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    RSS Information: here are all the key posts


    Google Alerts via RSSI’ve long been a fan of using Google Alerts – as far as I’m concerned, alongside subscribing to relevant RSS feeds, it’s certainly the best way to make sure that I keep up to date with any new information appearing on the web on topics that I’m interested in. It’s also a great way to ensure that I can follow conversations and articles which are relevant to my clients, their own reputation management as well as the markets they work in.

    Now for me, Google have recently made it even more useful through the simple act of allowing me to receive this information via RSS rather than by email. This means that I can now have all of this information coming into one place (my Google Reader) as well as any keyword searches I have running through other sites and of course all the feeds from the key blogs I follow.

    Google Alerts via RSS

    All you need to do is select RSS instead of email as shown above and the system does the rest. Of course, there’s no longer a need to specify the frequency (ie. immediate, daily or weekly) because RSS will always update as soon as you have new information to read. (BTW, if you want a recap on the benefits RSS can bring in general then have another read of this.)

    Anyway, if you aren’t already doing so, then set up some keyword searches on Google Alerts, get them automatically sent to your RSS Reader and keep a step ahead of your competition by getting all the latest information before they do.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    RSS Series from Better Business BloggingWe’ve seen how beneficial RSS can be to both publishers and readers alike earlier in this series so, with that in mind, it’s going to be important to encourage as many people as possible to subscribe to your feed so that they receive your latest posts automatically.

    To help start this process, here are 14 ways which will give the best chance of encouraging subscribers and help you to promote all of the information that you’re providing at the same time:

    1. Promote your feed prominently on your blog

    It’s important to make sure that the RSS icon / feed link is displayed in a prominent position at the top of your blog – as with anything, the placement on the page is very important and, in general, the higher up the page you place it, the more attention and clicks it will attract. What some blogs do is have the feed link appearing down in the footer of the page – don’t make that mistake yourselves!

    2. Offer an email option to receive RSS

    While we can talk about how useful RSS is (and it is!), that will not overcome the fact that a lot of people remain much more comfortable with email and slightly hesitant in the face of technology they’re not totally familiar with. So give them what they want. Offer the option to receive your blog updates automatically via email (ssshh – it’s still using RSS really) – Feedburner, Feedblitz and Aweber all have systems to help you to do this.

    3. Remind them after each post

    They’ve read your post – they’ve loved what you’ve written – so what better time to remind them that they can get all your articles delivered to them automatically than by adding a link to your feed at the bottom of each post together with a (Attention: marketing term!) call to action. They need never miss a thing you write again.

    4. Sign up reminder in your email

    Most of us have a “signature” at the bottom of every email we send – usually it contains our contact details and perhaps a short tagline for the business. Well, what better place to get your RSS feed information out to people you’re in contact with. You can do this either as a link or, if you use Feedburner, then you can use their “headline animator” and have the titles of your last 5 posts appear to help encourage people along.

    5. Tell people about it offline

    In business, we are in contact with potential customers on a constant basis, whether that’s when we give presentations, run seminars, participate in exhibitions etc. Here’s a great opportunity to help them get all your latest news and really get to know what you’re all about by making sure they are clear where to find your feed and what to do with it.

    6. Make people aware what RSS is and how useful it can be

    As I mentioned above, there are still many people who remain unclear of what RSS is and the benefits that it can offer them. Help them to find out. Put together a page which gives details of what RSS is and how they can use it to keep up with all the information they look at on a daily basis. To make it easy, if you’d like to use the introduction to RSS page I put together then please do – and if you could mention where you found it then that would be even better.

    7. Full Feeds or Partial Feeds

    Not all feeds are created equal. You can send out the complete post (full feed) or just an excerpt of it (partial feed) in your RSS - the general consensus seems to indicate that you are more likely to keep the subscribers if you offer them a full feed. The downside is that it does make it easier for scrapers to reproduce your content. I still say, “Go for full feed!”.

