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Turbocharge Your Newsletters With RSS

November 22nd, 2008

Does your company send out hard copy or email newsletters to your customers? If done correctly such can be cost-effective ways to retain clients, increase revenue per client and build equity in your customer evangelists.

The inherent benefit to legal and ethical email marketing (i.e. emailing only to subscribers who have opted in and can easily opt out) is the very low cost of publishing and distribution. While response rate numbers can vary based the quality and relevance of your lists and content, on average they’re only 1-2%.

Really Simple Syndication (RSS)

As you’re no doubt painfully aware from a personal perspective, the problem with email marketing is its overuse and the fact that it shares a sometimes blurred line with the scourge of the 21st century‚ąíspam.

Pause for a moment and consider how effective email marketing is when directed to you. Keep in mind I’m not talking about unsolicited emails, but rather emails from those newsletters that at one point you made a conscious decision to subscribe. How many email subscriptions can an individual sign up for before they’re completely inundated with information? Chances are that many people have long ago passed that threshold. I receive many email updates from organizations in which I’m keenly interested, yet rarely do I have the time to devote my undivided attention to read through their contents.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disputing that email and hard copy newsletters are a proven means of marketing. But there is a better way . . . an easy way to turbo charge your emails so they’re much more effective. What I’m referring to is RSS (Really Simple Syndication), a universal data format that broadcasts the content of your newsletter to the world in a very similar fashion to how a radio or television station broadcasts.

With RSS someone can subscribe to your newsletter in the same manner they preset their favorite radio stations in a car or set their favorite TV stations on a remote. The appeal, and the reason for the rapid growth of RSS, is that the end user is in complete control and no unwanted feeds can force themselves onto the user.

For example, my default homepage is iGoogle which I’ve loaded up with subscriptions to RSS feeds from organizations and topics of interest. The three most recent headlines are displayed for each feed and they are updated automatically when a particular publisher posts a new article. Most of these RSS broadcasters send out email updates of the same info too, but by broadcasting in RSS they’re picking up a wider audience at no additional cost.

RSS provides another important benefit that email does not. Because RSS broadcasts to the world your message is no longer restricted to your closed email subscriber list. Keywords in your newsletter can now be picked up by all the major search engines and thus your newsletter can be found by anyone on the Web. So unlike email or hard copy newsletters RSS is a powerful tool for generating new awareness.

The benefits don’t stop there. When you broadcast a newsletter via RSS, typically a new Web page on your site is automatically created. If people find value in what you have to say they can create a backlink to your article. According to Google, backlinks (aka linkbacks) are the single most important factor for search engines in determining the value of your Website. Increased links back to your Website benefit your search engine profile and ultimately increase your Google PageRank and place your site higher on keyword search returns. From our experience, when utilized with quality content, RSS is the most powerful search engine optimization tool available.

The good news is that if you currently publish an email newsletter adding RSS broadcasting capability to it is not a difficult or expensive proposition. How it can be integrated into an email campaign will vary, but in many cases it can be no more effort than simply typing the newsletter at a single portal. For example, on the Web 2.0 sites we develop your newsletter can be entered online and published with a click. Immediately a new dedicated page is created for your newsletter, a nicely formatted email automatically sent to your subscribors, and the content of your newsletter is instantly broadcast and indexed by the major search engines.

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