some people do this, it really is NOT good practice to put long essays into an RSS feed. What you want is the first line or description of an object, idea or news. Hook the person so he clicks on the topic in his reader, reads the summary, clicks again and finds himself on your web page.
  • c. Do you have the time to do it? There are millions of Blogs out there that were started with the best of intentions. One entry, two entries, three entries. And then they die. Why? Because the author/owners simply had no clue about the dedication demanded and time needed to update their Blogs on a regular basis. They also had no idea just how difficult he competition was to get people to read those Blogs. The same is true with RSS. You start a feed to get readers, or to pass on information to the web. You need to understand this is going to take time and patience and work. This is not a one-time one-shot one-pie-in-the-sky deal.

2. Your depth of Technical knowledge

You will need to become familiar with the following terms and understand them and perhaps learn some very simple things in how to program them.

  1. RSS
  2. XML
  3. HTML
  4. CSS
  5. Atom
  6. RSS Readers
  7. RSS Parsers
  8. RSS Validation

3. Now begins the Actual WORK!

  • a. Preparing the file – You will need a template RSS file (for the sake of these articles it will be called rss.xml though it can have any name you choose as long as it is in xml format.) Unless you are good enough to write one yourself this is critical.
  • b. Understanding the Template and what information goes where
  • c. Putting the information into the template – Each piece of information you have will go into specific [headers] and you must understand the RSS structure in the XML file to get that right.
  • d. Validating the Template – A crucial aspect. Unlike HTML, RSS is very, very, let me say this again, very unforgiving. It does not like deviations from the norm or from the basic format laid down. Getting it right can be the most trying and frustrating part of the process.

4. Okay now you wrote the RSS file, your XML file is ready and validated. Now what? Guess you think you are done. Think again.

  • a. You will have to place the rss.xml file on your web site or somewhere on the web where people can get to it.
  • b. Now you can steal, get, copy, make – whatever you choose – your own little XML/RSS or RSS – Valid button.
  • c. Hyperlink your file to the RSS
  • d. Submit your file under the correct category to RSS directories.

5. How many people will pick up your RSS? I will discuss this as well in a later article, but surprisingly, the answer here is still very vague. There are some ways of tracing the numbers, but none are foolproof, and most are very convoluted.

6. Go and get a good night’s sleep cause tomorrow you are going to have to start the process of adding information to your RSS (or changing it) all over again!

(This is a continuation from my first article on RSS – “RSS Mania Addiction – An Introduction to RSS and the Terminology”)

How to Set Up an RSS Feed in WordPress

An RSS feed is a good way of marketing your latest content to your readers. When you write your latest informative article your audience are immediately informed of this and are able to read it. In this article I will show you how to set up an RSS feed in WordPress.

RSS or real simple syndication as it is better known is a way of getting your latest articles, posts, ideas around the web to your target audience 365 days a year. Imagine all the effort you put in and how much time is spent researching and writing your article. Doesn’t it make sense to propel that content to people interested in listening to what you have to say? RSS makes this easy.

Many websites already have their own RSS facility in motion. Take for example the article sites. When you sign up to receive the service, the content will be delivered to you by way of a feed. Essentially this is what is known as an XML file containing the content such as headlines, posts, news etc. When content is delivered like this via the feed, it is known as syndication.

You can subscribe to the feed and you will receive the latest content from these sites without you having to do anything more. You can set up many feeds from many different sites and the beauty of this is that you never have to visit each site individually to receive their content again. I’m sure you are already beginning to appreciate the benefits of this.

If you have your own website you too can send your latest posts across the web. In order to do this you first need to set up your own RSS feed.

How to set up an RSS Feed

Now let’s talk about how we can create a feed for our site. Do a search in Google for Feedburner and go over to the site. This site is owned by Google so if you have a Gmail account you can just log right in. If not then you can create a new Gmail account and sign in with the details.

You will see a box with some text: ‘Burn a feed right this instant. Type your blog or feed address here:’

Go ahead and type in your blog address and click the ‘Next’ button

If Feedburner has found more than one feed at your blog then it asks you which one you would like to use. Personally I like to take the one that looks the simplest. When you have selected one click the ‘Next’ button.

You are now shown the title of your new feed. You may change this if you so wish.

Now click the ‘Next’ button.

You will now see the link for your feed at the top. It will be of the format:

<a target=_new rel=nofollow href=https://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&amp;hl=en&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;prev=_t&amp;pto=aue&amp;rurl=translate.google.com&amp;sl=ar&amp;sp=nmt4&amp;tl=en&amp;u=http://feeds.feedburner.com/&amp;usg=ALkJrhjOILkQmx5i-6M6h4TeeFaPdYgN6Q>http://feeds.feedburner.com/</a> YourWebSiteName

Highlight and copy this link.

That’s really all you need. You can keep clicking the ‘Next’ button all the way to the end.

Go back to your WordPress blog and log in.

You now need to add the orange RSS symbol on your site.

In the WordPress dashboard, go to Appearance > Widgets

In there, you need to locate the RSS (Entries from any RSS or Atom feed) widget.

If it’s not under “Available Widgets”, drag it from “Inactive Widgets, and drop it into “Available Widgets”

Then drop the RSS widget into the Primary, or one of the Footer choices on the far right.

Enter the Feedburner URL, choose 1 item to display then click Save.

The RSS widget should appear wherever you’ve put it on the site.

And that’s all there is to it. Now the world can see your latest content whenever you release it. This should bring you good traffic as more people sign up to your RSS feed.