    8. Give them an incentive to subscribe

    You can always give an incentive (reward, giveaway, thank you … call it what you want) for people to sign up – something like an ebook focusing on a subject of particular relevance to your readers would probably work well. The easiest way to achieve this is to create a special link within your RSS feed which appears at the bottom of each post and takes subscribers through to a page where the download can be accessed.

    9. Use other online marketing methods

    Don’t forget to use the other online marketing methods to promote your feed as well – email marketing, online PR, SEO, social networks even Pay Per Click all have their place to encourage new subscribers to follow you, should you decide that they are relevant.

    10. Feeds to feed directories

    Alongside general web directories and the blog directories, there are also RSS directories where you can submit your feed. Make the most of them and submit your feed to all the relevant ones you can find – making it visible to as many people as possible through them is only going to be of benefit and may encourage further syndication of your content.

    11. Network elsewhere? Promote the feed there too

    The likelihood is that you network on certain sites and also participate in forums where there are people who would be interested in the information your feed contains. Make sure that if your profile offers the chance to promote your feed that you use it and, perhaps more importantly, include it in your signature on posts or comments you make.

    12. Encourage people to recommend your feed

    This might be done simply through basic referral marketing by asking current subscribers to pass on details of your feed to colleagues and friends – if you want to help them to do this, then include an email a friend option or encourage social bookmarking if you feel that would be appropriate.

    13. Include on key documents you distribute

    Mention your feed as part of the information that you send out with ebooks, white papers etc. In my own case, there is a pdf which forms part of each section of my Business Blogging eCourse. This includes a link through to this blog’s RSS feed so that people taking the course can also keep up on new posts at the same time.

    14. In your Newsletters

    Newsletters and blogs work really well together – very complementary! So make sure that you promote your RSS feed in your own newsletter and readers will be able to follow your blog inbetween the newsletters. You can then return the compliment and promote your newsletter via blog posts, distributed automatically by your feed.

    What about you – do you have any ways that you recommend to increase your RSS subscribers that you’d like to share?

    ......................................

    RSS Series:
    1. RSS - An Introduction: So, what is RSS all about then?
    2. RSS Benefits for businesses, bloggers and publishers
    3. Business benefits of RSS to subscribers & readers
    4. Ways to increase your RSS subscribers

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    5. Business Blog Design: RSS Feeds & Subscriptions

    RSS Series from Better Business BloggingThere are two things that I consider to be safe assumptions in life: one, we all like to know whats going on and, two, we never seem to have enough time. Now it may be that for some of us, a copy of Business Week, The Times or perhaps Cosmopolitan (according to our preferences) will be enough to keep us up to date with what’s happening in the areas that interest us. For others, and particularly in business, we need to cast our net a little wider and need to be able to sift the information more quickly.

    Of course, the more subject areas we want to follow, the more we bump into the issue of not having enough time to find the information that we need, let alone read it. Once again, RSS to the rescue! This sort of problem of information overload can really be reduced (though not I fear totally eradicated) by making best use of an RSS Reader to find and deliver to us the latest news and information from wherever it’s hiding on the internet.

    So let’s quickly start by looking at five of the main advantages before moving onto some of the more specific business benefits below:

    1. Time saver par excellence
    Time saver because you no longer need to keep revisiting sites to get the latest information, instead it is delivered to you in a neat bundle to let you decide quickly and easily what’s of interest.

    2. Latest information always at your fingertips
    Whether it is business information, the weather, local news, breaking industry research or a new posting from a rarely-updated site you receive up to date information in your areas of interest as soon as it is published.

    3. You are in control of what you receive
    Both subscribing and unsubscribing from an RSS feed is totally under your control. You can do so at any time at the click of a button in your RSS reader; so if the information stops being relevant, you can instantly remove it.

    (more…)
    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    5. A basic guide to RSS

    RSS Series from Better Business BloggingIn the first part of this series “What is RSS all about then?“, I tried to give an overview of what RSS is, from a layman’s point of view if you like. Here, in the second part, it’s time to move on to looking at some of the ways in which RSS can be used by businesses, bloggers and publishers in general.

