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Submitting RSS Feeds To Yahoo

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Yahoo has been accepting RSS feeds for some time. However, it recently released a Publisher's Guide To RSS that formalizes some submission tips and procedures for feed owners. In this article, a closer look at how your RSS feed appears within Yahoo and tips on doing better.

Submitting & Are You Listed?

Submitting an RSS feed to Yahoo is easy. Just use this page. Technically, all this really does is add the feed to your own My Yahoo list of feeds. That's long been the way Yahoo has recommended making it aware of your feed, so it could offer it to others. The publisher's guide page just provides a more logical "submit" name to the process.

By the way, you might already be listed even without submitting. This could happen if Yahoo has found your feed naturally, or if someone else has added it previously to their My Yahoo page.

Unfortunately, Yahoo doesn't have a tool to easily let you discover if you're already listed. It's a feature they say may be added in the future. But don't worry. It's not a problem if you submit and were already listed. Still, if you want to know if you're already listed, some tips further below will help.

Yahoo Feed Search

After submitting, your feed should be available to anyone who searches for feeds from within My Yahoo via the Add Content page. That almost instantly gets you added to the searchable database, Yahoo says.

It's important to understand that Yahoo's feed search doesn't search through feed content itself. In other words, a service like Feedster lets you locate individual posts or articles that have been published through a feed. At Yahoo, a search only looks at basic information about a particular feed, such as:

  • The feed's title
  • The feed's description
  • Yahoo's popularity data about the feed

Most feeds are generated through blogging software or some other type of automation. Check this and ensure that you've given your feed a good overall title and description, using the key terms you hope it will rank well for if someone does a search. That will improve the odds that you'll rank well in a feed search at Yahoo. Got to do it manually? My Making An RSS Feed article provides some guidance.

"Feed description is really important," said Scott Gatz, senior director, personalization product, at Yahoo. "Making sure titles are different if you have different feeds, that's also really important."

Different feeds? For example, Search Engine Watch has three major feeds, all described in depth here. In summary:

  • Search Engine Watch Feed: Major articles published on Search Engine Watch
  • Search Engine Watch Forums Feed: Lets you know about any new forum threads started.
  • Search Engine Watch Blog Feed: Posts throughout the day cover news items from Search Engine Watch and around the web.

Each feed needs its own unique title and description, so that people fully understand what you have to offer. If they aren't uniquely described, then it's like publishing web pages on different topics but giving them all the same titles and descriptions. You miss out on an opportunity to be found.

Aside from keyword matching, Yahoo will also use its own popularity data to rank matches. How many at Yahoo take the feed or read it each day? That can have an impact. The company also maps some terms to other words. So, you might show up in response to a query even if your feed title and description don't make use of the query term.

Yahoo Feed Directory

Aside from keyword searching, Yahoo also provides a directory of feeds, available to anyone who prefers to browse categories. You'll find the categories listed underneath the search box on the Add Content page, under the "Browse By Topic" heading.

How do you get into this directory? Yahoo editors might find your feed and list it naturally. However, you can encourage them to take a look by using the RSS directory submission form.

Remember, this feed directory is different than the Yahoo Directory of web sites. There's no need to pay to submit, when submitting your feed. But only submit feeds, not web pages. This isn't a web page submission service.

As with the regular Yahoo Directory, it's up to the editors to decide what they will accept. There's no guaranteed response time, nor is Yahoo trying to add every feed to the directory.

"We see this as a way to give us a heads up about interesting and compelling content. It's sent directly to our surfers, who will look through the feeds and decide through their editorial judgment what should go in the directory and where," Gatz said. "This is a relatively small directory that's meant to focus on the very best and most interesting things."

What happens if you submit and don't get in? Don't submit again, is Yahoo's advice. Gatz said that your submission will have been seen the first time. If it gets in, it gets in. If not, you're out of luck.

Realistically, I'd say give it a month. Not in after a month? Sure, try one more submission. Who knows? There might have been a glitch the first time. But if you're not in after trying twice, I'd read that as a sign you've been rejected.

Remember, even if you don't get in the directory, you're still in the searchable index of feeds. So don't stress!

Knowing If You're Already In

You might already be in the directory. The easiest way to know is to search for your feed by name via the Add Content page. For example, say you ran PGA.com. You could search for PGA.com like this, which brings back these listings:

PGA.com - News - Golf
from the Web via RSS
PGA.com - News from the official home of the PGA of America - Golf

PGA.com - PGA Tour News - Golf
from the Web via RSS
PGA.com - PGA Tour News from the official home of the PGA of America - Golf

That tells you these are listed in the searchable index of feeds. But are they in the directory? No. How do you know this? No directory category is associated with them. To see these categories, check out this search for golf:

SI.com - Golf
from the Web via RSS
SI.com is the league leader in original in-depth coverage of professional, local, college and international sports. And were updated continuously, delivering the level of rich in-depth coverage Sports Illustrated fans demand, at the speed of CNN.
More content: Sports Illustrated, Golf > News

PGA.com - News - Golf
from the Web via RSS
PGA.com - News from the official home of the PGA of America - Golf

See the "More Content" part I've highlighted in bold? That's what you'll see if your feed is listed in the browsable directory, one or more directory categories associated with it.

