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What the Heck is Server Side HTML?

If you're stuck in the dark ages and are still editing the pages of your web site by hand, there's an easy way to change the look of your web site on a moment's notice, by editing only one file.

I know, there are all kinds of brand new blogging scripts, forums, CMSes, and other stuff to make your site easy to update. But on the other hand there are just as many desktop-based programs that churn out thousands of static HTML files for you to put on your server.

What do you do when you have to change these files later? Edit them by hand, one at a time? I don't think so.

You can save a lot of time down the road using Server Side Includes (SSI).

The point of using Server Side HTML is so you can include other pages on your regular HTML pages, things like a list of links you regularly update OR a header and footer.

Try it out. Take one of those static HTML pages on your site and rename it to something like "filename.shtml" instead of "filename.html." All we've done is changed the "html" at the end to "shtml."

Now, take the part of that site you want to appear on every page (the header graphic, link sidebar, etc.), copy and paste that part and save it into a file named "header.shtml." REMOVE that text from your filename.shtml file.

Now, in the filename.shtml file, place this at the top:

[!--#include virtual="/header.shtml"--]

(IMPORTANT: Replace the brackets [ and ] above with the greater-than and less-than "HTML" brackets... hold shift and press the "comma" and "period" keys on your keyboard.)

Upload filename.shtml and header.shtml to your server and load header.shtml. If everything went well, the page should look exactly as it did before. The only difference is: you only need that one "include virtual" line to show the top of the page, AND to change that top HTML later on all you have to do is edit header.shtml.

If you had this sort of code on 20,000 pages of your web site all you'd have to do was edit that ONE header.shtml file, and your entire site would change as soon as you uploaded that header.shtml file.

Not bad, huh?

Now do the same thing with the bottom of your web site, only save the new file as footer.shtml and at the bottom of filename.shtml place this:

[!--#include virtual="/header.shtml"--]

Again, not that exact code... replace the hard-brackets with HTML brackets.

But wait, your fancy page generator software will only save the files as .HTM or .HTML, and specifically links to certain files. You can't just go in and edit everything to link to .SHTML files.

Htaccess to the rescue.

Place this in a new text file:

AddHandler server-parsed .shtml .html .htm

Save that as "htaccess.txt", upload to your web server, and rename that htaccess.txt file you just uploaded to ".htaccess", WITH the dot in front. Now try renaming filename.shtml to filename.html. Guess what, your server side includes now work on .html and .htm files too.

Hopefully your page generator software allows you to edit the template and place these server-side include tags in there. (If not, look into a program called BKReplaceEm.) Don't worry, the pages will look funny and broken on your hard drive but once they are sitting on your web server everything will turn out ok.

If you find yourself doing a bunch of repetitive HTML editing it might be time to look into Server Side Includes to make instant changes.

About the author: You know what else, you can use a similar bit of HTACCESS code to make PHP scripts act as HTML files. That, plus 35 more "Why Didn't I Think of Those" secrets are revealed in my upcoming ebook:

This article can be freely distributed as long as the text of the entire article remains intact.
Being the web-mistress of a resource site about search engine marketing, I'm always on the lookout for new ways to promote my site. Like many other web site owners, I don't have an enormous marketing budget and must rely on my own resources to spread the word about my content.

As you would expect, one effective method of promotion that I utilize is search engine optimization. This ensures the search engines regularly visit my site and update my pages in their indexes. Another is the circulation of a regular newsletter. But the real secret to attracting more traffic is to add bucket loads of fresh content. Providing you promote this new content effectively, it can act like a magnet on your site, pulling in new visitors every single day and giving you the opportunity to turn those visitors into loyal followers or, (if you sell products and services), paying customers.
Fresh content improves the "stickiness" of your site too - giving visitors a reason to return to your site on a regular basis. And of course the search engines reward popular sites with more link popularity and a higher search ranking. Adding new site content is one thing, but just how do you spread the word about this new content and place it in front of potential visitors?

Well take my site for example. I had recently added a web log (known on the Internet as a "blog") about the search engine industry, which I updated daily with news and articles.

I had seen similar sites having their content syndicated on industry news portals such as Moreover, ClickZ, ZDNet etc and I wanted a piece of the action. Problem was I had no idea how to go about this.

