You’ve taken a big step toward growing your small business by building a Web site and now, like an angler on a summer’s day, you’re just waiting for the fish to start biting. Of course, it takes more than a well-timed cast and a bit of tasty bait to land customers on the shore of your Web site.
If you’re looking for ideas, inspiration or just plain old straight advice on increasing site traffic, take a tip or two from experienced Web shop owners who’ve had their say in our Small Business Computing forum.
One topic that generated a lot of interest in the forum is RSS feeds. You can use RSS feeds in two ways: you can subscribe to feeds from any number of Web sites and have Web content such as headlines, business, news, entertainment, sports, and so on, delivered to an RSS reader — a utility you download to your computer — or you can use the one that’s built into the leading Web browsers.
However, as demonstrated in our forum, small business owners are interested in another way to use RSS feeds. They want to create their own feeds to provide relevant information to their customers and to drive traffic to their Web sites.
Forum member Bkenn01 stopped in to the forum with a question that’s no doubt shared by other small business owners.
“I think I have a basic understanding of what an RSS feed is. My question is how do they benefit your site?”
Good question — and other forum members came through and shared their thought, concerns and methods for using RSS feeds as an effective marketing tool.
JPync worried that offering other people’s feeds on your Web site might cause you to lose potential customers:
“Well, they [RSS feeds] benefit your site in that they offer more content to your visitors. But since they are remote feeds, when the user clicks on ’em, they leave your site.”
Another forum member, Barefootmentor, uses RSS feeds to help with search engine optimization (SEO):
“Fresh content is key to keeping your site spidered by the search engines, and it also helps with ranking, too.” As for keeping her site in visitors’ sight. I have my RSS feed set so it pops up in a new window. [That way], they still have your site up just as the RSS feed pops up in a small window in front of it.”
Familiar with the value of providing relevant content to improve SEO, one member, Opensourceforce, wondered whether search engines might penalize a site for posting RSS feeds from other sites — a commonly accepted practice:
“I have heard that the RSS is good for SEO work and fresh content etc. However, has anyone seen anything where an engine discounts RSS content somehow because so many other sites would also have the same content? Or would it somehow know the content is not as vital because it is coming in on an RSS and not some other method?”
Creating your own original RSS feeds is a great way to provide customers with relevant information on your company, products and services — the amount and quality of your site’s content is one of many factors search engines use to assign ranking. Barefootmentor, for example, avoids using feeds from other sites and favors the do-it-yourself approach:
“I write my own RSS feeds, so there isn’t a lot of duplicate content on other sites. If you optimize your RSS feed’s keywords, it will help your site rank higher. I have learned if you don’t try short cuts and just put out quality content you will rank high in the search engines.”
Small business owners also use RSS feeds to market to their customers and keep them informed. Kman writes:
“RSS Feeds can be great for your site. New product feeds, sale items etc. With IE7 and FireFox, reading feeds is a breeze. I have one at www.80stees.com for new products. When someone clicks and orders a product in the feed, we track it. It’s pretty impressive how many people use the feed as a guide for what to order. Mostly return customers, but still a valued tool.”
Other forum members offered still more advantages. This froom HawaiiSurfer:
“One of the benefits of an RSS feed is that every time you update, your subscribers automatically get the information — instead of them always having to go to your site to see if it was updated.”
And EbizAlan makes an excellent point about using RSS feeds instead of e-mail newsletters.
“With all those SPAM filters and organizations, RSS has an advantage over newsletters since it cannot be blocked by spam filters or lost in Internet limbo. Thereby greatly increasing your chances of communication with your customers.”
Tune in later this week for our step-by-step how-to article on creating your own RSS feed. In the mean time, stop by our forums to discuss all kinds of technology issues that are on your mind. It’s a great place to share tips and advice with other small business owners.
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com
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