Q: Could you discuss the use of RSS feeds within affiliate marketing? How are merchants applying this technology for their affiliate programs? And how are affiliates using RSS to generate commissions and traffic? It seems everyone is really excited about RSS but no one has quite found a use for it outside of the blog world.
A: There are a handful of merchants using RSS feeds with their affiliates right now – I’ve been compiling any that come across my radar in the affiliate marketing blog area of DMOZ.
About a year ago, I noticed Chris Sanderson discussing the use of RSS feeds in the programs his company manages. Since then, he’s rolled out feeds for a number of affiliate programs. As far as I can see, he’s been a leader in this area.
One basic use of the feeds for merchants is to use them as an extra touchpoint with affiliates – one that enables them to communicate with affiliates in ways that were not previously available.
For instance, merchants can use FeedBurner to syndicate the RSS feeds of their blogs and deliver their feeds to the My Yahoo accounts of their affiliates.
This sort of reach is great, because it’s getting increasingly difficult to reach affiliates, due to over zealous spam filters, spam itself, and other factors.
There are some neat tools like News Gator that enable the end user to receive the RSS feeds into Outlook – just like email, but not hindered by the spam filters.
Anyhow, in addition to enabling merchants to communicate in a new way, RSS feeds enable them to provide real time announcements about special bonuses, time sensitive offers, new coupons, tips, updates, top ten product lists, etc. Sometimes email systems hold email from merchants to affiliates in a queue for days.
In addition to reaching affiliates in their My Yahoo accounts or in Outlook via News Gator, there are many RSS Readers that affiliates can download and install for free. A search on Google for RSS Reader will turn up lots of options.
As far as affiliates leveraging RSS to make money and traffic, there are plenty of opportunities out there. One prime example of the synergy of RSS and affiliates is an option offered by FeedBurner.
FeedBurner enables people to integrate Amazon affiliate links into their feeds. FeedBurner then leverages the latest release of Amazon Web Services to match the posts to relevant Amazon content for that store, and FeedBurner transforms that link and content from Amazon Web Services into a simple linked GIF tied to the feed item.
I expect to see more of this sort of integration from FeedBurner, since I think it’s a great idea, and I also noticed that FeedBurner will be involved with the upcoming eComXpo, an online tradeshow for affiliate marketers.
Another way for affiliates to drive traffic and earn commissions on affiliate links is to write content (with relevant keywords hyperlinked to affiliate links) and submit this content to sites like Article Agents.
Simply submit your article(s) to Article Agents, with your affiliate program links (text links only) in place, and they will review and publish the article in their database for free. You keep the all of the commission you earn through these articles.
The way that Article Agents makes out in this relationship is that they run Google AdSense ads with your articles.
As far as affiliates getting more traffic from RSS feeds, it’s really a matter of churning out original, compelling content. The more often you post to a blog, naturally the more content is going to be there, and the more opportunities for you to be listed in search engines.
Plus, there are lots of blog and RSS search engines, and you can “ping” them (notify them that you’ve published new content) each time you post. This will help to syndicate your RSS feeds.
I expect that many more options will be coming along to tie affiliate marketing and RSS feeds together in the near future, and this will be one of the topics on the agenda at the upcoming Affiliate Summit 2005 conference on June 13-14 in Las Vegas.