When Google Reader dies an untimely death on July 1, many of its loyal users will move to one of the many web-based and app-based RSS readers that have been created, or perfected, in response to the sudden opening up of a category that Google had long dominated. While we don’t doubt that these replacement reader services will do well in the short term, it’s less clear that RSS will still be popular one, three, or five years from now. If you’ve grown your site around your blog, the end of RSS is hard to come terms with. After all, RSS allowed your blog to spread to a thousand readers, attracting regular visitors who shared, commented on and, most critically, read your missives on a regular basis.
While no one has to use a RSS Reader to read your blog, if they use RSS they’re more likely to stick with you on good days and bad. But what if RSS goes the way of Google Reader? While techies of a certain generation will remain loyal to RSS, its decline could be hastened if browsers, news sites and blogging software all discontinue or limit support. After all, the problem with RSS is well known: it’s difficult to monetize (read, sell advertising around it) so there is little incentive for free services to support it, and we’ve not yet reached a point where people pay are ready to pay for all the web services they use. Because RSS is what makes blogs a useful tool for connecting with site visitors and customers, you should be concerned about the decline of RSS feeds and the readers that use them.
While you don’t need to worry about blogs ending tomorrow, it’s worth preparing for the transition to a world without blogging. Although we’re not forecasters by profession, here are a few tips to make your site content relevant even after the blog and the RSS reader give way.
Think About Traffic Flow
Many web sites now use their blog as the spine of their public outreach. Social media is used primarily to feed traffic to your site, and only when visitors get to your site do you think about getting them to stick around and maybe make a purchase. While you still get some traffic directly from visitors who find your blog through an RSS Reader, this isn’t a primary traffic source and, more importantly, it’s not where your growth is coming from. If your blog is merely a way-station between social media and your website, what purpose does it serve? If you instead posted the same material on social media platforms, and then directed visitors directly to the profitable parts of your site, would it have the same effect or, perhaps, even increase your site revenue? While a blog was once an obvious thing to include as part of a website, there might be other, more profitable, ways you can attract sales.
The Site is the Blog
As you know, WordPress and similar CMSs (Content Management Systems) are no longer just for blogs, and in fact power many websites you visit on a regular basis. Instead of running a separate page called “Blog,” you can include updated, topical content on your home page, which will give repeat visitors something new to see every time they visit.
One of the key reasons many companies are moving away from RSS is that it doesn’t support the kind of sophisticated analytics that are now seen as essential to any web strategy. If you focus more of your efforts on social media, you should also step up your efforts to track how your visitors interact with your site. While losing the blog might be hard, gaining more useful information about your site visitors is well worth the cost.