A fellow moderator in the ihelpyou search engine forums (Dan) told me I required an "RSS Feed" - a special file containing the content I wanted syndicated - so that the news sites could grab it from my site instantly. Dan offered to give me a hand to set up the file and so began our quest! I'll let Dan take over from here and explain exactly how we did it and how you can set up your own news feed. Here's Dan...

[Dan] Thanks Kalena. An RSS news feed provides information about your site's content that enables other sites to effectively link to it. There are actually a few different flavors of RSS – for purposes of this article, we'll work with RSS version 0.91, which is the most commonly used on the web today. We'll also focus on the very basic elements of a news feed, and leave the advanced stuff for another time.

The RSS file itself is a fairly simple text file. Although it uses an XML language format, the code will be pretty familiar to anyone who has worked with HTML to edit web pages.

Let's look at a simplified version of the RSS file we created for Kalena’s site:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-1" ?>

<rss version="0.91">


<title>Search Engine News Blog</title>


<description>search engine news web log, tracking daily developments
in the search engine optimization industry</description>



<copyright>Copyright 2002.</copyright>



<title>Search Engine News Blog</title>





<description>Search Engine News Blog</description>



<title>Google Defines Ethical SEO</title>




<title>Yahoo Offends Gay Community in UK</title>





An RSS feed consists of one or more "channels." A single channel will be sufficient for the majority of sites. Each channel, in turn, contains information about one or more news articles.

A channel consists of the following required information:

· Title: the name of the channel (in the above example, Kalena’s channel title is called "Search Engine News Blog")

· Link: the URL for the channel's main web page (the page on Kalena’s site where the news items are displayed)

· Description: a description of the channel's purpose and content

The first two lines in our RSS feed example define this as an RSS feed. The <channel> tag comes next and contains the required information about this news channel (as listed above). Optional information follows these items and includes language, copyright info, contact email addresses, and an image (logo) that can be displayed with the channel's headlines. The above example contains all these options, but you can leave these out of your own feed if you prefer.

In addition to the required information, the channel must contain at least one news item.

>> News items consist of the following:

· Title: this is the headline that will be displayed for the news item

· Link: the URL where the full news item can be found (for best results, each item should be on its own unique web page)

· Description: a description of the news item – sometimes referred to as a "teaser."

The first two elements are the minimum expected by nearly all sites that carry headlines. The description field is optional, as some syndicators will ignore this field altogether, posting only the item headline. Because of this, Kalena’s RSS file does not include item descriptions.

Below that, you’ll see two news items listed, “Google Defines Ethical SEO” and “Yahoo Offends Gay Community in UK”. Additional news items would follow the same format and be listed directly below within <item> </item> tags. Finally, the last two lines of the feed are closing tags – XML, like HTML, requires opening and closing tags.

To preview what Kalena’s RSS feed looks like when syndicated, click here:

You can create your own simple RSS file with just about any text editor – I set up the sample above with Notepad. Once you’ve created the text file, do the following:
Save the file with .rss as the extension (example: mynews.rss) and upload it to the main folder of your website.

Validate your RSS feed by running it through the RSS Validator to make sure it's set up correctly.

Display the “valid RSS” logo on your site (available from the link above) and provide a visible link to your feed (link: from your site page/s. You could say something like Kalena uses on her site: Webmasters! Click below to feature our Search Engine News Blog headlines on your site. RSS Feed For This Page.

(optional) Create a javascript version of the RSS feed to enable other webmasters to syndicate your content on their sites (the Wytheville Community College News Center provides this service for free).

Submit your feed to content aggregators. Some sources are provided below.

Update your feed regularly by adding new items to the .rss file and ensuring each item has it’s own link on your web site.

To keep your feed fresh, try to keep your channel items to a maximum of five, deleting older items from your feed as you update it. The dates next to your news items will adjust depending on when content aggregators pick them up.

So, that's the basics of RSS! We have only been able to scratch the surface in this short lesson, but it's enough to get you started. A complete description of the RSS 0.91 format can be found at, and more resources on creating your own newsfeed can be found here:

Set Up Your Own Newsfeed

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