Why RSS still matters and how to react to the impending demise of Google Reader

Google has been getting bad press about plans to retire its popular Google Reader RSS platform, in operation since 2005. Here’s my personal take and some tips on how to manage without it.

Google ignited a real storm online recently when announcing that it’s popular RSS platform, Google Reader, will be retired in July as part of a major ‘spring clean’ to enable a focus on new projects.

There’s no doubt that the user numbers on RSS  are probably in decline, due in large part to the rise in social networking and sharing sites, apps and technologies. There are so many other ways to access real time news. Yet, there is something so simple and effective about RSS and so powerful about being able to house all your feeds in one place – especially if that place happens also to log you into a range of other services including your blog, website analytics, subscription services, advertising and more.

Inspiration

I first used Google Reader around 2008, and I quickly amassed a list of over 150 site feeds I was interested in. As an agency b2b marketer, keeping on top of a range of disciplines, sectors and companies required an approach where I could quickly and easily find information in a real time way. This situation became more pressing when I started blogging, as I looked for insight and inspiration online. Google Reader is now in the first four websites I fire up every morning – alongwith Yahoo!, Hootsuite and Linkedin.

I add 4-5 new bloggers to my list every month to keep my feed fresh – as it powers my Twitter activity too. RSS is a great way to easily scan through literally hundreds of information resources in one hit.

Being able to export your RSS data and take it elsewhere might be easy but that, to me, isn’t the point. Yes, Google have given people like me four months to find something else, to export our data, and to let our subscribers know that the blog will no longer be available via Google on RSS. It’s still going to put a lot of people out.

Commercial over community?

And for what? So they can spend more time on developing products that deliver greater revenue – like prehistoric advertising products? Or commercialising Google+ perhaps, establishing paid Hangouts? Or maybe it’s about bankrolling the Google Glass concept (note: long scroll to video at bottom of page) and other prototype technologies that have a Minority Report feel to them – and a niche audience and price tag to match?

Sorry Google, you got this one wrong. This decision, even despite 100,000s of protests, is going to inconvenience everyone who uses it (many who don’t even know they do), driving people elsewhere for their news and information. As the leader in “organizing the world’s information in order to “make it universally accessible and useful”, it feels totally at odds with your mission.

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Marketing Metrics 7: News & blogs

Search is the dominant marketing tool of the moment and rightly so. Most of us use search engines daily when it comes to researching something, whether it is a personal purchase like a car, holiday, DVD or insurance, or a business purchase where the Internet can be used to shortlist suppliers, distributors, partners, agents and graduates. Statistics from the recent B2B Marketing Buyosphere survey support this.

One of the more pressing requirements in ensuring your business is indexed in search results relevant to your business lies in how you rank organically. Pay per click advertising (like Google Adwords which is found on the top and right hand side of Google) can still be used to great effect at launch or during key promotional periods.

However, the sustainable and long term approach to search is in operating a search engine optimised site with regularly updated, keyword rich meta data and on page content. And, this boils down to effective use of news and blogs.

Regularly updating your website news page is critical as changing content remains one of the hallmarks of a dynamic and leading web site. Ensuring new news features on an optimised home page regularly checked by the search engine ‘spiders’ remains one of the key ways of improving your organic listing.

And blogs, the one time hobbyist website, have come of age. With an estimate 130 million blogs on the Internet, there are an essential information resource and way of getting your message out. Sites like WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr offer impressive optimisation because of the high traffic passing through them on a daily basis.

Blogs can be used effectively for business and without the need for layers of approval. Business owners and middle managers can use them to talk about the science, technology behind the product to answer customer service issues and produce and distribute FAQs, or to comment on industry developments. As blogs of this nature are personalised and removed to a degree from the corporate entity, any concern about damage is reduced.

When developing content to drive your profile, the most crucial elements in marketing 2.0 remain the right of reply and the ability to share. Metrics can be set up to measure reads, shares, subscriptions, downloads and many other datasets.

Image: smbmarketingguide