RSS Feed: Are You Contented Giving Away Your Content?

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“Thank you!” said a client of mine. “You really turned my site around.” It wasn’t hard to take a small, relatively unknown site and increase its ranking and bring in traffic. All that had to be done was create original, interesting content, make a few small changes to the site share functions and a little patience while the SEO did its thing. The client is happy with the results, I’m happy having a client who appreciates my work and the readership is happy with the content they get. That’s called a win-win… and win, I guess, situation.

Everyone agrees that regular insertions of original content on a site improves SEO, creates traffic and will raise a site ranking overall. As a content creator, I take a certain amount of pride from watching articles and images go viral across the web. When I hit a record high of 72.4 million for an article, I felt like I owned part of the world, until it hit me that millions of site were using MY content for their own SEO and even just one dollar from each site for that usage would mean my grand retirement for just that article. The problem was, the RSS feed was the instrument that screamed, “FREE CONTENT!”

One of the changes the previously mentioned client made was to install and promote an RSS feed on her site. Sharing is caring? Aside from that Hallmark Cards sentiment, the use of the name “Hallmark Cards” for SEO purposes and other keywords thrown in for traffic-baiting, is RSS a good idea for your site?

What is RSS?

Social media cell phone communication

RSS Rich Site Summary (often dubbed Really Simple Syndication), are 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 (which is called a “feed”, “web feed” or “channel”) includes full or summarized text, plus metadata such as publishing dates and authorship.

RSS feeds benefit publishers by letting them syndicate content automatically. A standardized XML file format allows the information to be published once and viewed by many different programs. They benefit readers who want to subscribe to timely updates from favorite websites or to aggregate feeds from many sites into one place (read more on the late Aaron Swartz, a moving force in RSS technology).

RSS is also the bratty little sibling who runs and tells everyone what you did behind the garage with the neighbor girl. Sometimes you want mom and dad to send RSS to military school or just give it up to adoption!

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The Good and the Bad of RSS

Damaging effects of computers

It’s exciting to see your content spread all over the world. I see my articles published on every continent except Antarctica. For me, it brings in more clients from around the world but I lose what may be considered reprint fees. For my clients, it means the aforementioned rise in site ranking and traffic. A proper RSS feed will trackback to the original site and content and that’s a good thing for any site but some argue it also waters down the content and the SEO as well.

Original content: Search engines rank your website according to the relevance of content put on your site. That’s why it is so important to put original content in your web pages. If you do not update your content, users will lose interest in your site. If you change, adapt or improve your content on a regular base, the search engine spiders will crawl through your content more often and place you among the top search results.

Formatting: The way you format your content is as important as writing it. When you put a lot of content on your web page, you make it more difficult for the readers to find the information for which they are searching. If you are known for tutorials, it’s best to get to the point right away so people know they have found the right information. The title may do that and then you can use my writing method in which I punch people in the face, get them emotional about the subject and then finish with valuable lessons, all wrapped up in an entertaining way. Storytelling is, after all, what makes an article, even those of supreme technological jargon. If you can keep the visitor on your web page, you will increase your pagerank, which helps you improve your rank in the search engines.

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One way to keep the visitors on your website is to highlight the most important words or keywords by making them bold, underlined or italicized (but not too much or it will count against you in SEO). Another way to improve the readability for humans as well as search engines, is by using titles, subtitles and by dividing your text into divisions and paragraphs.

Duplicating content: In Nick Papagiannis’ article, “SEO for PR: Republishing content can hurt your search rank,” he points out the virtue of keeping to original content:

Google’s algorithm ultimately aims to rank results in the order it believes will be most meaningful to a user. Specifically, the following questions are asked in determining if content is worthy of a high search ranking.

  • Is this content unique or authentic? Google rewards the original webpage that houses a particular piece of content or article.
  • Do users like this content? This helps determine popularity of the site or source.
  • Is it coming from a trusted source? This is measured primarily in the way of links pointing to it, +1s, as well as the age, and history of the website’s domain.
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A lot of websites duplicate their content to get a higher results in the search engines—they lift the content of another article in great part or its entirety and list it as their own, original content. To resolve this problem, Google built in a duplicating filter. These filters removes these web pages from the search engines. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work all of the time and personally, I’ve found some incredible duplicates of my own content.

Quality, Not Quantity

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New content is great but if no one wants to read it, then it’s a waste of cyber space. One client of mine insists on a high word minimum for articles, larger than what most readers will bear. Despite comments such as “great article but a bit too long” or “I’ll need to put on another tea kettle to finish this article” the client insists in quantity. I keep insisting that I can only use so many words to create a quality article, that makes a point, even in an entertaining way, without its being very, very, very, very, very, very, very lengthy and losing the reader. This also doesn’t mean it should be dry and without personality. A following will expect a certain “voice” from a writer or site and that must be maintained. In the end, that popularity will lead not only to a higher pagerank and better SEO, it will also  create a desire for your content on other sites and whether it’s through RSS feeds, Twitter links or readers reposting through share functions, the more your content is out there, the better for your popularity, trust and reputation.

Further suggested reading:

Why FeedBurner Is Killing Your SEO Strategy

The SEO Importance of Original Content

How Content Creators Benefit From The New SEO

How to Prevent Your WordPress Site Content from Being Scraped

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