If you want to keep your content fresh and topical, but haven’t got the time to write daily, then RSS Feeds can be a great second option. Why might you use them and why might they cause you problems?

Displaying RSS Feeds (Really Simple Syndication) on your website or blog allows you to take the content from another website or blog and display it on your own website. It gives you additional content that you might not otherwise have the time, and maybe not the skill, to put together. However, there are pros and cons.

The problems
I used RSS Feeds on a couple of financial sites a few years ago. My intention was that (as I will discuss in a moment) the feeds would keep the pages fresh and up to date. Good idea, however you are dependent on the quality of the RSS Feed, its speed and its bandwidth. Quite often I would be testing the site only to find the pages weren’t loading as the RSS Feed was struggling to provide data. And this was from a big, well known, provider. So you must choose a good source and keep testing it.

The other problem is that search engines are not stupid and see the duplicate content appearing on your website. Worse still, the RSS Feed will no doubt link to the providing site for full stories, showing exactly where the content is being taken from. So if you think that an RSS Feed will give you search engine benefits, think again.

The benefits
A well chosen RSS Feed can be interesting to your readers. But I repeat – it must be well chosen. A general news feed on a blog about a specific subject or niche is probably not going to see any particular benefits to its readers. What you are hoping to do is to provide some extra information to them whilst they are visiting, for example latest golf scores on a golfing blog.

However, unless you find a particularly good source that your readers can’t easily get at themselves, they are more likely to be going direct, unless you have a very loyal readership.

However, there are exceptions where feeds are very useful. As a reseller of hosting I can take my host’s RSS Feed and display a white label page of the latest status updates. As this does not link to the host’s website, my customers get easy access to the information without knowing the source.

How do you do it?
For many blogs there are simple plugins to use to add the feeds into your side bar. For websites you are likely to have to use PHP or ASP to break down the feed and format it to suit your page.

Either is easily done, with a little care!

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