Creating a Vanity Feed with RSS

This post is a bit of a departure for this little series, as this article does not tell you how use the internet for your own self promotion, but instead, it will tell you how you can see how your
self promotion is doing.

Let’s face it. You’re an actor (or performer of some kind). You’re vain (admit it. You are). You want to know what’s being written about you in the media. So, this article is going to tell you how to create an RSS feed that will find your name in the news and on blogs and gather it all together in one place for you to see.

Yeah. You can thank me later.

First off, you probably saw an acronym you didn’t recognize there: RSS. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. Most news web sites use RSS, and that allows you to use an RSS reader to pull articles from the news web site to your reader, where you can read all the news articles in one place.

To begin, you’ll need an RSS reader. There are many you can choose from. Personally, I like Google Reader
because I can access it anywhere, and its free. I’m going to use Google Reader as my example here, but things pretty much work the same for any RSS reader.

Creating your Feeds

Once you have your reader set up, you will now need to create the feeds you will use. We’ll be creating several feeds, so just follow along below.

Google News

First up, go to Google News. In the search bar at the top of Google News, type your name, and click the Search News Button. The next screen will be your search result (just like any regular Google search). Here’s where things get different though. Look at the sidebar on the left hand side of your search result page.

Under the navigation bar (which you can see the bottom of in the image
to the right), you will see several links. Right now, we’re going to
concentrate on the RSS link highlighted in the screen capture.

Move your mouse over the RSS link, then right-click and copy the
link. You’ve just copied a link to the RSS feed for news articles that
contain your name.

Take this link to your Google Reader (or other RSS program). Click on
Add Subscription, paste the RSS feed link into the field, and click

Your RSS feed will collect any news from Google News that contains
your name and collect in the Reader for you to access at any time. This
isn’t limited to just news either. Google News has the ability to
search Blogs for a phrase. Just click the Blog Search link, and repeat the steps above to find blogs that mention your name.

Yahoo News

You can do much the same at Yahoo News.
Type your name into the search bar. Look for the RSS feed icon
(pictured to the right). Once again, right-click to copy the Feed URL
and take it to your reader.


Technorati is an
internet search engine focused on the world of weblogs. As of June
2005, Technorati indexes over 11 million weblogs. If you want more
notifications of whenever a blogger uses your name, use a Technorati RSS feed to keep track of
it. To set that up, type your name in the search field, select in blog
posts from the drop-down menu. Then click search. Look for the Subscribe icon,
right-click to copy the URL, and then take the address to your reader.

Now, you’ve set up a number of RSS feeds that will let you find any references to your name in the news or on blogs without you having to actively search for it.

Take Control of your Online Identity

Chances are, that someone out there is Googling your name. Maybe they are a potential employer (casting director, agent, director, Artistic director, etc). Maybe its somone who saw you in a recent production and is curious about your past work.

What do they find? What comes up at Google when your name is searched?

If you’re not sure, go now and try it.


What did you find? Did you get the results that you would like to see when someone searches for your name? Are you happy with the information that appears?

If you are like most actors, there are a couple of news articles that come up that mention your name, or your name appears on the web site of a theatre company that you worked with.

Take a look at the first item that appears in your google search results. Does that result represent how you want to be portrayed?

For about 99% of people online, it doesn’t.

Let’s see what you can do about that, shall we? Here are some steps on how to take control of your online identity:

1. Get your domain name. This isn’t expensive. In fact, its pretty cheap. You can get a domain name for as low as $9.95/year from There are other registrars that will sell you a domain for a similarly
low price. Truthfully, there is no better investment in creating your online identity than, or even .net, .ca or…whatever is available. If the .com is available, grab that. I covered more about this in this article.

2. Be selective about what goes on your site. Carefully decide what information to put on the site. Do not put your phone number, your address, or social insurance info. Since you are a performer, make sure you do
put your acting credits, upcoming events, biography and photos online. Obviously (presumably this is obvious, anyway), you don’t want to put anything embarrassing online. You want to be in control, so before you put that picture of that one time you did that nude scene, ask yourself: Would I want my mother to see this?

3. Link to your site, using your name. Having the domain name with your name (eg: helps a lot, but that’s not all you need to do. Make sure that those linking to your site link with your name. For example, the author is at, however, the more effective way to link would be to link with the author’s name: Phil Rickaby. This helps a search engine like Google associate your name with your address. If other actors link to your web site, ask them to link your name rather than your address. If you work with a theatre company, ask them to link your name to your address. This will help to increase the likelyhood that a search for your name will return your web site.

If the first site that appears in a Google Search is your site, the site that displays the content that you want
it to display, then you are in control of your online identity. After all, remember that the majority of people who perform a search online don’t look past the first page, let alone the first returned item.

