I spend days talking about search engine optimization, search engine marketing, on-page and off-page optimization and PPC campaigns and I totally forget, after a while that there are some items which I take for granted, are actually quite new to some folks.
So this time round I am going to start from the ground up and tackle RSS as something new (which it isn’t).
Like most good ideas RSS (which stands for Real Simple Syndication) has a history of being developed, abandoned, picked up, refined and then made to work. In the online world of search engine optimization and web functionality development this is the equivalent of boy finds girl, boy drops girl to go off and join the circus, new boy comes along, finds girl, kiss and live happily ever after.
I know you find it hard to believe that the hi-tech world works in just that crass simple way but look at the history: RSS was first developed in a prototype kind of form back in 1997 when Resource Description Framework (RDF) was first put together. RDF was a mark up metalanguage used to give information about information. For example if there is an article or a news report, the metadata would be the author, the language, the copyright and all of the information related to the article or news report. In 1999 Netscape created a standard named RSS version 0.90. This was the beginning of RSS as we know it today. Dan Libby, an employee of Netscape improved version 0.90 and released RSS version 0.91. Dave Winer, an employee at Userland also created a new version of RSS. He too named it, RSS version 0.91, creating confusion, because the two versions of RSS were named the same but the specifications were slightly different. Unfortunately this was the beginning of a trend which would prove the idea’s undoing.
Netscape’s RSS team kept on developing and refining. They had RSS 0.90 then they brought out RSS 1.0, RSS 1.0 was too different from the previous version and the syntax of the metalanguage was not compatible with RSS 0.90 so there were problems and then they decided that what they were trying to achieve was simpler than the metalanguage actually allowed it to be so they dropped everything, washed their hands and went off to have a cup of coffee.
The next boy to come along and pick up RSS was actually a man working for Userland and he was called Dave Winer. He picked the ball up and ran with it helping develop RSS 2.0 (the current best version of RSS and the one our site uses at the bottom of the Homepage). Whereas RSS 1.0 had nothing in common with RSS 0.90 (except perhaps the purpose) and had caused a lot of market confusion with its syntax and formatting, RSS 2.0 provided a continuous, elegant development of a metalanguage that ran naturally from RSS 0.90 and was compatible with it.
Winer was smart enough to realize that if he wanted the RSS standard to be adopted by the web community he had to divorce it from Userland’s commercial activities so he gave it away for free to Harvard Law School making the responsible for the standard’s further development.
The result was an enthusiastic uptake by just about every content-driven website on the net. With the RSS history lesson over the question now is does it help your website’s SEO standing in the search engine charts and how?
In terms of how your website and its content is perceived by search engines when you have an RSS feed going for you the answer is that the SEO effect is zippo! Nil! Nichego! An RSS Feed is firmly search engine marketing which means you use it to market your website to search engines in order to attract more traffic, appear on more sites and generate more of everything that has to do with site visitors.
The reason an RSS feed is invaluable is because, unlike a Blog it has the power to promote practically every aspect of your website from news alerts, latest specials, clearance items and upcoming events to top 10 best sellers. An RSS Feed can then be added to a number of other sites (without your knowledge) leading to both extra traffic and more hits, it can be subscribed to by just about any visitor to your site (through a simple copy and drop of the RSS URL in their RSS Reader).
The beauty of an RSS Feed is that those interested in your site’s content do not need to visit the site in order to be informed that its content has changed and, RSS Feed Aggregators, like Technorati, have the ability to promote your site to many thousands of potential readers who would not, normally have found it on their own.