Does your website provide an RSS news feed?

Do you know what RSS is?

Do you care?

If up until now you haven’t taken any interest in RSS very soon you won’t have a choice. The imminent arrival of Internet Explorer 7 could well change the way information is found, distributed and read.

IE7 will make it easier than ever before to promote your news feed to visitors, and subscribing will be as simple as adding a new bookmark. IE7 will push RSS from the domain of just the web savvy and into the mainstream. Hold tight because there is about to be an RSS explosion and your business better be ready for it.

Few people will buy your product or service the first time they visit your site. If you have an RSS feed then you have the opportunity to build trust and confidence over time (see my earlier posts on RSS and blogging for more info on how you can use RSS to market your business).

The use of RSS is set to explode in usage and become as important a content delivery vehicle as email. The hurdles of having to understand how RSS works and knowing what a news aggregator is are due to be vaulted in one giant leap.

IE7 is now in its third stage of beta testing with the official version to go live before the end of the year. As well as closing various security holes and a new lick of paint, the new web browser will feature an RSS button bolted into its toolbar. Megan Kidd, Microsoft Windows Product Manager, hailed, “We believe that RSS is key to how people will be using the Internet in the future.”

The new IE7’s RSS button will light up to visually show if a site provides a news feed. It is then simply a case of clicking on the button and subscribing. This could replace bookmarks as the way people log sites of interest.

With full RSS support in the new Outlook and Windows Vista, your feeds will soon be delivered straight to your desktop. Why waste time checking through all your bookmarks when you can receive updates automatically?

So what does this mean to your business?

The imminent spread of RSS could change the way in which the Internet is used for information. People will increasingly rely on their RSS feeds to gain the latest industry and product news. You don’t waste time walking to the newsagent when you can have your newspaper delivered straight to your door.

The importance of regularly updated content will go beyond being merely part of an ‘organic’ SEO strategy. Web users will be subscribing to news feeds in far greater numbers, and this will determine which sites gain the most attention. It will be the businesses providing the latest news and articles who will prosper in the new content driven online world.

As RSS achieves mass market penetration you could even see it start to replace email. With inboxes being clogged up with spam and messages blocked by overzealous junk filters, RSS offers a new vehicle for contacting subscribers.

The mass delivery of content such as newsletters, product updates and industry news could all be handled by RSS. That way it is guaranteed to reach subscribers and is far more likely to be read.

If you are serious about marketing online and developing relationships with potential customers you need to start forming your RSS strategy. IE7 will be out before the end of the year. By that point you will want to ensure that the RSS button lights up whenever people land on your site.

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