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Like anything else, a little work can pay dividends. Well-written RSS feeds are more useful to readers and result in more website traffic for the publisher. Below are several tips for making your RSS feed more effective.
1. Use interesting titles
Like a book is often judged by its cover, an RSS feed item is judged by its title. Make sure your title is interesting, and try to put the most important information early in the title, since some newsreaders truncate title beyond a certian length.
Also, keep in mind that some newsreaders are set to only show feed item titles. Don't assume that any feed item descriptions will be shown.
2. Include keywords
Since some readers will discover your feed through the many RSS search engines on the internet, you will want to include as many descriptive keywords in your feed item titles and descriptions. That does NOT mean you should just add a string of keywords. Rather, incorporate keywords naturally into your titles and descriptions.
3. Don't include all your content
Some publishers put full content text directly in the feed item. The problem with including full text in a feed is that a reader has no incentive to click through to the publisher's website. Instead, write your feed item descriptions as 'teasers' that make a reader want to click over to the website to read more.
Make your feed item descriptions brief, and include descriptive keywords. Remember some newsreaders are set to truncate long descriptions, and some newsreaders won't show descriptions at all. Keep your most important information at the start of your description.
4. Keep your content fresh
Updating your feed regularly is a good way to keep reader interest. Feeds (like websites) that are not updated for months on end tend to lose repeat visitors. How often you refresh your content is up to the publisher. Keep in mind, however, that readers can set their reader to show as few as three feed headlines at a time. While it's not likely a problem, updating too often could mean that some items may get overlooked.
5. Make sure your RSS feed is compliant!
Finally, make sure your feed is readable. The best-written feed in the world won't be read if the feed code is bad. If you are hand-coding your RSS feed files, you can use a website like http://feedvalidator.org can determine if your feed is valid and suggest reasons why it isn't.
Content is king. Use these tips to keep your RSS feeds well-read and your website well-trafficed!
S.R. Daley is the web developer for http://www.myrealtyfeed.com, a service that allows real estate professionals to create, maintain and promote multiple RSS feeds with a simple web interface.
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