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No RSS Feed for Your Website? No Problem

Lori Halley 26 January 2010 12 comments

The easiest way for your readers to keep up-to-date with news from your nonprofit’s website is by subscribing to its RSS feed — but many websites don’t have RSS feeds.  No problem! Google Reader users can now subscribe to be notified of changes to any web page, even if the site doesn’t have a feed.

We’ll take a look at the new Reader feature first, and then talk about a few other options for helping readers to get notified of changes to websites that don’t publish RSS feeds automatically.

As a post on the Official Google Reader Blog (“Follow changes to any website”) announced yesterday:

Today we’re rolling out a change in Google Reader that lets you create a custom feed to track changes on pages that don’t have their own feed. These custom feeds are most useful if you want to be alerted whenever a specific page has been updated…. Reader will periodically visit the page and publish any significant changes it finds as items in a custom feed created just for that page.

We provide short snippets of page changes to help you quickly decide if the page is worth revisiting and we’re working on improving the quality of these snippets. If you don’t want Google to crawl or create feeds for a specific site, site owners can opt-out.

How to Create a Feed for any Web Page with Google Reader

  • Grab the URL for the web page for which you want to track changes, and login to Google Reader.

  • Click “Add Subscription” and paste the page URL into the box.  If no feed is found, you’ll be offered the chance to create one.

  • Click “Create a Feed” and Google Reader will do the rest.

(For more information about how all this works, see “I don’t publish a feed, but users can subscribe in Reader” in Google’s support section.)

Now, this is a great new feature for those who use Google Reader — and it’s totally free — but what about your visitors who use a different feedreader or who prefer to get updates by email?  How can you make it easier for those people to know when you’ve updated a web page?

To start with, you’re not locked in to Google Reader, as it produces a feed link that you can give to your readers. They can use that link to subscribe with any feedreader they like.

But it’s a pretty ugly code-laden page that results from Google’s feed link, since it’s made for feedreaders to read, not people with web browsers.

And if your websbite visitors are not particularly techy, they may not be familiar with RSS feeds and know exactly what to do with the feed link you give them.

Yes, you could set up a page on your website that explains it all (not a bad plan, to educate your audience about the technology you use, even if most people don’t take time to read it) — but here’s a better idea:

Google Reader + Feedburner

First, use Google Reader to create a feed for your web page, as described above.

Next, “burn” your feed through Feedburner to make it more user-friendly (and to let you track subscribers, offer email subscriptions, or Socialize your updates) — see Introduction to Feedburner to get up to speed, if you’re new with it.

Finally, place a link — text, RSS button, or both — on the web page to let people sign up for notification of changes, just the way they’d subscribe to your blog or any news feed. A dizzying selection of RSS icons free for anyone to use are available online, and you’re certain to find one to suit your website’s style:  Kevin Muldoon’s Ultimate Free RSS Icon List is a great starting point.

Three more ways to create RSS feeds for web pages:

You’re not confined to Google Reader to create a feed from a static web page: FeedYes, Femtoo, and Page2RSS, for example, are among the other services (of varying quality and approach) that can create an RSS feed for any web pages that don’t publish their own feeds:

FeedYes.com offers a free 14 day trial, but registration is required to save feeds you create; after 14 days, it’s $30/year. If you make frequent updates to your site, the trial period should be long enough to give you a good idea of how well the service is working for you and whether your readers are truly interested in taking advantage of it — but do remember that you’ll have to make a decision about whether the annual subscription cost is going to pay off in benefits for your nonprofit’s followers, and how you’ll deal with your subscribers if you decide to drop the feed.

Femtoo.com lets you set up trackers for 4 pages free, but all the cool bells and whistles (and it has many!) are reserved for paid plans. I couldn’t find any information on pricing, and also wasn’t able to view the “examples” on the website using either Firefox or IE — perhaps registration is required for access? — but femtoo gets much play in the comments thread on ReadWriteWeb’s post announcing Google Reader’s new tracker so it might well be worth your time to give it a try if “free” is not a deciding factor for your organization.

Page2RSS.com has been around a while, and I do have a preference for its ease of use compared to some of the other similar services. It’s quick and simple; it’s free; and you can use it to post page updates directly to your Twitter account if you like. It also makes it super easy for non-techy (or very busy) folks to create an RSS button for each web page, so readers can subscribe with just one click. 

Which method should you choose?

I think it makes sense to test a couple of these options on one or two pages — pick a page where you tend to make frequent changes, so you can get a good idea of how long it takes each feed to be updated to reflect your changes.

