One of the most interesting features added to AOM recently is the ability to display an RSS feed in a custom box or page. For all the talk a year or so ago about how difficult it can be to display a feed in a store, there’s been very little buzz about having it added into the program. It might be that most people who wanted to incorporate a feed have already done so, and haven’t bothered to investigate this new wrinkle (I’ve been in that camp, I must admit). Others may have felt the whole ‘feed’ business was waaaay over their heads, so have steered clear of the whole thing. But of course, AOM makes even this task amazingly easy.
Like I just mentioned above, I’ve put feeds into stores. The process is not inherently difficult, but it’s not one of my favourite programming tasks. The whole business of setting up a feed reader, then having to tweak it, etc. is just a lot of bother I’d like to avoid. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, an RSS feed is an updating list of links, such as news, sports, or almost any subject you’d care to think about. You need a bit of software called a Feed reader, that captures the data and displays it for you to read. Then you need a link, which is is where the feeder gets the data (news, etc.). Most of them end with an .xml suffix. For example, here is the URL to a feed for BBC World News:
Clicking on the link will give you a list of the stories, sometimes in an HTML-style format.
You would put this link into a custom box, and select RSS Feed for Box Type. Set the other parameters to suit, and you’re all set. There’s also an RSS tab that allows you to select how many links to show in a custom box or page. Usually the defaults settings are fine to use, but you can change them to suit. When it’s all done, it looks like this:
Note the box in the corner marked “BBC World News”. As the stories change and the page/cache is refreshed, the links in the box will also change, ensuring you always have up-to-date stories. The procedure for a custom page is similar, selecting RSS Feed for Page Type, etc.
Anticipating a question many of you may have, no, this does not help you with having non-duplicate content on your page. Remember that almost every feed you can use will have hundreds, if not thousands of subscribers, all using the same text on their sites. So the notion of using RSS to provide unique content to your site is a dead issue. It will not.
But what it can do is establish your store as an authoritative site. If you sell sporting equipment in your store, having a feed of top sports stories will subconsciously enforce the idea of your store as a place with up-to-date information about subjects your customers are interested in (otherwise, why would they be on a sporting-goods store in the first place?). It may also help bring them back if they know you’ve got an ever-changing list of stories/news/etc. Getting and keeping customers on your site will obviously increase the odds that they’ll make a purchase.
So RSS feeds can be an exciting and interesting addition to your site. It’s now so easy to add one, there’s almost no excuse not to have a box or page available somewhere to “feed” your customers.