By following the steps above, you have a better chance of controlling what the first impression of you is (speaking from an online point of view, that is).

Getting visitors and keeping them

Let’s assume for a moment, that you have a web site.  Now, you are asking yourself, how you get visitors to your site.

Believe me, that’s a question that people have been asking since the first web sites were built.  However, you’re not looking for thousands of visitors. You just want people who might give you work to find you
your web site.

The first step in making that happen, is to make sure you put your domain name on everything.
It should be on your resume. It should be on every cover letter you send.  It should be in your email signature.  And speaking of email: make sure that you are always sending mail from the email address at
your domain (   The reason for this is two-fold: 1) it looks more professional than and 2) it contains your domain name, which encourages people to visit your site.

As an actor, you’re probably thinking more about promoting yourself in the “professional” world: to agents, casting directors, artistic directors and the like.  And that is a big part of your web site.  You are promoting yourself to the people who can (and hopefully will) give you work.  By putting  your domain name on everything you send out, and by sending all your email with your address, you’re increasing the chances that one of these people will come to look at your site.

But, if that’s all you want to do, you’re missing the chance for something else: some measure of fame.
I’m not talking about being photographed by paparazzi while you’re at the hairdresser kind of fame.  I’m just talking about having your name known outside of your circle of friends and family.  You can have “fans” or regular site visitors, from all over the world.  People who will come to see you in that small film role, watch you on that TV show you did an episode for, or even go a little out of their way to see you in that show that’s touring in Northen Manitoba (or wherever).  So, how do you get these loyal visitors?

Before you can get visitors, they have to be able to find you.  Which means that you have to get your site “out there” for them to find.  And that’s done with two words:  Goo.  Gle.

Back just a few years ago, there were many search engines on which to find web sites.  Everyone had their favourite, and if you wanted to reach the largest segment of people, you had to submit your site to all
of them.  Now, there’s pretty much one place that an internet user goes to search:  Google.  Yes, you can submit your site to Yahoo and MSN as well.  It can’t hurt.  But if you don’t submit to Google, you’re probably missing the largest opportunity for traffic.

Before you can submit your site to any search engine, you have to make sure that your site has the elements that it will need for the search to find them.  You need to make sure that your site has HTML tags for META KEYWORDS and META DESCRIPTION.  For the more technical minded, these tags look like this:

<meta name=”description” content=”A description on your site”>

<meta name=”keywords” content=”Keywords found in your site whereby each keyword is separated by a comma”>

If you are using Joomla or WordPress, don’t worry, I’ll teach you about how to get these in a future post.

A quick word about keywords:  don’t lie.  There are people who might suggest that you use words that don’t apply to your site in order to bring in more traffic.  There are two reasons why you shouldn’t listen to them: a) it doesn’t work and b) its dishonest.  If someone is looking for a web site about the new pokeman game, and you’re site comes up, they aren’t going to be happy about it.  Granted, this happens less and less these days, since most search engines have refined their search processes.  But its still a bad idea.  The
keywords are going to help the search engine to identify the search words that will return a result for your site.

Here’s how you submit your site to Google:

  1. Go to
  2. Fill in the information requested.
  3. Click the Add URL button.

Once that’s done, Google will index your site.  Every so often, the search engine will return to see if you have added pages.  This keeps the listing updated.  The search engine will do this on its own.  You don’t need to do anything.

Both Yahoo and MSN have a similar process for adding your site.

Now that you’re getting some visitors, you want to make sure that they have a reason to keep coming back.  There are a few ways to do that:

  • Keep your web site up to date.  This may seem like a no brainer, but there are thousands of web sites that haven’t been updated in ages and are showing months old or even years old information.  This is an almost immediate turnoff for any visitor.
  • Keep a blog.  I’ve discussed blogging previously.  But it is a great way to keep people coming back to your site, as well as keeping them up to date on the latest news.
  • Have a photo gallery that you frequently update.  Make sure you get pictures from shows that you do, as well as any photo shoots you participate in.  And put them on your web site.
  • Multimedia.  Any chance you get, make sure that you have clips of any film or television you’ve done (you might want to ensure that you have permission to use them on the web, since there’s been a
    lot of to-do about that of late).  As well, you may also want to create audio clips.  Or you can go one step further and create a podcast (I’ll go into that more in another post).

All of the above are great ways to keep your visitors coming back to your site.

By submitting using your domain name at every opportunity, submitting your site to search engines, and giving your visitors a reason to come back to your site regularly, you will increase your chances for successful self-promotion, but may also find “fans” in places you never thought possible.

Uploading (easier than you think)

Right now, I’m going to talk about something that you will probably
have to do at least once, if you want to  make your own site. 

This particular post, is for the “newbies”.  Those of you who are
familiar with the whole uploading thing…go have a coffee.  I’ll cover
something for you another day.

