You may have noticed that two weeks ago Google announced a new feature for Google Reader: the ability to create/track RSS feeds for pages that don’t provide them.
There’s a lot of potential here in just about every aspect of web use – personal and professional.
Like most tools, the functionality can be used to many ends. The limits are only your own insight and creativity.
From an SEO standpoint this new feature opens up some interesting possibilities.
1) Add your core in-linking pages to detect when a link to your website is removed
Effective link building often means keeping track of the links you’ve secured – especially when you’ve invested money/resources into getting the link. Monitoring your in-linking pages manually is time consuming. With Google Reader’s feed creation tool you can track changes to the page in question – and automatically detect when a link has been removed or replaced.
This, admittedly, could get somewhat cumbersome (if you’re tracking 100s or 1000s of in-linking pages), but for the real hub links, the ones you worked hard for, its worth keeping track – and this is an automated way to do it.
2) Track the pages you want links from, and see who’s getting links from them (and when)
Often times in link building you’re looking for hub pages – where several competing websites in your space have been listed and linked to. It isn’t that you want the same links as your competitors (that, naturally, is no advantage), but often enough these pages are going to be easier to get links from if you’re offering something unique but related.
Tracking these hub pages with the feed creation tool before you’ve approached the webmaster/organization in question is a good way to see who your competition is – and who’s actively engaging in link building. You can also catch new competitors as they come onto the scene.
3) Track when your link is added to a page where you’ve requested it
Once you’ve requested a link from a website and they’ve agreed to add it tracking when that link has been added is often a matter of manually checking up – another task that burns up time you could spend on more valuable things.
Using the Google Reader feed creation tool you can automatically detect when your links go live – and, in the mean time, spend your time doing better things than checking up.
4) Monitor your clients’ website(s) to detect changes/updates to content
When you work with clients (as I do) there’s a little of babysitting that goes on. Sometimes the work I do or recommend can be tossed out inadvertently by someone who isn’t aware of the repercussions.
Sure, you may say, “that’s their problem,” but we should be better stewards than that.
Tracking their pages with Google Reader will notify you when any content changes have occurred on a client’s website – which is a great way to catch a potentially-damaging mistake early.
It’s also a great way to detect when and how a client is carrying out your recommendations (since the lines of communication aren’t always as open as we’d like them to be).
5) Keep tabs on your competitors hub or topic pages, and watch their SEO strategies unfold
This one is particularly powerful.
If you know who your competitors are and want to keep tabs on their SEO efforts create feeds for their most important/central pages. Now every time they make an update, add content, rewrite something, link to a new page, etc, you’ll be pinged – and the change is tracked.
An added bonus here is the ability to track how often your competitor updates the page (since Google marks each update with the date/time they detected the change) – a kind of “fly on the wall” view of what they’re up to that is delightfully sneaky. Of course, it’ll depend on how often Googlebot returns to the page (which is a function of how “valuable” and frequently-updated the page is).
One thing: this will track changes to content, not the page code itself (so you can’t track everything they’re doing SEO wise), but it is nonetheless an unprecedented way to keep tabs on what the competition is up to.
There are far more possibilities – and undoubtedly some phenomenal ones that haven’t dawned on me. Got any ideas? Share them in the comments.
Note: Webmasters can “opt out” of this feature (blocking the creation of feeds for their pages) by doing the following:
- Adding <meta name=”googlebot” content=”noarchive”> to their page head
- Using Robots.txt to block Googlebot (though this one is a quintessential case of tossing the baby with the bathwater – it means your site/page is removed from Google’s index)
- Moving content into an iFrame (similar to above, though, this renders the content invisible to Googlebot)
Mike Tekula is an SEO Consultant working and living on Long Island. Check out Mike’s latest free resource: The Blogger’s Guide to Google Analytics
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