Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

RSS SEO And The Opportunity For A Major Category-Based Directory Of RSS Feeds

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As an entire industry has evolved around the skills and techniques required to optimize Web page content to rank as high as possible within search engine result pages (see last week Wired article), it is likely that within the same industry traditional SEO firms (search engine optimization), along with new ones, will start addressing more specifically how to best optimize RSS feeds for search engine visibility and exposure.

Photo credit: Jim DeLillo

RSS is a like a diffusing prism capable of making periodically updated content, news and information multiply its ability to reach multiple audiences across multiple channels.

For now, RSS feeds based on content categories are not easily found on major search engines like Google, MSN and Yahoo. And while this is gradually changing as the majors have started to index RSS content too, it is very difficult for a journalists, researcher or scholar to find a comprehensive and professionally organized resource where one could find RSS content by category of coverage, language, authority.

But wouldn't that be absolutely useful?

While there is a bubbling universe of much smaller players who have been working at creating new search engines and directories entirely devoted to the indexing of RSS feeds none of these has enough clout, exposure and comprehensive coverage to come close in providing what I have described above.

Thus an even greater opportunity is created, as there is no "central" place where to go and identify RSS content by category of content. I know that you can search widely on keywords and keyphrases on Bloglines, Feedster or Technorati but the results are certainly not anything close to a representation of which are the RSS feeds covering that topic on a systematic basis.

In other words, there is no equivalent in the RSS world to what Google or Yahoo do for the Web. A central place where one can go and be sure to find a good 80 or 90 percent of what is relevant ad available out there.

Many blog and RSS search engines claim to be omni-comprehensive, but from my experience none can make that claim outside of the top two or three players. To the ignorant eye it would appear next to logical that figures like Technorati, Feedster, PubSub, Daypop, Bloglines or Newsgator would be the best entities to take advantage of their RSS coverage abilities to provide this type of service.

Syndic8, a major RSS directory wanted from the beginning to be such a place, but a decidedly unfriendly interface never allowed it to. More recently Yahoo and MSN seem to have understood the potential hidden under the RSS flag and have quietly starting indexing an increasingly large number of RSS feeds.

So, it comes with the nature of things, that as soon as some of these new and emerging RSS search engines and directories have enough content, usability and exposure to become serious reference points, RSS SEO will become as important or more than SEO itself.

Here is why.

RSS feeds are a much more disruptive and capillary content delivery and distribution medium than web pages or blogs by themselves can ever be.

By leveraging the strict standardization of content separately from the presentation layer, RSS offers a content distribution channel that can be integrated, retrofitted or added on top of anything.

RSS can be output to web pages, sent to news reader and aggregators, can be received inside emails, can be resyndicated by other content publishers, converted on the fly into text, Word, PDF or integrated into Flash applications and made available on PDAs and Smartphones.

RSS can go anywhere.

Not so with traditional web site content.

So if your news or content wants to be out there, able to be picked up by a rapidly growing number of searchers, spontaneous newsmasters, news curators, digital information librarians, news editors and journalists, you MUST have your content in RSS.

Jupiter Research can certainly say that RSS is not ripe yet for online marketing, but as it correctly points out, this is due in great part to online marketers failure to yet appreciate RSS full potential.

"Most marketers remain skeptical of using RSS as a mechanism to supplement their e-mail marketing newsletter content," states the report written by JupiterResearch's David Daniels, Zori Bayriamova and Eric T. Peterson.

According to the New York market researcher, 45 percent of marketers have no plans to deploy RSS to supplement e-mail, and only 5 percent currently do so. The findings were based on a recent executive survey.

Media and entertainment companies represent the largest percentage of marketers publishing newsletter content through RSS. They account for 17 percent of respondents who deploy RSS to distribute newsletter content."
(Source: DMNews)

And in fact,

"Even marketers using RSS do it to satisfy market pressure. Thirty-five percent of the surveyed marketers have deployed -- or soon will -- RSS because of consumer demand."

You must to have your content in RSS because in the new information consumption equation, the individual, the traditional consumer, has now taken a much more active role in the overall exchange process.

It is not anymore you company pushing a limited set of options down to her for a choice, but it is her, the reader, now reaching out to pools of content and resources to select and assembly a perfect match for her information and content needs.

