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February 25, 2008

Proper Use of RSS Feeds and Promotion of Your Blog

Unquestionably, the popularity of blogging has fueled the expansion of RSS feeds. According to Technorati, about one-third of blogs have RSS feeds. Some people who maintain blogs are publishing an RSS feed without even knowing about it, because some of the blog Web sites automatically create feeds.

In this article, I give a quick overview of blogging and how to use RSS with your blog to gain more readers. If you want to start a blog, i explain where to go next. If you already have a blog, I explain how you can create an RSS feed and use it to publicize your blog.

Bloggers Unite

Blogging has become a movement. Blogs have become influential, and even the mainstream media are taking notice. Web sites have been around for a long time. How did a few daily entries balloon into millions (yes, millions) of blogs and an entire industry?

The early days of the World Wide Web contained lots of personal sites and free information, as people discovered they could post anything they wanted. Still, the great expansion of the Internet was driven by commercial uses.

However, people never forgot those earlier days of personal interests, and they still had more to say. People discovered that they could publish, meaning that they could create a site whose main purpose was to provide updates on anything — current events, social mores, technical advances, and so on — including their opinions on these topics. It was the opinions — well-researched, smartly written, and often funny — that hooked people on reading blogs.

Tip: For lots more on blogging see Ten Simple Tips for Successful Blogging.

Creating a Blog

If you want to create a blog, you need to decide which type of service or technology you want to use. Your choice of blogging tools is an important decision — after all; you’ll probably use that tool almost every day.

The easiest way to start a blog is to use a Web-based service. You don’t need your own Web site, because the Web service hosts your blog for you. You just enter your content into a Web form in your browser and click a button to post your blog.

If you want to run your own Web server, you can. Several blogging programs work on a server. The disadvantage is that you need more technical skills. The advantage is that you have more control over your blog. Also, you don’t have to worry about your blogging service going under or its servers crashing.

Getting started

Obviously, once you have chosen a blogging tool, you’ll be eager to start writing. Perhaps you already know what you want to say — in fact, maybe fully developed ideas are practically exploding out of your head. But for most people it’s a good idea to think a bit about how their blog will develop:

  • Decide on your blog’s purpose. You may want to write a mission statement that describes what you are trying to accomplish and why. Include your expected audience.
  • What kind of content will you include? Do you just want to create a diary-type blog and write off the top of your head? Will you need a source of inspiration?
  • What is the focus and format of that content? Will you focus on one topic or let yourself write about anything that interests you? Will people read your blog because you’re an interesting person, because you write well, or because they’re already interested in a topic that you’re covering?
  • Consider your schedule. How much time will it take you to write a regular blog entry? How much time do you have every day to blog?

Tip: If you’re considering a blog for your business, and you’re already spending lots of time communicating your thoughts via e-mail, blogging probably won’t take you any more time.

Creating a Blog with Your HTML Editor

If you already have a Web site and maintain it, and you don’t need fancy bells and whistles, you may not need a blogging tool at all. For example, perhaps you don’t want to allow comments or responses — this requires some sophisticated programming, which the blogging services offer but which you may not be able to do easily on your own. If you don’t need this kind of feature, you may choose to create a blog on your own.

After all, what is a blog? It’s just some text on a Web page, listed by date. If all you want to do is create a daily entry, you can create one in the same way you create any other Web content.

Maintaining Your Blog

After you’ve created and posted a few blog entries, you’ll establish a routine of maintaining your blog every day or so. The most popular bloggers put aside a few hours each day, usually at the same time, to blog.

Getting input for your blog

Although many people write entries based on blogs or news stories that they’ve read, don’t forget that you should add something meaningful to other peoples’ content. Work on developing your own voice and your own point of view.

Remember: When you mention an outside source, provide not only a link but also a mention of the author and title. In other words, be generous about giving credit to your sources.

Maintaining your blog is more than just posting. If you allow people to add comments, you should comment on some of those postings.

Adding ads

Here’s another consideration for maintaining your blog — do you want to make some money from it? If your blogging service is not free, you may want to at least make up some of the cost of using it.

The main way to make money is to place ads on your blog. If you create your blog on your own Web site, you can use Google Adsense. You get paid a small amount for each time someone goes to your site and clicks one of the ads. Because the ads are appropriate for your site’s content, people are likely to click the ads.

A similar option is Blogads. Advertisers sign up and choose the blogs they want to advertise on. You can sign up to be listed as one of those sites.

On the other hand, it’s perfectly all right to keep your blog ad-free. In spite of the commerciality of the Internet, a strong culture also exists for keeping information and opinion noncommercial. If you’re blogging because you love it, why bother with ads?

Finding other ways to make money

You can ask for donations. Some bloggers use Amazon’s Honor System program, which allows site visitors to donate to your site.

If it’s appropriate for your blog’s topic, you can become an Amazon associate and recommend books that relate to your blog. If readers buy the books, you get a small percentage. Many readers will appreciate your recommendations for further reading and won’t think of these links as advertising.

Publicizing Your Blog with RSS

If you feel that no one is reading your blog, it can be disheartening. But you can’t just sit back and wait for the masses to come to you; you need to let people know about your blog. Just having an RSS feed doesn’t guarantee that people will subscribe. And most people still read blogs by going to the blog’s Web site.

The first step is simply to let people know about your blog. Tell them the URL of the blog and of your RSS feed. Send an e-mail to all your friends and colleagues. Put the URL on your business card. Explain to them the advantages of subscribing to your feed.

If you used a hosted blog service, such as Blogger or LiveJournal, remember that they only list your blog on their sites. Therefore, you need to go out and make your blog and its RSS feed visible elsewhere on the Web.

If you can find other blogs on similar subjects that accept comments, feel free to make constructive comments and include a link to your own blog. Perhaps you can write some articles for online or offline publications and mention your blog in them.

Quite a few sites function as directories just for blogs, regardless of whether they have RSS feeds. People come to these sites to search for blogs on topics that interest them. You can list your blog on some of these sites to help people find you.

Use a combination of blog directories and RSS directories to publicize your blog. Keep your blog interesting, relevant, updated, and useful, and people will come knocking at your door.

Do you have a favorite method for promoting your blog or RSS feed? Leave a comment and share with the rest of us. Who knows it may help you gain another reader

And finally, be sure to check back soon, when we will be releasing a similar article named “how to promote your RSS Feed” Be sure not to miss it by Subscribing to my feed.

Author:  Andy MacDonald, CEO of Swift Media UK, a website design & search marketing company. For daily tips on Blogging, Marketing, SEO & Making Money Online, Checkout our SEO & Marketing Tips for Webmasters blog or Subscribe by RSS.