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Using feeds to increase your sites content

There are many ways to increase content on your site, from manually creating it to purchasing software which will auto generate it for you.

While I highly recommend you stay away from anything which is automatically generated I also understand that many people donít feel comfortable writing.

Therefore, in this article I look at another way to make your site appear as if its changing.  That is, incorporating feeds into your site to improve return visits and build your brand.

Feeds have been growing in popularity for some time.  In fact, there are people who measure such popularity.

While feeds are not the sole property of blogs, we can gauge how popular feeds are simply by looking at the ďstate of the blogosphere.Ē

According to Technorati, the blogosphere is doubling every 5 months or so.  That means that 5 months from now there will be twice as many blogs (and feeds) as there are now.

In many cases, the only way to access that content, aside from regularly visiting a site, is through their feeds.

But thatís not the only use for feeds.  Many services have sprung up which allow you to search and aggregate those feeds.  Services such as Feedster and even Google News allow you to search for phrases and output an RSS feed which could then be imported into a feed reader.

In other words, if you wanted to get the most recent news about Google from Google News you could search for ďTextlinkbrokersĒ in Google News and then copy the RSS feed URL into your favorite news reader.

Now I know what youíre thinking:  ďWell thatís great news, but how does that help with my site?Ē

Well now that you know how to auto generate feeds for virtually any topic you want, you can then import the feeds into your site using various methods.

Inserting Feeds into your site

Obviously you canít just link to the feed, or paste the XML output into your pages.  It wouldnít be readable.  What you need is some tool to convert the feed into something that is readable.  And there are many out there to do just that.

So letís look at the easiest Ė a Javascript from a hosted service like FeedRoll.

Using a service like FeedRoll you can input the URL of the feed you want, make some basic style changes and it will provide you with a Javascript you can then install on your site pages that will display the feed within your page content.  One problem I have with FeedRoll is that you are limited to the list of feeds they provide.  There was a time when you could use any feed URL but theyíve since changed it. 

The only other way to use FeedRoll with your own feed is to buy their software package which will allow you to export the feed into HTML code that you can paste on your site.

However, if the feed you do like is in the list, then you could simply make the style changes you want, copy the Javascript code onto your page(s) and you are done.  Once youíve saved the page, load it in your browser and voila Ė you have regularly updating news headlines on the page.

But what if you want something a little more sophisticated?

Well there are options here as well including ASP and PHP based code which can take a live feed and format it on the fly.

Therefore, if you have a dynamic site and donít mind monkeying around in the code this may be the solution for you.

Using PHP to display feeds

The benefit of using PHP to display RSS is that the contents of the feed displayed on the page can be spidered and indexed by search engines.  That means links can be followed.  That also means that if you have your own feed, you can place it on your home page (for example) to offer crawlers quick and easy access to your latest new content.

One of my favorite PHP based converters is called CaRP. There are both free and commercial versions which allow you to not only display the feed as HTML but also customize it any way you want with style formatting and even images displayed in feeds (much like you see on Google News now).

It can be a little tricky to set up at first as it isnít strictly PHP but once you start playing around with the values you begin to realize just how flexible it is.

I know I use it on a personal site to display no only latest industry news but also my most recent blog posts and forum entries.  This way crawlers can get into that new content quickly through direct links on the home page.

Using ASP to display feeds

Just like the PHP example above there is also an ASP script which will take an RSS feed and output it as static HTML.

My favorite is this feed converter which also allows you some leeway in outputting the feed the way you see fit.

If you are comfortable with ASP you will see how easy it is to manipulate the script to suit you.  Even if you arenít an ASP guru youíll find the script fairly easy to implement with commented prompts throughout the script telling you how to make it work.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many ways to display feeds on sites Ė from hosted services to scripts embedded in ASP or PHP.  Really the only thing limiting you is your ability and imagination.

I can tell you from experience that Iíve used all the above versions and Iím happy with each of them.

Also, because they will take any feed, your options for what you want to show are also only limited by your ability and imagination.

For example, I use the ASP one on an ASP site to display recent news from Google News.  I have pages set up that pull Google news into a Google page, Yahoo! News into a Yahoo! Page and so on.

With the PHP (CaRP) script, I have the most recent blog posts and forum entries displayed on the home page of my site to help crawlers find the new content quickly.

With clients who have limited abilities or technical support Iíve implemented hosted versions as they are much easier to do.

So my recommendation to you is try them out and find the one that best suits you.  If you donít like the ones Iíve suggested here a simple search on your favorite search engine should return you lots of different options.

Rob Sullivan is a SEO Consultant and Writer for Textlinkbrokers.com

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