Her technological options have become so rich that she is not limited anymore to stand by your delivery time, schedule, programming style or front page news selection. She, the reader, is now in control of what content to select and from what sources. She is in control of how to assemble it together to create her own personalized news portal. Thanks to Yahoo and MSN who have started early to integrate this in their online offer.

Therefore as an online marketer, seller or content publisher of any type, you need to make your content available out there in the most standardized format available, separate from its presentation layer to allow full aggregation, re-use and syndication by the multitude of information distribution resources out there.

Because that is where, increasingly, your reader will go to find, build and refine her personal information space.

And that is what RSS provides you with.

You let it out in RSS and your stuff goes automatically where it needs to be seen.

Somewhere, sometime you will need no more pushing, advertising, or to aggressively market your message. If you make your content available in enough relevant RSS search engine and directories your content will go where it needs to.

And this is why the emergence of a properly structured, highly accessible, and comprehensive RSS directory of feeds is such a strategically important opportunity.

Because as RSS gets into the mainstream we need effective tools to search and find what we are looking for.

As the longevity of ODP and the Yahoo Directory demonstrate, keyword search is not the only game for finding what you want. In fact, in many instances, categorized content can be much more readily helpful than keyword-hitting sources covering a topic randomly and frequently with no real competence.

The growing popularity of online grassroots directories like Delicious, Furl, Spurl and Linkroll shows that category searching is as important as traditional as keyword search.

But who is to say to which category an RSS feed belongs?

Enrollment? Submission of RSS info to a central directory than subsequently can verify your claims?

Yahoo and the ODP show that it is very hard to keep with that amount of work.
So either there can be software that could automate the ability verify and assign an RSS feed to a category (given enough history, posts on the topic, and keyword density - and even this can be easily subject to spam and manipulation) or we may need to look at a grassroots approach where the readers and users are the ones who vote by tagging the association of any RSS feed to a specific category of content.

An RSS feed directory with such characteristics would be perfectly positioned to add up the values that can be derived by tracking which feeds get picked up by end users and calculating that as a form of complementary vote too.

The tagging could also represent a form of voting and could then also be helpful in generating a credible system that contains multiple categorization viewpoints.

What do you think?

Is there an opportunity to be taken or not?

P.S.: While that comes, get your RSS feed inside the MSN and Yahoo RSS database now. Surprisingly simple, this is one of the things most overlooked by online marketers today.

The fastest way to get your RSS feed included and spidered by Yahoo or MSN is to include the feed on a personal or my.msn home page.

Simply create an account on one of the respective portals and customize your personal news page to include your RSS feed(s). Within 24-48 hours your RSS feed contents will become part of the official database and will be regularly "spidered" by Yahoo and MSN.

Tue March 22nd 10.21 EST

Check this out!
Thanks to online promotion guru Eric Ward who just wrote in to say:

"Take a look at how I've tried to do this on the ODP category I edit. A few ODP editors are doing the same. The new category was created yesterday but hasn't shown up yet.

My main category

New RSS category

Others trying to do the same...


Stay tuned.

Tue March 22nd 14.01 EST

It's online now!

.../On_the_Web/Best_of_the_Web/Reviews/RSS_Feeds/">Here it is.

Readers' Comments    
2005-03-23 14:08:45

Jean-Francois Nadeau

Lektora has a nice built-in directory of the most popular feeds.

Very useful for RSS newbies.

2005-03-22 16:45:48

Fergus Burns

Great post Robin - you've highlighted a problem that we're resolving with our directory -

Its currently beta, but some relevant points are

We are using the dmoz structure, where possible. People have an expectation based on other directory structures.

We editorially verify feeds, to maintain quality - our initial focus in on the Corporate RSS feeds that people are finding difficult to find.

Going forward, we've got some interesting developments - we will be supporting “tagging” by the community on the directory, which will provide a richer search

We will factor your feedback into our product development plan - market feedback is what we live for.


2005-03-22 14:18:12



Great insight. Just trying to find other RSS feeds out there in the blogsphere is very time consuming. I believe it is time for one of the big SE to provide a more robust RSS searching capability.


posted by Robin Good on Tuesday, March 22 2005, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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