The importance of RSS feeds in SEO

After reading a particularly misleading article on rss feeds in search engine optimization, I decided to throw my hat into the ring.

RSS feeds are used all over the internet these days. Blogs come with them pre-configured for you. Browsers are beginning to integrate RSS Readers directly into their functionality. If you’re using IE7, you can see an icon on the toolbar menu.

RSS Feed Icon

If this icon is orange, click it to see the RSS feed on the page you are currently viewing. If it is grey, there is no feed on the current page. For firefox users, there are plugins you can download to mimic this feature. My favorite is Sage, although it is not as nice as the IE integration. You can also subscribe to feeds using these feed readers. But what is an RSS Feed and an RSS Reader?

An RSS Feed is a method of content distribution, Really Simple Syndication. As a web publisher, or blog writer, when you create a new piece of content, you want regular readers to know about it as fast as possible. An RSS Feed is basically an XML document that describes your page’s content. When this is updated, people who have subscribed to it can see the change in their browser without even visiting your site. They can read the new article from their Feed Reader.

An RSS Feed Reader is a plugin that we talked about that you can use to create a bookmark of content. Everytime you check for new content, instead of visiting all your favorite sites, you can merely click a single button and it checks for you. New articles show up with previews and the ability to see the content in your browser without visiting the site.

 Very handy for compulsive webheads like myself.

This may seem undesireable to webmasters, but it’s not. The first thought in many people’s heads is “but if people can see my content without visiting my site, I will lose hits!” Yes, this is true, at first. However, your content is also reaching regular readers. If someone subscribes to your feed, they can be considered a “regular” in my book. You can also implant ads into your feed if you wish, although this may turn some people off.

What RSS feeds are NOT is a way of “inputting content” into your own website. You can, in theory, strip the content out of an RSS feed from another website in order to populate your own with content. However, this is for all intents and purposes stealing content. You may be taking copyrighted materials and copying them illegally, which can get you blacklisted by search engines. Even if it not illegal, it is still immoral.

There are syndicated feeds that allow you to take the content of them to display them on your site, though. This is not, or at least, should not, be the main focus of RSS feeds.

However, RSS can play a big part in search engine optimization. It may be a more indirect effect, unlike most other techniques. You can generally actually SEE a change with SEO, whether it’s titles, content changes, whatever. With RSS Feeds, though, you’re relying on getting your content to as many people as you can. Hopefully, they will blog about it or link to the article on their site. Even if they read it without visiting your site, links to your site will help out immensely for Google, who is very link-centric when it comes to search result placement.

So the upshot of all this is using RSS to distribute your content as quickly as possible increases the likelihood of more people reading it (it’s easy). This in turn increases potential links to your site, hopefully with decent anchor text. This gets you more new visitors at the expense of seeing regular visitors in your stats. This also increases your likelihood of moving up the search engine rankings.

Registering your RSS Feed with syndcation sites will also give you immediately linkbacks to your page, as well as greater content exposure.

RSS Feeds are also fairly trivial to set up. Even if you have your own personal site instead of a major blog site, coding your own RSS functionality is no big deal for any halfway decent programmer – it’s merely a matter of creating an XML document that matches a certain schema.

The best part of all is that there’s no real downside to having an RSS. If you screw things up, it won’t hurt you, so there’s no real reason not to have a feed in this day and age.

Speaking of RSS feeds, there’s a handy RSS feed button located on the right sidenav of this blog! Feel free to use it!

Questions? Comments? Feel free to contact me, James Martin.
Email me, or comment!

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