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Content syndication, viral marketing  and a free script you can use!

One of the very important factors that contributed to the success of Taming the Beast.net in the early days was allowing my articles to be published on other web sites.  While it did (and continues) to create some headaches from time to time through unsuitable sites using the content, or spammers using the articles in spam campaigns, the traffic that has resulted has definitely helped us along.

Free content syndication is one of the best methods of viral marketing around. 

In essence, viral marketing is simply the process by which a sales message is carried out by the provision of a free, useful "carrier" tool that encourages distribution. In the offline world an example would be distributing free pens with a company slogan and sales message. In the case of Taming the Beast.net, it was the free articles that led people back to the site.

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When I first began allowing people to use my content, it was quite a laborious process on the part of people who wanted the content. Added labor = less interest.  Other webmasters would need to copy my articles and then implement the articles into their own sites.  Many were happy to do so, but others wanted only to have a single page on their sites and to have new articles appearing on that page on a regular basis - a very time consuming task.

I needed to find a way of setting up a simple content feed, but at that time the costs involved with this kind of process were excessive and the only free solutions around were very labor intensive.

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Then I came across a free script called PSInclude. It wasn't actually developed for article syndication, but has proved perfect for the task. The script was created for webmasters who wanted the functionality of the SSI #INCLUDE command, but their hosting services didn't support it. PSInclude allows you to create templates in a directory and then include them wherever you want on your site - and as I found out when experimenting with it - on any other site too. At under 2kb, it was the perfect solution and still remains the script I use today for content syndication.

PSInclude is a very simple to use Perl based CGI script. At the server end of things, the only variable you need to change in the script is set the path where templates will be stored and to make sure the permissions on the file are set to 755. 

After that's done, create your content page, e.g. articlefeed.htm. I suggest that the content should be placed in a table with no set width or height and that fonts should be default size and default type - that way the content will take on the attributes of the site where the content appears. It will give the webmaster utilizing the feed decent control over how the content is displayed.

Then all you need to do is to upload your content file to the directory you specified in the PSinclude script and provide a javascript snippet which you can distribute to other webmasters and acts as a part of the content feed delivery system. The javascript snippet is very simple:

<script language="JavaScript" src=" http://yoursite.com/cgi-bin/psinclude.cgi?template=content.html">
</script>

It doesn't get much simpler than that.  To learn more about the PSInclude script and pick up a free copy, go to:

http://pscripts.psyon.org/psinclude/index.shtml 

If you do find the script useful, please consider making a small donation, I'm sure the programmers would appreciate it.

If you want to be able to monitor who is using your content feed, you can always include a transparent gif in the content file or use some other means of tracking. I also ask people to register their email address before giving them access to the script. It's a very simple system and definitely not foolproof, but it helps me keep track of who's utilizing the feed. Your can see an example of the system in action here and you are welcome to test it out. 

Related learning resources

Ebooks - viral marketing super tools!

PDF for profit - using PDF files as part of Internet marketing

Where to find and distribute free web site content

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
http://www.tamingthebeast.net 
Tutorials, web content, tools and software.
Web Marketing, Internet Development & Ecommerce Resources
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