Who's Reading & How Popular Are You?

After you are listed in Yahoo, your feed will be available for anyone making use of the feedreading features in My Yahoo. How many people? Right now, you can find out using your log data. Yahoo explains more here, but I'll do a short overview.

When the YahooFeedSeeker spider requests your feed, it leaves behind a record in your logs, like this:

66.218.65.52 - - [23/Mar/2004:08:13:30 -0800” "GET /blog/rss2.xml HTTP/1.0" 304 - "-" "YahooFeedSeeker/1.0 (compatible; Mozilla 4.0; MSIE 5.5; http://my.yahoo.com/s/publishers.html; users 236; views 36994)"

The two things I've bolded, "users" and "views," show how many people over the past 30 days at My Yahoo have viewed your blog and how often they've done so.

Let's go back to users. In the example above, the "users 236" figure means that in the past 30 days from the log entry date of March 23, 2004, 236 people at My Yahoo have viewed your blog at least once. You might have many more people at My Yahoo subscribed to the blog. Maybe you've got 2,000 subscribers. However, only those who have actually viewed your blog -- IE, seen your blog headlines on their My Yahoo pages -- the past 30 days are counted.

Views gives you a sense of activity. One person might view the My Yahoo page once per month, so you'd have one "view" from that. Another user might check 20 times per day. That would be 20 views. The total number of views over a 30 day period is being reported. Do some division: 36994/236 and you can find the average number of views per person, 157 views per month.

Stats are updated each week, on a rolling basis, Gatz said. What that means is through the course of a week, you'll keep seeing the same stats. Then at some point, new stats will appear. They will reflect the very latest 30 day period that Yahoo is measuring.

Remember the directory categories I mentioned above? They give you another glimpse into popularity. Go into any category, such as the Golf News one. Feed are listed in order of popularity. Yahoo won't say what exactly makes up this overall popularity figure, but number of users and views is a factor.

At this point, you may want to know how you stand in terms of all other feeds at Yahoo, on a popularity front. All you can really tell is if you are in the top 100 feeds. View the Popular From the Web category, which is listed also on the Add Content page. That shows you the 100 most popular feeds, starting from the top and working downward, Gatz said.

How about an improved service to report feed popularity, beyond the Top 100 blogs? Why not offer a Yahoo Buzz-like service for tracking blog and feed trends, in the way Blogpulse does? Certainly Yahoo's got plenty of data. Gatz said people have asked for this type of thing, but remained silent on whether Yahoo might offer it in the future.

Want to move up in those ratings? Gatz said one site was smart about making use of Add To My Yahoo buttons on its web site. Making those buttons more visible helped it gain new readers via My Yahoo, which in turn jumped it significantly higher in the listings.

There's about a billion of these buttons out there now, as I've covered before. If you have to choose, Yahoo's definitely one of the buttons I'd give the nod to. The large number of users it has makes the extra effort worthwhile.

Pinging & Flavors Of RSS

Yahoo also provides a way for you to "ping" it with a notification whenever you post something new to your feed, so that it comes over and gets the latest entries. You can do this manually as explained here, or if your software supports REST or XML-RPC, instructions are listed here. If you ping, that's supposed to help Yahoo ensure it has the very latest information from your feed.

In the publisher guide, you'll see an area where Yahoo recommends you give out only one RSS format and that it "prefers" RSS 2.0. Whoa. What if you use Blogger, which publishes using the Atom feed format? What if you want to use something else other than RSS 2.0? What if you want to offer multiple feeds to please as many people as possible?

"The most important thing to know is we support all formats of RSS, including Atom, RDF and RSS. We at Yahoo publish all of our feeds in RSS 2.0. It meets our needs, and it has some things we really like about it, like that each item can have a publish date," Gatz said.

Indeed, I've yet to encounter an aggregator that can't handle multiple feed formats. Any flavor of feed you offer should work. If you want to go with RSS 2.0, that's great. But you can also offer Atom without fear of losing an important audience. My Yahoo readers can handle that just fine.

Also keep in mind that when Yahoo says it prefers RSS 2.0, it means that it prefers it for its own needs, not that it prefers it in the sense that it will give your feeds a boost.

"You can pick whatever one. We're saying pick one. We don't care which one. Blogger has picked one, Atom, and we're completely happy with that. I think Google has done the right thing, in picking one."

The push for one is to avoid duplication. If you publish your feed in RSS 0.91, RSS 1.0, Atom and RSS 2.0, it's possible that Yahoo will end up with duplication, listing the same feed multiple times. That's why it wants to encourage feed owners to put out only one version.

For the record, when I last looked at RSS flavors, I pushed for RSS 2.0 myself. I mainly liked it because it was much easier to understand if you had to roll your own feed, compared to RSS 1.0 and the Atom successor to that. But as said, most feeds are automatically generated. Go with whatever is made by default, and you should be fine.


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