by Lynn Eriksen
You may have heard about Web Feeds.
They are a great tool that encourages return visits by allowing visitors to easily
keep track of your site updates. Browsers such as Internet
Explorer 7.0, newer versions of FireFox, or Safari allow you and your web site visitors to access them easily. In this article we will explore the following
- What are Web Feeds?
- How do I know if a page has a Web Feed?
- How can I use Web Feeds to promote my web site?
What are Web Feeds?
Web Feeds contain data on recent updates to your web site.
Unlike other web pages, a web feed is not designed to be automatically viewed in
a browser. Rather, a web feed contains data and it takes a special program to
make sense of it. But, as we mentioned above, newer web browsers make it very
easy for visitors view and subscribe to any web feed.
What’s the advantage? Users can get your web site updates at
their convenience and on their terms. We will elaborate more on this later in the article.
How do I know if a page has a Web Feed?
Web Feed Icon
Safari RSS Icon
A visitor with a newer web browser can easily tell if a web
page links to a web feed if the common web feed icon, or 'RSS" icon for Safari, is visible. Here is a list of where the web feed icon appears in
- Internet Explorer 7.0 – The Web Feed icon appears between the
‘home’ icon and the ‘print’ icon on the main tool bar. If the Web Feed icon
lights up orange then a web feed is available for the page. If it is grayed-out
then no web feed for the page exists.
- Fire Fox – If a page has a Web Feed then you will see the orange
‘Web Feed’ icon appear in the far-right of the address bar. If the page does
not have a web feed, the icon will not appear.
- Safari – Similar to FireFox, if a page links to a web feed
then an icon will appear in the in the far-right of the address bar. Unlike
Internet Explorer or FireFox, Safari uses a blue ‘RSS’ icon.
In addition to these icons location in the browser many
pages also contain additional web feed, ‘RSS’ or ‘XML’ icons which visitors can
click to subscribe as well.
When users click on these icons they are taken to a special page to view the web feed, and are usually given an opportunity to subscribe. Once subscribed, the browser will automatically get updates for your web site. The subscriber only needs to be online with their browser.
How can I use Web Feeds to promote my web site?
Web Feeds are the ultimate in Permission Marketing because
they are 1) non-disruptive, and 2) totally manageable by the visitor. Once a
visitor subscribes to a Web Feed you have an interested, qualified visitor that
with a strong interest in coming back. Keeping your web feed fresh and focused
makes their return visit more likely. Here is a list of possible uses for web
- Recent blog posts
- Recent news items
- Podcasting (that is right – a podcast is just a special web
- Picture gallery updates
- Product and service special offers
This list certainly is not exhaustive. The basic principle is
this: if the visitor needs an update on anything you have to offer, a web
feed might be the solution. And, as an extra bonus, web feeds are also indexed by major search engines.
In a follow up article we will explore web feed design and possibilites
in more detail.