RSS/Atom feeds have become synonymous with Blogs; every major Blog software and service includes feeds by default. WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, Joomla, Drupal, Tumblr and so on all have feed capabilities as a standard offering. Feeds were originally created to ‘push’ content to subscribers i.e. a person would choose to receive updates from a Website and would receive those updates without having to visit the website itself. Feeds have evolved into an important part of Search Engine Optimization:
Feed Subscribers influence SERPs
Google uses feed subscriber numbers as part of its ranking algorithm! People only tend to subscribe to feeds that they really want to read rather than those in which they are only occasionally interested in the content (It doesn’t take long to become overwhelmed if subscribing to many feeds). The number of feed subscribers therefore is an indication of the Website content being appealing to people. Google (and possibly the other major Search Engines) take into account the number of subscribers as a quality factor in the Blog SERPs. Google spent $100 million in 2007 to purchase Feedburner for good reason!
Ping from Feeds
Back in the old days (a year back), the Blog directories and Search Engines could be pinged from your Blog in order to let them know that there was new content on a Site. The Blog would then know when to index a Site. This was ineffective as it created significant time delays in information being indexed as well as was open to abuse by ping-spammers. Now however rssCloud and pubsubhubbub, the major near real-time RSS Pub/Sub services, provide information from the feed directly to the subscribing Search Engines, Social Media and other interested Websites all within a very short time. The subscribers don’t therefore need to spider your Site as your content is delivered directly to them.
Feeds for Search
These same Pub/Sub services have enabled the Search Engines to be able to display time-sensitive search results with near no delay. Twitter has been a major factor in the rapid and widespread adoption of the pub/sub model as people are no longer content to accept long delays in information being available in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). The Search Engines are increasingly prioritising the recency of information as a ranking factor e.g. Google real-time Search uses data from pubsubhubbub to provide near real-time information to searchers. Publish a new Post in WordPress for example and if you publish to one of the Pub/Sub services you’ll notice your content in the SERPs within minutes (if not seconds).
Feeds cannot be ignored in SEO activities. It is well worth publishing your content via a Pub/Sub service and make efforts to increase your RSS or Atom subscriber numbers.