Self-Syndication with RSS
by Wendy J. Woudstra
WHAT IS RSS?
RSS is an XML-based format first developed by Netscape to drive channels for Netscape Netcenter. It is extremely easy to learn, and is currently used by such well-known sites as Forbes, Motley Fool, Wired News, and Salon.com as a means of circulating headlines and links to stories on their sites.
WHAT GOOD IS IT TO ME?
Well, if your Web site hasn't changed since 1996, RSS probably isn't for you. However, if you frequently add articles and information, news and press releases to your pages, RSS could be a great vehicle to drive more traffic to your site.
Using RSS, all you need to do is change one file, and all the external sites you've registered with will automatically reflect those changes. You don't have to worry about how long it will take, or whether you'll be penalized for spamming - it's all automated, and people actually want to read your news. I only wish submitting to search engines was this easy!
So, are you sold on the idea yet? If so, lets get a move on and build your RSS file. Don't worry, it's not as hard as it sounds.
Got all that? Great! Then we're ready to begin.
First, at the top of your text document, you need to tell the programs reading the file what it is. (Just copy and paste the whole thing into your file):
<?xml version="1.0"?> <!DOCTYPE rss PUBLIC "-//Netscape Communications//DTD RSS 0.91//EN" "http://my.netscape.com/publish/formats/rss-0.91.dtd"> <rss version="0.91">
Right underneath that, you can start building your channel:
<channel> <title>PublishingCentral.com</title> <link>http://publishingcentral.com/</link> <description>Keeping tabs on the book biz!</description> <language>en-us</language>
So, now you've indicated with the channel tag that you're beginning a new channel. The title tag gives it a name, the link should direct users to your home page. (Note that you don't use any HTML mark-up.) Finally, the language tag indicates that you're writing in US English.
Congratulations, you've just built the channel header. The rest isn't that much different. You need to add an entry for each item you want listed in your channel. The format is almost exactly the same as you used above, except that you surround the title, link and description tags with an item tag:
<item> <title>Selling Books Through Interviews</title> <link>http://www.publishingcentral.com/articles/20030714-17-f709.html</link> <description>William A. Gordon and Stephen Schochet share some of the lessons they have learned about selling books, CDs and audiotapes through radio interviews.</description> </item> <item> <title> How To Write and Publish your own eBook in as little as 7 days</title> <link>http://www.publishingcentral.com/articles/20030612-92-4fb8.html</link> <description>Jim Edwards and Joe Vitale, who have both created extraordinarily successful ebooks, combine their knowledge in this surprisingly professional 200+ page ebook.</description> </item> <item> <title>Children's Book Publishers </title> <link>http://www.publishingcentral.com/subject.html?sid=86</link> </item>
You can add as many of these as you want, really, but some services won't accept your file if it has more than 15 items, so it is best to keep it down to 15. You can have headlines with and without descriptions in the same file.
If you are linking to a URL that uses an ampersand, you'll need to use the HTML encoded version instead of the regular character (&). The same goes for quotation marks, which need to be marked up as "
Finally, once you've added all your items, you need to close off the channel and the RSS file:
And that's it! You've just made a Rich Site Summary for your site.
Save your file and name it with an .rss extension, then upload it to a Web server. Once that's done, you're ready to spread the word!
VALIDATE YOUR FILE
Before you begin submitting your XML file to various aggregators, you should validate it to ensure that you haven't made any errors. UserLand.com offers a free RSS validator here.
Here are a few of the most popular RSS aggregators to get you started. Submit your feed, and update frequently for best results!