You’ll also want to check for what kinds of changes to the web page are recognized by each service, because they all seem to do it differently. For example, Google Reader looks at changes to the text on the page while Feedyes appears to check the text links.  Results are almost certain to vary from one service to another, so you’ll want to pick the one that seems to work best for your website’s content and schedule.

Don’t be put off by un-friendly feed URLs. You can always use (free) Feedburner to pretty up the feeds you create. Remember, Feedburner enables you to easily track subscribers and helps you promote your website as well as creating a browser-friendly version that’s easier for your less tech-savvy subscribers to use.

Do focus on performance, in choosing a tool or tools for this task — how well does the service pick up changes to your site, and how promptly does the feed get updated to notify your subscribers? 

Are you already “feeding” updates from a site without its own feed?  What page-to-RSS tools work best for you — and which are you tempted to test drive? Share your thoughts in the comments! 

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Tuesday, 26 January 2010 at 6:47 PM


  • Twitter Trackbacks for Wild Apricot Blog : No RSS Feed for Your Website? No Problem [wildapricot.com] on Topsy.com  said:

    Tuesday, 26 January 2010 at 11:34 PM
  • Tom Carnell said:

    Friday, 29 January 2010 at 12:52 AM

    Have you tried Femtoo (http://femtoo.com).

    Femtoo has been providing a far more advanced version of Google Reader for some time time now. Features include:

    - Monitor particular parts of a page

    - Parse data and check for particular conditions (share price hit a certain amount etc)

    - Premium accounts can create 'low latency' trackers for critical monitoring applications

    - Receive notifications via email, Instant Messenger and soon SMS (I think)

    - Add a 'widget' to any page to allow people to 'subscribe' to a 'tracker'

    - It uses the amazing cQuery (http://cquery.com) Server-side CSS Content Selection Engine

    - You can publish 'trackers' to the 'Tracker Library' and anybody can subscribe.

  • Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot] Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot]

    Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot] said:

    Friday, 29 January 2010 at 1:43 AM

    Tom, thanks for sharing, Femtoo looks very interesting!!

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Friday, 29 January 2010 at 5:06 AM

    :Thank you for stopping by, Tom! As the man behind Femtoo, maybe you can help out with a couple of questions -

    I'd have liked to review your product in more detail than I did in this post - it is listed as one of the "three more ways to create RSS feeds" - but was unable to view the on-site examples at the time of writing (and tried again just now, without success) although I tried with both Firefox or IE. Any thoughts on what the problem might be there?  Also, can you give us a general idea of the prices for the various plans on offer (http://femtoo.com/plans/)?

    Many thanks!

    p.s.  That's a great  "How It Really Works" page (http://femtoo.com/how_it_really_works/) -- made me laugh out loud!  :)


  • thesurfer said:

    Thursday, 04 February 2010 at 5:05 AM


    I tried Femtoo's examples also and they still don't work (today 4 Feb 2010). I tried to sign up by registering with my email and creating a password, but it would not let me...

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Thursday, 04 February 2010 at 5:18 AM

    Thanks, @thesurfer - glad to know it's not just me! :)

  • Lisa Miller said:

    Thursday, 04 February 2010 at 8:36 AM

    Wonderful post - thanks for sharing the info.

  • Canaan_moore said:

    Thursday, 11 February 2010 at 10:36 PM


    Thanks for the great post.

    http://www.rsschannelwriter.com/ check here also you might find something competitively interesting with Femtoo.

  • Tom Carnell said:

    Tuesday, 02 March 2010 at 1:44 AM

    Hi Rebecca,

    RE: Femtoo.com

    Apologies - yes the examples page was non-funcional (I have just changed it) - this is completely my fault and I should not have made that page public.

    But I didn't know about registration problems - I will look into these tonight!!!

    ...and yes, I am reluctant to publish prices because I am still working on some of the premium features. I should hopefully have a re-worked 'plans' page with some prices - but I guarantee they will be very competitive! ...I'm happy you like the 'How things work' page - I try to make Femtoo fun to use :-)

    I have to say a big THANK YOU for persevering with Femtoo even though there are still a few 'anomalies' in the system.

    I now have about 600 registered users and Femtoo is tracking almost 800 pages, every 30 minutes 24x7 and is fast becoming the #1 tracking and notification system in the galaxy !!! :-)

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Tuesday, 02 March 2010 at 5:46 AM

    Tom, thanks for checking in with an update on Femtoo - it's great fun to watch a new product evolving!

  • Jeny said:

    Wednesday, 23 June 2010 at 8:17 PM

    Thank you very much Rebeca, now i can sumbit feed to bloglines with Page2RSS

  • Kavita said:

    Monday, 09 August 2010 at 8:46 PM

    Thanks for the excellent info. I was facing problems in submitting feed to bloglines. Now I will try Page2RSS

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