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Feeds: A New Channel for Search Marketing

thurow-shari
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Savvy search marketers are taking advantage of an increasingly popular technology to attract traffic: RSS feeds that get picked up virtually instantaneously as they are published by specialized webfeed search engines.

A special report from the Search Engine Strategies 2005 Conference, February 28 - March 3, 2005, New York, NY.

RSS feeds deliver summaries of regularly changing Web content to publishers. In this session, representatives who operate major news and webfeed search engines talked about how to prepare, submit, and subscribe to the various webfeed search engines.

"RSS feeds can help drive a lot of quality traffic to Web sites," said Jeremy Zawodny from Yahoo. "It is the ultimate opt-in Web space, now that mailing lists are dying off due to heavy spam problems, and the fact that email boxes get to be too crowded. People tend to be in a different mindset when they are reading news feeds as opposed to reading email."

"Except for blogs, the growth rate of publishers in all other forms of media is declining," said Jim Pitkow, CEO of Moreover. "Even the number of online news sites is lower and starting to taper off. Internet News is the only daily news source that has increased over the past two years. The new area that we see experiencing tremendous growth is in the blog community."

"There are millions of blogs out there and most blogs have news feeds," said Mark Fletcher, CEO of Bloglines. "Previously, it was pretty hard to consume and read this information. Consumers had to download a program and put up with some pretty arcane terminology. For consumers, we want to make it as easy to use as possible and hide the technical aspects of it."

"All Bloglines users have their own blog," Fletcher continued. "The idea is to make it easy for users to publish things that they are really interested in, as well as make it easy for users to read they like to read. We call this one-click article publishing, which also provides for additional advertising opportunities."

For example, Bloglines users have the ability to:

  • View public news feeds and blogs subscribed to by other users
  • Share favorite news feeds and blogs with others
  • Save items and email to others

"For publishers, this increases word-of-mouth exposure for both feeds and content," said Fletcher.

While Moreover.com itself is not a place where site visitors might get news, Moreover does provides news and RSS feeds to MSN Search, Ask Jeeves, Snap and SearchDay (see the search headlines below). "We have a separate blog product, because we feel that editorial and opinion are quite separate from breaking news," Pitkow explained. "Moreover has 3,000 hand-editorialized blogs."

Preparing and submitting webfeeds

If you have a web site, how do you go about publishing a feed of your content? "The first steps have never changed -- get good relevant content on the Web first," said Zawodny. "Then start providing feeds."

Webfeeds are generally prepared in a simple XML format. Guidelines for submitting feeds are available at:

"Moreover has a pretty strict policy: we do not charge for inclusion into the Moreover platform, which ensures unbiased results," said Pitkow. "All submissions are editorially reviewed to ensure quality and figure out if it falls into news or opinion."

"Some of the metadata categories we have include publication name and date, author, headline, content, article URL, content, language, and keywords," he further explained. "We can do geographic location using 3 million different place names.

"We go out to news readers and local news feeds such as My Yahoo, Newsgator, and Bloglines," said Chris Tolles, VP of Sales and Marketing at Topix.net, which provides news to AOL, Ask Jeeves, Citysearch, and Infospace. "We take news from 10,000 sources, contextualize it and localize it. Then we combine it with advertising and distribute it to about 150,000 news channels."

Webfeeds and search engine rankings

"One of the challenges is to make people come back to your site, to make content 'sticky'," said Fletcher. "With Bloglines, it is easy for content producers to build an audience of people who subscribe to their feeds, and keep them coming back to their Web sites on a regular basis."

"Quite often, bloggers will mention new RSS feeds coming up, and if the content is good then they will link to it more often," Zawodny explained. "Bloggers look for new content on a daily basis, link to it and tell their readers and friends about it. You evaluate this often enough and you see a lot of good links turn up. So if you are publishing RSS feeds and are circulating your information and having it circulated, you have a better chance of moving up on the search engines' list."

Advertising and webfeed search

"When publishers use AdSense and other distributive mechanisms, they do not know a whole heck of a lot about the publishers that the ads are being displayed on," said Scott Rafer, President and CEO of Feedster. "You can prevent your ads from being displayed on specific sites. But in general, it (displaying ads) is a particularly anonymous thing."

"With any blog on Feedster," he continued, "you can get a calendar of what that feed has posted -- month view, day view, week view, etc. We do not just crawl the site occasionally and figure out what's there at that moment. We get every single article that person posts."

"Advertisers might only want their ads on publishers that update their feeds at least three times a week and publishers that never swear," Zawodny added. "Additionally, all articles need to provide real qualitative analysis and not just short, inane comments. We can set the quality meter until advertisers get the results for their money. That you never could in the regular HTML world."

Want to discuss or comment on this story? Join the News & Webfeeds Search discussion in the Search Engine Watch forums.

Shari Thurow is the Marketing Director at Grantastic Designs, Inc. and the author of the book Search Engine Visibility.

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