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RSS: Blog’s Friend or Foe?

Is RSS is the downfall of building relationships and commerce on blogs? First, let’s set the record straight. I’ve drunk the kool aid. I get it. I love RSS and that new orange icon is pretty cute too. The ability to read huge amounts of information in one place, receive it at the second it’s published and not worry about email spam is awesome.

When Darren asked if I would help “blog-sit” ProBlogger I couldn’t say no. Last time I guest blogged here I met the talented Peter Flaschner from the BlogStudio. It led to a great bloggy relationship with Peter redesigning the skin of Diva Marketing. However, as creative as the design is, it doesn’t matter squat if the content of the blog is read in a reader. Nor do your ads or affiliate links show you the money if your readers never click through to your site.

Oh sure partial feeds may entice click throughs and not having live links in your feeds is another (spammy) way to go. Visitors coming in from the search engines might click on a link or two but it’s the folks who know and trust you who are most likely to click and convert…and that’s what makes the cash register ring or new sign-ups for your newsletter or site visits that go deeper into your blog. Keep in mind that comments and trackbacks are useless features without click-throughs to your blog.

What’s the solution? Should we kill off RSS? No way Jose! RSS is a valuable tool. Who wants to remember to click on Favorites on a daily basis?

The challenge is ours, as bloggers, to encourage those click-thoughts to the blog by creating –

1) enjoyable on-blog experience: look and feel, navigation, layout
2) providing information that can only be obtained by clicking through to your blog: podcasts, articles, photos, videos, terrific blogroll, archive links
3) including cues in your posts that talk about value-added content on your blog: new podcast tells how to go beyond the ProBlogger status to zillionarie!

  • apart from just having good material to read, the blogger should also try to make the on-blog experience worth all the trouble. this is really nice point. but how easy is it for amateur blogger like myself who uses free weblog hosting sites which have limited flexibilty? sorry if i am not suppose to comment here as being a amateur blogger.

  • “Oh sure partial feeds may entice click throughs and not having live links in your feeds is another (spammy) way to go.”

    How is that spammy when you turn around and suggest having additional material on your blog that’s not available in the rss feed?

    That’s just silly. Plus, limiting the contents of the feed really cuts down on the abuse of your it by companies that will rerun the whole feed if possible and add ads. They dont’ bother me because they don’t have my full feed.

    You may prefer a different approach but there’s no reason to call a legitimate option spammy just because you don’t prefer it.

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  • I enjoy RSS feeds, but I feel that they are limited to a certain section of the blogosphere population. Just like podcasts, it’s a good way to reach the more advanced users of the internet, but I don’t see a huge gain or loss in traffic and revenues from either method. Then again, that could just be me.

  • Alec, wait another two years…(if that)

  • and…

    50% of my RSS subscribers come from iTunes, which of course *only* picks up my podcast.

    Let me revise… less than two years…

  • You realize if most people ever start using RSS then blogs will have to stop offering full feeds right? As much as it would be nice to get content for free, that’s not how this world works.

  • I’d like to see someone back this up with statistics (or something):

    Visitors coming in from the search engines might click on a link or two but it’s the folks who know and trust you who are most likely to click and convert

    I think the most likely clickers are the searchers. I come to ProBlogger for the content, not to click on adsense links. Now affiliate links… THAT’S a different story.

  • Tom, I’d strongly agree with your gut feeling that people who come to your blog via a search engine and more likely to click on an adsense ad than those who’ve become a regular blog reader.

  • Steve

    When the web started becomng popular, sites were pretty plain and simple and it was all about the content. Things have changed. Content is still king but presentation is also important.

    RSS is still in it’s infancy, but as it goes more mainstream then the spec can grow to allow more markup/images/layout/style. Blogging will evolve with RSS and it will be possible to monetize, just in a new and different way.

    In this market, things change quickly. Those that adapt and see the possibilites are always likely to do well!

  • Thanks for your comments and feedback. Rolf – I’m sure I speak for Darren when I say, your comments are always welcome.
    Clyde – the elements that I suggested would add value to the blog e.g., podcast links, articles, etc. can not be viewed in an RSS feed. They’re only visible if the reader clicks into your blog. Sorry, if I wasn’t clear about this one..while I’ve learned to prefer full feeds, it’s not the full or partial feed that annoys me but if the links are not live in a feed which forces me to click into the blog when I want to quickly scan.
    Tom & Rachel – you guys might well be right…it was my gut feeling that conversion would come from people who knew and trusted the blogger. Would love to see stats on that also.
    As Steve & Bruce suggested, RSS is still a young channel; perhaps someone will develop a way to read/view comments and trackbacks, and allow more active engagement in the blog experience. Until then if people are reading you in an RSS feed my question still stands … how do you build community, make $ or engage readers in other conversions?

  • I think that people who take the time to add your site to their RSS rolls are more likely to develop into loyal readers, and as such they are more likely to want to click through and comment or read other people’s comments.

  • Toby, thanks for the clarification. Since I’m only running a partial feed, most of my post links wouldn’t be in the feed anyway.

    I understand your frustration but as someone who wants to be more than a hobbyist, I just feel it’s the best thing to do, given that I already find my feed’s content on a variety of sites. And this really is the early phase of xml feeds.

    The bottom line for me is that people have to come to my blog to participate.

    One thing I do that might help people like you is write headlines that give a clear indication of what the post contains rather than a cutesy title that doesn’t really communicate contents. That way you realize if there are multiple topics or just one big topic and you’ll have a better idea of whether or not it’s worth coming to the site.

    This is a good topic for discussion cause it reminds me to re-evaluate what I’m doing now that I’ve settled in to an approach.

  • Toby #11:

    To answer your question: For me, RSS is a friend. It’s about the “network effect.” I don’t know that we’ll ever make as much money from RSS as the web — it *is* the raw data, after all, with presentation stripped out — but RSS is powerful for building lasting, “sticky” relationships.

    With loyal readers come inbound links, buzz (I hate that word), credibility, and the link. And with every loyal reader comes 10 random Googlers who you can make money off w/ ads.

    That’s the way I look at things. I don’t want to make money off loyal readers (RSS), I want to make money off random people (Googlers to my website).

  • I don’t agree with you even 1%. RSS is very very important for any blog or site for that matter. I regularly visit around 15 blogs, but without RSS all those blogs would lose one valuable commentor. Multiply that by around 1000 for a blog like Problogger.

    You see, RSS helps in increasing the reader base of any blog. People have no time. They seriously can’t be expected to visit the sites every second, so RSS comes in and people click it to view. Ofcourse Full-Text Feeds may sound bad but the fact is that people like commenting and they definitely will come in. The pros outweigh the cons by far.

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  • Okay .. guys .. to set the record straight … this is not a slam RSS post. But rather a question – along with some suggestions – can create community, make some $ from ads or conversions if your readers never click thru to your blog? I love the concept of RSS .. I love the people who subscribe via RSS. I think incorporating RSS into traditional websites is the way to go.

    In fact this was the ending of this post -> “What’s the solution? Should we kill off RSS? No way Jose! RSS is a valuable tool. Who wants to remember to click on Favorites on a daily basis?”

    I’m beginning to think 1) I should go back to blog writing school or 2) people only read headlines.

  • Chrono – did you read this post?

    She’s actually posing the question of how to capitalize on feeds, and how to use them in a way that benefits readers, not trying to bring down the horse.

    Definitely not a “definitely stupid” question to ask…

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