Saturday, September 17, 2005

RSS Equalizer Install and Review

As you know, I've been studying how to monetize blogs and web sites using AdSense and other contextual ads. In my search I came across a program called RSS Equalizer. What this program claims is that it can gather realtime updates from RSS feeds and display them using PHP and a MySQL database, on your web page.

This sounds on the surface like the perfect solution to what I want to create; a compendium of news and blog links relating to one topic. The ideas is to create a "convenience store" of sites where the surfer does not have to peruse the 100,000+ blogs and news sources that abound. One thing that caught my eye was a testimonial from Armand Morin. He seems to be a serious player in web promotion.

RSS Equalizer costs $97. It installs fairly easily. I simply uploaded a few PHP pages and created my MySQL database. A great place to get a site where you can have PHP and MySQL is http://www.worldwidemart.com/ They are a web hosting company.

One more thing I needed was to upload IonCube, a PHP optimizer. This was easy and the RSS Equalizer program came with the file I needed, so I didn't need to search the Internet to find it.

Once installed, I did have a problem getting into the program. For one thing, the initial screen says something to the effect - before you go any further, delete the install.php file! So, I did that, and found that the program won't "set up" without it. So don't delete it until you're done filling out all of your initial data.

Then, I did fill in various RSS feeds and tested them. None worked. Not even the biggies like CNN, Yahoo News, etc. What "did" work was the default RSS feed - in case your primaries fail so you won't have a blank page. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you what the program does that I though was of interest.

Okay, if you've played around with RSS and web pages, you know there are many ways to incorporate a news feed into your page using JavaScript. The big problem is, Google and other important search engines only view the code on the page, not the dynamic results we see in the browser. So your AdSense and other contextual ads will typically be about JavaScript programming and RSS feeds instead of your news articles. A work-around is to include enough text in your HTML to trigger the AdSense and other ads to display the topic of your feeds. But then you have stagnant text on your page.

With RSS Equalizer the feed is written to the page in HTML. The problem of Google seeing weird JavaScript is gone. And the bonus is your page is updated every day! I'm getting excited at the possibilities, but remember I've only had the program for one day. Okay, so back to the install.

Remember, none of the feeds I added worked. I looked at the online manual; everything I did was correct. It said to see the support forums that someone might have had a similar problem. I am all for doing a little research before I write support, but in my opinion the forums should be closed because they contain hundreds of unanswered questions! Finally I found the key post which should be plastered as a banner on the forum: Please use our new site http://www.customersupporttools.com/ for all your support requests. Note to RSS Equalizer support - put this link on your home page!

Okay, one chalk mark against them.

So, I opened a ticket and explain my dilemma. The response time was great. What I eventually had to do was send them my login information so they could take a look at my installation. Their final response got me wondering:

Hello Dave,

There was a bug causing similar problems, but sporadically. I've updated RSS EQ to the latest unofficial version (v2.9) and you now have feeds!

Thanks for your patience, have a nice weekend.

Please feel free to re-open this ticket, or open a new one, if we can be of further assistance.

Respectfully, James

Bug?! Don't want bugs. We'll see what happens on my next install.

After tinkering with the software, I started thinking about templates for a site. The reason being is that remember, this program only presents you with RSS feeds that turn into HTML. You can incorporate them anywhere, but you have to create a website. I am thinking that you could use a Blogger.com template on a site not hosted on Blogger.com (that's an option in your Blogger setup). I'd then have to edit the template for that site and see if it works.

Here's the site I am working with. As of this post, there is no fancy template. http://www.neworleansresource.com/ You can see how the RSS feeds display and if you "view source", you can see that it isn't JavaScript. But let me point out that when you view the source of a JavaScript feed, you will see HTML as well. One great tool to see what Google and other search engine see is http://www.gritechnologies.com/tools/spider.go?q=neworleansresource.com. Another is http://www.delorie.com/web/lynxview.html which shows you what your page looks like to a search engine. Or try http://www.yellowpipe.com/yis/tools/lynx/lynx_viewer.php.

I'll post what I find about out about using Blogger.com's template and this software. In the meantime, see what your site looks like through the eyes of a search engine spider.

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1 comment:

Dan Gartner said...

The correct link to the Yellowpipe Lynx viewer is:
http://www.yellowpipe.com/yis/tools/lynx/lynx_viewer.php
Please update!
It's a good one because you don't need to upload anything to your site to prove you are the webmaster as requested for the Delorie one.
The Yellowpipe one has no restrictions and you can test ANY site even your competitor's :-)