As a result of my previous post about hitting the 500 RSS subscriber mark, I had a few readers ask for advice on how to grow their RSS subscriber counts.Always one to please my readers, I thought I’d post on the subject.
Why do we even want to increase these numbers? The main benefits of RSS are:
- Allow readers to keep reading your content without having to remember to come back to your site.
- Get your content picked up and distributed by other services and blogs.
- Avoid the need for email newsletters, or at least get that content delivered.
I’m going to package this in a time format to make it easy to achieve this in fourteen days. If you’ve already done any of these things, skip those days and move on and you’ll be done even sooner.
Day 1: Sign up for Feedburner
Feedburner is easily the best solution for managing an RSS feed. Feedburner has a ton of features that help out in varoius ways, but the main ways that it helps grow your feed count is that it allows you to consolidate your feed into one Feedburner URL that is extremely compatible with all the RSS readers and that you can allow users to subscribe to, and then even if you change blogging platforms or move your original feed around you can keep your subscribers in one place.
Feedburner also provides statistics on your feeds, the ability to control various aspects of feed, ping all the ping services, and more. It’s a must.
Day 2: Display the universal RSS feed icon
While it’s not recognized by everyone on the web, those who know about RSS recognize the universal RSS feed icon and then know they can subscribe to your feed. You can download a set of icons at FeedIcons.com.
Additionally, moving your feed icon to the top of your page in a prominent area makes it even more obvous. Tubetorial.com does a great job of this by having a large icon with “RSS Feed” next to it. It’s hard to miss!
Day 3: Submit your feed to RSS feed directories
Just like web directories, there are a lot of sites that allow you to submit your RSS feed for listing. The purpose of this is that people use these sites to find RSS feeds in their areas of interest, and it obviously can bring additional traffic to your site.
The best resource for this is Robin Good’s list of RSS directories. Head there and start submitting in order!
Day 4: Make a page about RSS
Most avid readers of blogs know about RSS feeds, but the majority of the web population still isn’t familiar with RSS. Why not introduce them to RSS through your site? Here’s an example of a page on a site explaining RSS, letting users know how to subscribe, and what feeds the site offers.
Day 5: Use Feedburner Feedflare
Managing your feed with Feedburner allows you to add special links to the end of each content item called Feedflares. One type of link you can setup is a “Subscribe to this Feed” Feedflare so that every blog post or article has a link to subscribe to your feed.
Day 6: Use easy-subscribe buttons
Users who read RSS feeds may be using a number of different RSS readers. It could be Bloglines, Newsgator, My Yahoo, or others. To make it easier for these people to subscribe, you can provide buttons like you’ll see in the right column of this site that allow users to just click a button and subscribe via the feed reader of their choice.
Day 7: Exchange RSS feeds
You’re probably familiar with link exchanges, but how about RSS feed exchanges? If you know of similar sites to yours, approach the site owner about swapping links to your RSS feeds, or both of you could promote each other’s blog/feed in a blog post.
Day 8: Use an RSS auto-discovery tag
Adding a bit of code to the header of your site allows people with feed readers that can “auto-discover” your feed to discover it. For example, if you’re a Bloglines user you can add a bookmarklet to your browser that with one click finds the feed on the page and allows you to subscribe. Here is an example of the auto-discovery tag used here on this blog:
< link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="RSS 2.0" href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/Conversionrater" / >
Day 9: Post about your feed
Sometimes people need a little prodding to take action. They may know you have a feed, but just haven’t done anything about it. Why not remind them that you have a feed, and what the benefits are by subscribing to it. It’s a good time to also link to the page about RSS you created on Day 4.
Day 10: Promote your feed in your email and business cards
A very easy step to promote your feed is to add it to your email signature, or maybe even add a link to it on your business card. People who use RSS will appreciate it.
Day 11: Display your feed count
While to some it may seem like bragging, displaying your RSS feed count when using a Feedburner feed like I’ve got in the right column is a good way to let people know that others are reading your feed. When you see 125k subscribers on Techcrunch, you figure that you may be missing out if that many people are subscribing. Even a lower number like my feed count shows that there are people who find this blog interesting enough to subscribe to.
Day 11: Use an Email RSS solution
Feedburner and Feedblitz both provide ways that users can subscribe to an RSS feed via e-mail. This is great for users who are more comfortable with receiving email newsletters or just don’t know much about RSS.
Day 12: Ping the ping services
Using Feedburner, a blogging platform like Wordpress, or Pingomatic, you can set up your feed to all the blog and feed search engines. This will help drive new users to your site and feed.
Day 13: Use Feed analytics to improve
Use Feedburner’s analytics to find out information about your feed. See what posts are read most and create more posts of that type. Look at what feed readers are used and include easy-subscribe buttons for those readers, or talk about them on your Abour RSS page. You can also use it to track your progress as you grow your subscriber count, and by Day 13 it should have grown tremendously!
Day 14: Make your feed worth reading
If your feed isn’t worth reading, you’ll lose any subscribers you do gain, and they’ll never sign up in the first place if your content is crap. The following tips are all focused on helping you create a quality feed and to keep your subscribers:
- Be relevant and on-topic
- Use great post titles worth reading
- Publish full feeds instead of just summaries
- Avoid ads in your feeds
- Post often, but not too often
- Post original content
If you can manage to crank through all that in less than 14 days, that’s great as well. But if you follow those 14 steps, you’re guaranteed to grow your RSS subscriber count.
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