    General RSS Benefits for all

    For me, RSS is very much a Clark Kent figure – not particularly impressive on the outside but lots of hidden “super powers” underneath. Am I overstating that a little? Well you decide. To start, let’s have a quick run through of some of the elements that RSS can do for the information you publish in your business or blog:

    i) Instant Publishing and Automatic distribution
    As you publish new posts and information on your blog, RSS publishes them automatically on any additional sites that have decided to syndicate your content. This allows you to concentrate on the quality of your content and lets your RSS feed distribute it for you to all the places and people who have requested it, automatically and instantly.

    ii) Direct guaranteed delivery to subscribers
    You can be safe in the knowledge that your subscribers will receive the information that you are providing without worrying whether some overzealous spam filter might have intercepted and binned it.

    iii) Targeted content delivery
    There is no need to just offer a single RSS feed – instead you can break down your content into different areas so that people can choose to receive the targeted content they prefer. If you use WordPress, you can do this with the categories, each of which generates its own RSS feed automatically which you can offer to your subscribers.

    (more…)
    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    RSS Series from Better Business BloggingThe internet has opened up a whole Aladdin’s cave of information which is constantly being updated and added to – it has also revolutionised the way in which we find and share it. However, keeping up to date with all that is going on can be time consuming and, in many case, nigh on impossible.

    So what would be better? How about having all the latest news and information from the sources you want to hear from delivered directly to you? This would save a huge amount of time as you wouldn’t need to keep revisiting all the websites that interest you to see what new information they’ve added.

    This is where RSS comes in. RSS offers a simple way of gathering and sharing information without all of that time consuming activity involved in actually going to look for it. All the latest news comes to you rather than you having to go looking for it.

    So what is RSS, again?

    RSS means different things to different people, and I don’t just mean what the acronym stands for – that’s Really Simple Syndication in case you were wondering.

    You and I are looking for an easy (and preferably anonymous) way of keeping up to date with all the latest information from sites we’re interested in – a way to skim through it in our own time, reading items which are of interest and passing over the rest. With RSS, we can get it all in one place and be safe in the knowledge that all this comes without us having to part with our email address and that nagging concern that we might have just opened ourselves up to yet more offers of “enhancements” and “ebay security checks” .

    What is RSS: an overview



    For publishers of websites and blogs, they just want a way to distribute and share their latest news and information with individuals, sites and directories who have requested it. The fact that this happens automatically without running the gauntlet of touchy spam filters is great and the fact that people feel comfortable about subscribing because it is anonymous is even better.

    Looks like a Win-Win situation to me.

    How do I use RSS?

    Ok, sounds good but what do I need if I want to use RSS?

    Well, remembering that RSS is really just a way of distributing or collecting information, we need two things to use it: some information that we want to subscribe to (an RSS Feed) and then something to use to collect it and read it (an RSS reader).

    Let’s look at RSS readers first – RSS readers can either sit on your PC or can be part of a website online. (Think of it a bit like your email programs: Outlook is a program on your PC, whereas Hotmail is a website online.) Recently, the most popular ones have been online so we’ll concentrate on those – Google Reader and Bloglines lead the way and now you also have the option of using readers which come as part of the Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers too.

    To start, I’d probably recommend that you pop along to Google Reader – you’ll need a Google Account if you don’t already have one but it’s quick and easy to set up and then you’ll soon be ready to start selecting what information you want to receive. You do that by adding RSS Feeds.

    How to find RSS feeds?

    This is getting easier and easier for us, partly because the browsers that we use have started to highlight the fact that they are there. Basically, you want to be on the look out for some of the symbols below, all of which do the same thing – they let you know that there is an RSS feed waiting for you!

    RSS Icons and RSS buttons



    Just click on the image – if you see a page of text then copy the URL (the address of the page) and then go to your RSS Reader, click on “Add Subscription” or “Add Feed” and paste it in. That’s all you have to do. If you see a more friendly page of images and some text, then it’s even easier – just follow the instructions there!

    What’s next?

