If You Want Your Content Republished, Have a Republishable RSS Feed

If you have a blog or other content source, 1/3 of the functionality is its ability to handle RSS feeds (syndicated news feeds). RSS is a vital part of the blog ecosystem, and if you are neglecting it, you are giving up 30-50% of the return on investment you should be expecting from your blog. Isn’t RSS automatic? Well, yes and no.

Most blogs have some kind of RSS publishing capability (an RSS feed is part of what makes a blog a blog), and most have it turned on by default, the problem is that most blogging software have horrible defaults settings that result in your RSS feed being useless to everyone other than desktop news tickers.

When you neglect your RSS feed:

  • You minimize the search engine optimization effect. You aren’t getting backlinks from people republishing your article, and therefore, aren’t getting any link juice.
  • You diminish your site’s ability to harvest traffic from social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and niche sites on Ning and Groupsites.
  • People may be stealing your articles without sending traffic back to your site or crediting the author.

If you want your content republished, have an RSS feed.

So what does “republishable” mean?

  1. The full article text is included. If you have a WordPress or Typepad blog, chances are you are set for the summary feed which gives exactly 200 characters of each article, which is good for exactly nothing. Go to Settings… reading and change your feed from summary to full article.
  2. Links and picture sources are fully qualified. That means all links and images point to to “http://yoursite.com/super-cool-content.whatever” and not to “/super-cool-content.whatever.” It also means that when your article is republished, the links work. If your site runs Joomla, you’ll have to have someone who is comfortable with PHP make a change to the code that generates your site’s RSS Feed.
  3. An about the author block is included. This way, you will always be credited. Don’t do a lot of crazy styling – just keep it simple as many RSS aggregators (the software that grabs your feed and includes it in another website) strip most formatting out, leaving links, and basic HTML intact (stuff like the bold and italics tags). Include your name, a one line description of the author, and it is a good idea to provide a link to your blog, and even your LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook page.
  4. A copyright statement is included, if needed.
  5. Turn photos off in your feeds. Photos sized and selected for your blog are often not edited correctly for other people’s websites. If you use Typepad, you’ll have to make a settings change.
  6. Make sure your logo is set. Some sites will publish your logo next to or above your site’s headlines. Joomla site owners, chances are right now your logo is the Joomla logo.
  7. You have a clear set of rules on your site that tell others how they can use your content. A lot of blogs use Creative Commons licenses that make it a snap for people to understand your intent and their legal obligations.

Why Writers Need a Dedicated Website or Blog

Writers are some of the worst self-promoters I know.

“I’m a writer, not a marketer” is the familiar lament.

Writers suffer from the all-too-familiar “if you build it they will come” syndrome. If I write something, publishers should leap out of their chair, shouting that their lifelong search is over, and take the private jet to my house and sign me to a huge book deal. Problem is, it just doesn’t work that way.nude woman with write or be written off

Show me a writer who’s not a marketer, and I’ll show you a failed writer.

Fellow humor writer Bruce “8 Simple Rules” Cameron (yeah, those 8 Simple Rules) recently said in an email, “So, despite the fact that nobody can prove to me that a writer needs a dedicated web site, I re-designed and re-launched my writer website last month.”

There are any number of reasons why writers need their own website. First and foremost, it’s a marketing tool. You build awareness with your website, you give this increasingly-online world a place to find you. Before it was easy to build a website, Bruce built an email subscription list of 40,000 people in 52 countries in the late 1990s. That was his marketing tool, and one he used to great effect, but it wasn’t easy to find or join.

Secondly, it’s a publishing tool. If you’re just starting out as a writer, there’s no better way to start publishing and finding readers. Set up a blog, write stuff, and gather readers. Then, keep writing stuff and gathering more readers. Eventually, your writing will be seen by influential people, and you’ll find newer and bigger opportunities.

So to answer Bruce’s question, and in keeping with his writings, I give you…

8 Simple Rules Why Writers Need Their Own Dedicated Website:

  1. Readers and editors can find you.
  2. Your readers become big fans. Big fans tell their friends, who also become big fans. Big fans buy your books, that you were asked to write by the editors.
  3. You hotlink to your book on Amazon, and drive your big fans to it so you can sell your book. Your big fans buy your book from your Amazon affiliate link so you make a couple bucks more with each sale.
  4. People who pay speakers a few thousand bucks to speak at corporate gigs can find you.
  5. People who see you speak at their national corporate event become big fans.
  6. You remember what big fans do, right?
  7. You need a place to tell people to go when you’re on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.
  8. What do you mean, you’re a writer, not a social media geek?

You don’t need a dedicated website that cost $5,000 though. Maybe if you want some funky graphics or an ecommerce site, you can spend that much. (I can even put you in touch with the people who can help you.)

Instead you can just get by with a simple WordPress.com or Blogger.com website. Or if you want to get really complex, lease some server space, download WordPress.org to it, and you can have your own look and design, and even add your own plugins. (Our Pro Blog site is made with WordPress.org.)

The great thing about WordPress and Blogger is that they all allow you to add pages. You don’t have to deal with the typical blog look of only having one page. Not only will you have your blog page, you can create additional pages for your bio, contact information, videos of you doing book readings, and useful links.

While you don’t have to sell your soul and become a dedicated marketer, it won’t hurt to start thinking that way. (We’ll give you a good price for it.) If you still don’t want to, don’t worry. There are still thousands of writers — many of whom are worse than you — who are out promoting and marketing themselves online, being found by editors, and having important meetings about special projects. But you can console yourself with the thought that you didn’t resort to marketing (eww!) to promote your work.

You’ll need to when you see their books in the bookstore.

Photo credit: Djuliet (Flickr)