In this installment in the money making ideas- blogging series, we will take a look at the beauty and simplicity of the RSS feed. What may sound more like a US military flag ship is actually an acronym for Really Simple Syndication. Yes, this will probably need a bit more explanation. According to the completely infallible online encyclopedia of the god’s – Wikipedia, an RSS feed…
is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works—such as blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video—in a standardized format. An RSS document….includes full or summarized text, plus metadata such as publishing dates and authorship. Web feeds benefit publishers by letting them syndicate content automatically. They (RSS Feeds) benefit readers who want to subscribe to timely updates from favored websites or to aggregate feeds from many sites into one place. RSS feeds can be read using software called an “RSS reader”, “feed reader”, or “aggregator”, which can be web-based, desktop-based, or mobile-device-based.
Let’s simplify again.
What is an RSS Feed? The Cliff’s Notes
Don’t worry about all the technical details above. Here is all that you really need to know –
An RSS feed is a summary of your site sent directly to your readers – they never have to fire up the browser and go specifically to your site to read your blog posts. Instead, you set up the RSS feed, they subscribe and anytime they open their reader (think of it as an email application, but for RSS subscriptions), if you have published an article lately, they will see it in there. Simple as that.
Why should you bother?
Let’s say your blog is about “widgets”.
Miss Jane Doe out there wants to know about “widgets”. So she types it into Google and finds you in the search results. She clicks on over to your site and reads your article on widgets. She likes what she reads, so she looks around your site a bit. Now she is really impressed. She wants to see what you have to say tomorrow. And the day after. And so on.
One way she could do this would be to bookmark your site, and check everyday to see if you have published anything new. Now, that model is not going to work too well, since the average Jane Doe on the Internet has an attention span of a few seconds. By the next day, you are long forgotten and replaced by some other awesome information provider.
On the other hand, if you offer her a means to “subscribe” to your RSS feed, then every time you publish something, it is automatically delivered to her. If she is an avid reader/surfer, she probably has a bunch of subscriptions and they are all nicely aggregated in one place – her RSS reader. When she wants, she will fire up her reader, and read your post.
Over a period of time, she gets to “know” you. A casual passer by who stopped by your blog for a little nugget of information is now a regular reader. As she reads more and more, she starts to trust you – a level of credibility is established. Now, if you have something to offer – say an affiliate product, she will be a lot more open to buying from you than when you were a total stranger.
Behold, the power of RSS feeds.
How to set up your RSS feed?
When you finally arrive at the Hallelujah moment and understand the power of RSS, you’ll want to set one up on your blog. Fortunately, platforms like WordPress come equipped with an RSS setup that is ready for you use. Just grab an RSS button image, add it to your site and link it to <http://yoursite.com>/feed and you are good to go. Yes, it really is that simple.
But wait. What if you want to know how many readers are subscribed to your RSS feed? Or offer your RSS feed through email instead of just the feed reader? Or see how many readers are actually reading through your feed (instead of just subscribing and then never getting around to reading it)? And so on…
Well, that is pretty simple too. Just go to www.feedburner.com and create an account and follow the simple steps. At the end of the process you should have a link that looks something like http://feeds.feedburner.com/<yoursite>. Hook that up to the RSS subscription icon on your site and you should have all the statistics you need.
Once you have a large number of subscribers, you can even choose to display those numbers proudly on your site. What better testimonial or social proof to show your new readers than the fact that thousands of other reader subscribed to receive your updates on a daily basis?
How will your readers subscribe?
Literally, with the click of a button. If you use the code provided by feed burner, it offers your readers who click on the RSS icon with the feedburner link an interface to add the subscription to their favorite RSS client. That’s all there is to it. See, I told you not to worry too much about the technical mumbo-jumbo.
Even though you are almost done, there is one last step that I highly recommend – sign up for your own RSS feed – both for the feed reader version, and the email version. That way, when you publish an article you will receive a copy of it in your feed reader and email, and you can keep tabs on what others are seeing (are images showing up correctly, are the links broken, etc).
Oh, and since our focus is on money making ideas, I have to mention one last thing before I wind up – you can add an ad block to the bottom of your feed as well. Most feed subscribers are tech-savvy and are not going to click on just any random ads that you stick in there – and it looks downright spammy if you have completely unrelated ads like the ones that adsense sometimes serves. A link to an affiliate product might work better. And you may want to wait until you have a reasonable number of subscribers first. But, like all other money making ideas, this is entirely up to you, and you need to figure out what works best with your audience through trial and error experimentation.