    Well, in terms of anything technical, that’s it. Once you’ve subscribed to the RSS feed, or rather the information from the site, you just sit back and let it do all the chasing and collecting for you, delivering the new stuff from that site to you – and the website will never know it’s you. Safe secure and instant. If you want it to stop, then that’s a simple click of the mouse, deleting the feed in your RSS reader.

    Using RSS really is a massive time saver – you get the information delivered to you, saving all the hassle of having to revisit your sites in case there’s some thing new. All you have to do is decide what you want to read and delete the rest. And for publishers, you get to deliver your news securely to people who really want to receive it, but remember that the onus is on you to keep the quality high because, if not, they’re gone!

    Questions?

    I hope that has helped but if you’ve still got questions then leave a comment or drop me a line and I’ll try to help.

    Bloggers / website owners – if you’d like to use this on your site then please feel free. You can even modify it if you’d like. However, if you would link back to Better Business Blogging to return the favour then that would be great. Something like “Thanks to Better Business Blogging for this RSS overview” would be great.

    ......................................

    RSS Series:
    1. RSS - An Introduction: So, what is RSS all about then?
    2. RSS Benefits for businesses, bloggers and publishers
    3. Benefits of RSS for users & subscribers
    4. Ways to increase your RSS subscribers
    5. Marketing with RSS
    6. Using Feedburner to optimise your RSS

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    RSS Series from Better Business BloggingTo most, RSS is not going to appear to be the most exciting tool in the social media box – it’s not coming out in video any time soon, can’t rival podcasts in the audio department, doesn’t seem to interact with anything and, all in all, comes across like someone who’d prefer to sit in the corner at parties rather than get out there and mix.

    True, but only half the story. In fact, it seems to me that RSS is in need of a good PR agent.

    Well, I’m no PR Guru, but I’m going to try to show with a series of posts over the next week, how RSS is an immensely powerful tool which can be used in any number of exciting (yes, exciting) and useful ways, whether you are looking at it from a user’s or a publisher’s point of view.

    The posts will be looking at:

    1. RSS - An Introduction: So, what is RSS all about then?
    2. RSS Benefits for businesses, bloggers and publishers
    3. Benefits of RSS for users & subscribers
    4. Marketing with RSS
    5. Using Feedburner to optimise your RSS
    6. Ways to increase your RSS subscribers

    So subscribe to my RSS feed to make sure you don’t miss anything ;) and if you don’t know what I mean by that then the first part of the series will be right up your street!

    RSS card: RSS will surprise you!

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    Blog Broadcast from AweberThe RSS Feed is one of those key underlying technologies in a blog that can do a huge number of things for us and yet most of us, myself included, are still only scratching the surface with it.

    Its main use is of course to give your readers a secure and immediate way of receiving your latest posts by subscribing to your RSS feed through an RSS Reader. Nevertheless, with so many internet users still unfamiliar with RSS in spite of its many benefits, I always recommend also offering the option of subscribing to the RSS feed via email as well.

    The easiest way to offer this is by using a third party supplier. Feedburner, for example, provides you with the code to create a basic sign up form on your blog and then visitors can use to subscribe to receiving your blog updates automatically via email. A similar service is provided by Feedblitz and Zookoda.

    Normally, you receive these on a daily basis as posts are published. However, there is another provider, Aweber, which gives you the option to take that one step further and effectively create a newsletter with your posts.

    Aweber is probably best known as an autoresponder and email service provider along the lines of Constant Contact and Vertical Response. However, last year, they also launched a service called Blog Broadcast which essentially delivers your blog posts via email but also offers other features in as well. As you would expect from a company which specialises in email and newsletter delivery, this is includes a range of templates to control the look of the emails sent out, personalisation of aspects of the message and title, and tracking of links or ads.

    In addition, as of this week, they have added a scheduling feature to the service. This means that you can now use the service to send out your posts on a schedule which suits you and your readers rather than one decided by the software. For example, you can now automatically send your readers a newsletter every week or every month by email with all of your posts. A great way to use emails to help support your blog.

