In some ways RSS is very similar to HTML, the language commonly used to create websites. Just as with HTML, webmasters using traditional search engine optimization tactics when creating an RSS feed will find that their RSS feed receives additional exposure and interest.
Simple steps to optimize an RSS feed for search engines:
1.) The title should contain important search terms.
To state the obvious, the title should be relevant and not misleading, while still emphasizing keywords. Ultimately, the title should entice the reader to read on, not mislead them.
2.) Display RSS feeds.
Most webmasters display their feeds as content on their website. When displaying a feed be sure to use PHP, ASP or HTML so that search engines will spider the contents of the feed displayed. If using a template to display feeds, use header tags to define the appearance of the Channel Title and Item Titles. Many search engines weight header tags with more importance. See Displaying RSS Feeds for additional information - http://www.small-business-software.net/display-rss.htm
3.) Internal & external Links.
Within a feed you should always use the full path of any links, keeping in mind that other sites may syndicate the contents of the RSS feed. Links that are not local to the site should launch a new browser. While this is not specific to search engines it will help keep visitors on your site.
4.) Link text should emphasize keywords.
It is no longer a deep, dark secret that the text used for incoming links will help a site contextually define the keywords that the site appears for in the search engines. Keeping that in mind, be sure to use keywords in any link text that points back to your website.
5.) My.Yahoo and My.MSN.
This is surprisingly simple to do but often overlooked by publishers and webmasters. The fastest way to have an RSS feed spidered by Yahoo or MSN is to include the feed on a personal my.yahoo or my.msn home page. Simply create an account on the respective search engines and customize the home page to include your RSS feed. This is done by adding content and listing the URL to the RSS feed. Typically, within 24-48 hours the feed's contents will be spidered and indexed by Yahoo and MSN.
6.) Theme feeds.
Feeds should be themed. This will help with themed links back to a publisher's website from anyone syndicating the feed's content.
7. ) Link popularity.
Increase link popularity by submitting the RSS feed, blog or podcast to the appropriate directories. The following directories allow submissions of specific kinds of RSS feeds. Be sure to follow the guidelines of each site and choose categories wisely.
RSS feed descriptions are generally summaries or introductions to other content. Often, feed creators will provide additional information on an HTML site, enticing the reader to click through for the full information if it is a topic that is of interest to them. Provide enough teaser copy that the reader can easily discern if the contents are something that is important to them.
9.) Subscribe to feeds.
This might seem obvious, but a surprisingly large number of publishers do not subscribe to their own feed. This is a great way to visualize what your customers see, and experiment with formatting and integrating HTML into feeds.
10.) Image ads.
Add your corporate logo to your RSS feed. Create a brand and enforce that brand by including the image in the RSS feed. The image will enhance your corporate identity and dress up the look of your feed by adding your corporate logo.
11.) Alphabetical rank.
Many feed readers list feeds alphabetically in the reader. Feed channels that begin with A will naturally appear in the top of the feed list in most feed readers. If you wish to appear in the top of list of feeds that a reader has subscribed to, keep this tip in mind.
12.) Meaningful Links
Each item in your feed should contain a unique URL associated with it. This will direct users to associated information. Many find using target URLs with the "#" symbol in the link to identify specific content useful.
Most marketers have a love-hate relationship with search engines. Search engines have the abilitiy to make even the most confident webmaster feel powerless . Let's face it - all of us have felt the wrath of the search engine powers-that-be at one time or another, and while it may be difficult to know what line was crossed or how we fell out of favor, following some basic guidelines will be helpful in optomizing feeds for search engines.
About The Author
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll http://www.feedforall.com software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing for NotePage http://www.notepage.net a wireless text messaging software company.