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
“Add”.

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

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 www.netfirms.ca. 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 yourname.com, 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: yourname.com) 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 philrickaby.com, 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 (you@yourname.com).   The reason for this is two-fold: 1) it looks more professional than actorguy8569@hawtmail.com 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 you@yourname.com 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 www.google.com/addurl
  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.