    Granted this is not a free service but the additional benefits that this gives you are certainly worthwhile and particularly if you also use the other services it offers. For example, I use the autoresponder to deliver my Business Blogging eCourse and you can also use the email broadcast system to send other ezines or general communication to your readers.

    So, if you want to do more than simply send out each post as you make it or you’re looking for an automated way to publish a newsletter to your list of readers, then this might well be worth looking at.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    To say that I’m not a fan of Blogger is probably understating things a bit – when it comes to business blogs, their system is certainly way down the list of blogging platforms that I’d choose or recommend.

    However, when it comes to their owner Google, then as part of their foray into the world of blogging, Blogger is a crucial part. Firstly, in spite of my reservations, they certainly helped the personal blogger (and splogger – but that’s a different story) by buying and developing Blogger when blogging was still something that the general public knew nothing about and businesses had never considered them as a serious marketing tool.

    After that, they introduced a blog specific search engine which, although it doesn’t match Technorati in the level of information that it offers, is still blog specifc and is updated very quickly through pinging. Recently, they have also bought Feedburner which is the preeminent RSS tool – a key element of blogs around the world.

    So what have they done now? Well, in many respects, nothing as innovative as the elements that I have mentioned above, but nevertheless, something which is significant … although it may not sound it. They have added blogs to their universal search engine.

    So what is good about that? Well firstly, this is the selection that you can make on Google’s homepage which currently allows you to choose images, news, maps … etc or others. In the near future, you should also be able to choose blogs as well as an individual “category”. This is a real change and step forward for blogs because of the preeminence and influence that Google has as a Search Engine which will in its turn benefit blogs more than simply having the blog search engine as a separate entity.

    So, yet again, Google leads the way in terms of accessing and referencing blogs … so let’s take advantage of the elements that they offer and use them to our advantage!

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    Feedburner acquires BlogbeatFeedburner announced today that it has acquired Blogbeat, which is a provider of blog analytics based in Raleigh, Durham.

    As a fan of Feedburner and the services that they offer, this is good news that that they are further extending their services and particularly so because they have expressed the intention to include the blog analytics as an extension of the free services package. These are already hugely useful in tracking and customising RSS feeds and so adding in the ability to track visitors as well can only add to this.

    As they have also announced that Jeff Turner, Blogbeat founder, will be joining Feedburner as Lead Engineer, Web Analytics, they are clearly expressing their intention to develop this area further – another positive step. For a Business Blog to be truly effective, we need to be able to measure its success according to the goals that we have for it – visitors to the blog and RSS readership are two of the possible criteria by which to do so.

    We should also be using stats packages and analytics to get a better idea of which posts and subject areas are proving the biggest attraction for our readers – with this information at our fingertips, we can then make sure that we adapt our writing, provide the type of information that is most in demand and so give our readers what they are looking for.

    Feedburner expect to have the Blogbeat services integrated by the 4th quarter of this year and I for one will be looking forward to using them.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    A couple of small steps last week to note regarding RSS feeds and getting a more common and compatible system across more of the main blogging platforms.

    Firstly, Blogger.com finally added support for RSS to their system in addition to the Atom feeds that they had been using. While not riveting news perhaps, it does give people using Blogger a better choice of how they want to syndicate their content which is certainly for the best (although Im sure theres no need to repeat here my views on whether Businesses should be using Blogger!).

    In any case, you will ideally still put your feed through Feedburner for all the good reasons that I outlined in Feedburner: using your feeds more effectively.

    Talking of Feeedburner, the other news was that they have been working with Six Apart on the TypePad system and they are now able to offer better integration between the two systems. This means that anyone using TypePad can also benefit from all the subscriber information and promotional elements that Feedburner offers.

    So what does this all mean? Well, its really just another step in the integration of all of the services across the main blogging platforms which should ultimately be of benefit to bothe publishers and readers of Blogs alike, because they will be able to use the same familiar tools no matter what blogging software is being used. Having worked for may years in the mobile computing industry where this was the exception rather than the norm, I for one am glad to see it happening.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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