When you upload files to your web host, you will use a program called an “FTP program”.  FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol.  There are hundreds (if not thousands) of programs you can choose from.  I’m going to suggest a free program called FileZilla.

Using FileZilla, I’m going to take you through the process of
connecting to your host, finding your files on your computer and
uploading to your site.

First, and overview of the Filezilla interface. 

If you click on the image to the right, it will open in a new window.

Don’t get scared. 

At the very top, you’ll see a series of icons, and to the right of
that, four entry fields for address, username, password and port.  This
is where you will enter the login information for your web hosting

On the left hand side of the program, is the “local site” section. 
This represents your computer and the files on it.  There are two
sections.  Let’s take a closer look:


The top section. is a series of folders, with plus signs beside
them.  This is what is known as the “folder tree” for your computer. 
This is for navigation through your computer.   You won’t use this
section for uploading.  This is a great way to get through several
folders to where you have your files stored.  Assuming that your hard
drive is called C: (and you are using a Windows Computer).  You’ll want to go to C:\Documents and Settings\your name
You might have your files stored in a folder on the Desktop, in which
case you’ll go to C:\Documents and Settings\your name\Desktop.  If you
put it in a folder in the My Documents folder you’ll go to C:\Documents
and Settings\your name\My Documents.  When you click on a folder in the
top section, you will see the contents of that folder in the bottom
section (both sections are pictured above).

Take a look to the right side of the screen (directly beside the
left side that we’ve just looked at.  This is where your files at your
host will be located.  Right now, since we aren’t connected, you
shouldn’t see anything here.  When you are connected, it will simply be
a matter of dragging your files from the left-hand side over to the
right hand side.  What could be easier than that?

These are the two most important sections.  You don’t really need to know much else.  However, for completeness, I’ll go over the other sections that matter.

Now, take a look below the two sections we’ve already talked about.  You’ll see the section I will refer to as the queue.

 This section should be blank right now.  But when you have
connected and dragged files to the right-hand side, the names of the
files will appear here, as well as an indication of the uploading

Directly above the “local site” (left-hand) and the “remote site”
(right-hand) sections, you’ll see a blank section. This will contain
the server responses.  For the most part, you will be able to ignore
these sections.  But watching this section will show you any problems
that might occur, and will help you know if you have been disconnected.

This will be easiser to under stand if we see it all in action,
so let’s login. You will need to know your address, username and
password.  Most hosts will provide this for you almost immediately
after you sign up.  In the address field, you will enter your FTP
address.   In the username field, you’ll enter your user name.  And in
the password field, you’ll enter your password.  Makes sense, right?  
If you don’t know any of these, you’ll really need to contact your host
to get it.  Once you’ve entered this information, click the “Quickconnect” button. 

Wait.  What about the port field?  You shouldn’t have to
enter anything here.  Unless your host is somewhat unusual, they will
use port number 21, which is standard for FTP.  In which case, the port
number will automatically fill itself in when you click the
Quickconnect button.

As you are connecting, you will see some text in the
Response are scroll by.  This may happen very quickly.  Don’t worry. 
Just pay attention to the colours.  If you see any red text, take a
look at what this says, because that is an error message.  If you don’t
see any red, that’s good!  Its working.  Once you are connected, you’ll
see quite a change in the Remote site section.

Here’s where you need more information from your host.  You need to
know where you will put your files.  With some hosts, you’ll see a
folder as soon as you login that has your domain name ( 
With others you’ll see a folder called www or public_html.  Chances
are, this information is found in the email that your host sent to you
when you signed up.  Open whatever folder you are supposed to place
your files in, and then pay attention to the local site section (left
side).  Locate the folder with your files and open it on the left
side.  You want to see the files for your site in the lower portion of
the local site section.  
It should looks something like the image to the right.  I’d like to
draw your attention to the folder that doesn’t have a name.  Beside it,
you should see two periods (..).  This is not an actual folder.  If you
are inside a folder, you can click this to go up one level.  For
example, if you opened the images folder seen in the image above, and
then wanted to go back to the main folder (where you index file is),
you would just double-click the nameless folder.

Click once on one file to highlight it.  Then, on your keyboard,
hold down the CTRL + A keys.  This will highlight all of the files and
folders you see. 

Turn your attention to the remote site section, and make sure you
are in the location where your files are supposed to go (inside the folder, or the www folder or the public_html folder – once
again, if you aren’t sure contact your host).

With your mouse, drag the files from the local side to the remote
side and let them go.  You will see some action in the queue, showing
the upload progress.  Once a file is uploaded, it will remove itself
from the queue.  Once all the files are uploaded, the queue will be
empty and you are finished uploading. 

You’re done!  Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?