Pushing Content via XML, RSS & Site Maps

March 23, 2010
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

Oh dear. I’m still trying to recover from the giggle fit that was last session. Deep breaths, Friends, deep breaths.  Okay.  The Owl City they’re playing in the room is helping. What’s more calming than Owl City? Only naps, that’s what.

Up on stage Lee Odden is moderating speakers Amanda Watlington, Daron Babin, and Brian Ussery.  I’m ready. Are you? Okay then.

Up first is Brian Ussery.

Brian says that XML stands for extensible markup language.  It consist of a set of rules for encoding electronic documents. It’s used online in Ajax, keyhole markup language, Flash, XSLT + HTML = (X)HTML

For Audio/Video Feeds, RSS can be aggregated in a lot of ways. He mentions Apple iTunes. A podcast is individual audio files in conjunction with an RSS feed.  iTunes is RSS 2.0 + some additional tags.

With YouTube RSS Feeds, you can subscribe to the feed and RSS for the actual channel will be created and will bring in the videos so you can see what videos your favorite channel has added.

Advantages of RSS:

  • Freshness
  • Traffic
  • Links
  • Reputation
  • Brand

Disadvantages of RSS

  • Duplicate Content
  • Scrapers
  • Authority Thinning
  • Origin Attribution Issues
  • Fragment Hierarchy

How do the search engines find RSS? There’s a piece of code that goes into the top of your page. That code is what causes your browser to display the RSS icon at the top of your address bar.  You can use Google Reader to put through a user initiated request. If you want to create your own RSS feed, you can use Google’s RSS Tool.

XML – RDFa (Rich Snippets): In order to prefix XML, a namespace must first be defined. Namespaces are often defined by the XMLNS attribute at the beginning of the element. By defining in the code of the page, you can create a rating within the HTML of your page that the engines can extract from the crawl and display in the search results.  It can be used in a number of social applications

  • Foaf
  • hCard
  • Google Social Graph
  • future blog applications


Next up is Amanda Watlington.

Sitemaps are only five years old. They were started as an experiment. The original goal was to discover ‘the hidden Web’. Participation in the program wasn’t meant to shorten the time to index. They allowed sites to alert search engine crawlers to new content.

A Protocol Shared Beyond Google 2006

Sitemaps are an easy way for webmasters to inform search engines about pages on their sites that are available for crawling.

What Can Be Fed?

  • Site URLs
  • Dynamic URLs that are hard to find.
  • URLs heavy  in AJAX or images which are hard for bots to crawl
  • New site URLs or ones with few links
  • Large numbers of archived content pages
  • Static pages

What Can Be Fed?

  • Videos: Video results are a key component of Universal Search. The largest video search property on the Web is search,video.google.com. If you’re not feeding a site map with your video, think about doing it.
  • Mobile Content: URLs that serve content for mobile devices to speed up the discovery and indexing of pages to the mobile index.
  • News: URLs that you want in Google and Yahoo News.
  • Code: Submit where you find source code that you want to share
  • Geospatial Information: For inclusion in Google Maps and Google Earth – kml data.

What Cannot Be Fed

Images! Although all three engines support the protocol, they don’t support it uniformly.

For example:

  • Bing won’t take a text file – only HTML.
  • Yahoo start MRSS and the video site maps.

Don’t mix different types of content together in the same site map. Think of it like you’re feeding a middle schooler. You need to separate it the content so the engines will ‘eat’ it.

Retailer: Don’t It All And No Love Yet: A site created a new, very large site with lots of SKUs and lots of URLs. They created and submitted site maps, setting all priorities to “daily change” and “1” high priority in hopes of getting faster action. They’ve had lots of visits but there’s limited indexing and slow growth. What do they do?  They need to split it up and create smaller categories for crawling.

Content Reorganization Underway: A large site where business changes result in content reorganization. Many pages are being shifted and the content is mapped so 301s can redirect the link love. Is there a way to ease the move? Yes, give the search engines a map and file your change of address forms.

She does not recommend using site maps as a blunt instrument where you put out thousands of URLs at a time.  If you do it judiciously, site maps can be a remarkably helpful friends.

lee asks if there’s a situation where you absolutely should NOT use a site map. Amanda says she hasn’t found an instance where she thinks you shouldn’t use a site map. She thinks its always a good idea to use them strategically.   Good to know!

Next up is Daron Babin.

What’s the real deal with RSS?  RSS is something that can be used by just about any Web site of any size and it’s being done on a daily basis.

Traditional Uses:

  • Blog content syndication
  • Forums: headlines from threaded discussions
  • Press release distribution: PR Web syndicates content using Atom, RDF, RSS 0.91 and RSS 2.0
  • Article syndication

Non-Traditional Uses

  • Restaurants: Getting an update on what’s going on with the menu or the specials at your favorite restaurant.  Or maybe a restaurant news source that would push out content to restaurateurs.
  • Real estate: Lets you follow updates for available New York properties.
  • Schools: Set up alerts for snow days, etc.
  • US Government: USA.gov categorizes all of their feeds. They have a Defense feed.
  • Web-based Media Outlets:  Like Webmasterradio.

Tips for Growing Subscribers

  • Make sure you display your RSS icon above the fold.
  • If you’re running a blog, display your icon run of site
  • Educate your users and ask them to subscribe
  • Need Plug-In help? FeedSmith will help.
  • Keep the feed active.
  • Make it easy to subscribe to the most popular feed readers
  • Create a series with your content so people will want to subscribe
  • Use testimonials on your subscription form.
  • Leverage your social network reach to promote your RSS feeds.
  • Create a landing page for your feeds.
  • Test a variety of RSS subscription icons
  • Offer a full feed as opposed to a partial feed.
  • Use a feed count button
  • Promote your feed and spread the love

And we are out of here.  One more session to go in Day 1. Stay with me, folks!

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