How I Broke 29,000 RSS Readers

I noticed today the blog hit a new milestone and broke pass the 29,000 RSS reader mark. Right now, the FeedBurner chicklet is showing 29,177 readers. At this rate of growth, I should pass the 30K reader mark next month. I’ve written many posts in the past on how to increase RSS subscriptions. Here’s a recap on my top four methods plus why RSS is important.

Why RSS Is Important

Building the RSS readership is my number one priority for the blog and it should be your number one priority as well. A RSS reader is far more important than a reader who drops by from a search engine or a link from another site. If you think of your blog as a magazine, your RSS readers are like the magazine subscribers and people who drop by your site from other sources are like newsstand sales.

Magazine subscriptions are far more valuable than newsstand sales. Ad rates are based on how many subscribers a magazine has and not how many issues are sold at the newsstands. Newsstand sales, like traffic from Google and other sources, can be very inconsistent. By contrast, subscriptions are like money in the bank. If you want to see how important subscriptions are to a magazine, let one of your magazine subscriptions run out and watch how hard the magazine will try to get you back.

Having a big RSS reader base protects you from the unpredictable nature of the Internet. Google can like you one day and hate you the next. If most of your traffic comes from Google, then you better start building your RSS readership. The main reason I am unaffected by anything that Google does to me is because of my base of RSS readers.

Make It Easy for The Reader Subscribe

You should never assume that your readers are smart enough to find the URL to your RSS feed. Shoemoney made that mistake when he removed his FeedBurner button. He just assumed that his readers would be smart enough to find his RSS link.

So one day I decided just to remove it. Then I started getting emails that there was no possible way for people to sign up for my feed… I thought to myself, β€œwhatever, people can figure it out if they really want to” (which is the lazy way out).

So yesterday I was looking at my Feedburner stats and pretty surprised to see they look to have completely plateaued at around 16,500 readers since I took the little counter off.

Now that Shoe has realized his mistake and put the FeedBurner button back, his RSS count has passed 18,000. This may sound mean, but you’ll go a lot further if you assume that your readers are the dumbest people on earth and need everything spelled out for them.

That means displaying your RSS button in a very easy to find location and offering multiple ways to subscribes. You might even consider making a page to explain what RSS is and linking to it. You’ll be amazed at the number of people who still don’t know what it is and how it benefits them.

Don’t Display Your Feed Count If It’s Less Than 100

The FeedBurner chicklet that displays the number of subscribers you have serves as social proof but it can also work against you. People in general are like sheep – they never want to be the first to do anything. If your chicklet is displaying a big zero, chances are it will stay a zero. It’s a lot easier for a big blog to get more subscribers because people see this huge RSS number and want to be part of it.

I do not recommend displaying your feed count until you’ve reach at least 100 subscribers. I feel that displaying a feed count of under 100 is a deterrent for people to sign up. Another don’t is don’t to fake a feed count by displaying a chicklet from another blog. This is very easy to detect and will affect your credibility.

Use The FeedSmith WordPress Plugin

The FeedBurner FeedSmith plugin will detect all the ways a reader can access your feed ( or, etc.), and redirect them to your FeedBurner feed so you can track every possible subscriber. It will forward for your main posts feed and optionally, your main comments feed as well.

Without the plugin, readers subscribed to your blog using or (or whatever) are not counted. FeedBurner only counts readers subscribed to What the plugin does is redirect all feed URLs to your FeedBurner feed URL so everyone is counted. This saves you the need to plead with your readers to update their feed URL. If they’re already getting your posts with the old feed URL, chances are very few will bother to update just so you can increase your feed count.

Turn On Aweber Blog Broadcast

If you’re an Aweber user, you should turn on the Blog Broadcast feature. Not only will this give you additional content for your newsletter, it will add all your newsletter subscribers to your FeedBurner counter because Aweber reports subscription info to FeedBurner.

Even if Aweber doesn’t increase your RSS count, you should sign up for the service anyway. A newsletter is something every successful blog needs and works hand in hand with RSS as a great marketing tool.

51 thoughts on “How I Broke 29,000 RSS Readers”

  1. I actually made a post about this a few weeks ago where Big Jason has a fake RSS chicklet

    Surprisingly it’s STILL UP!

    1. LOL! Noticed that too. Sort of like Dean Hunt’s RSS feed which displays “1 billion”

    2. John,
      As usual love your tips. What I found even more inspirational is your online book which is an evil genius way to get traffic to old posts.
      As for showing the subscriber count I disagree with you. People are like sheep but they could subscribe to your reader if they think that your content is good and because everyone likes helping people out.

  2. Raul says:

    I need to go self-hosted, PRONTO!

    1. Tyler Ingram says:

      You keep talking about it.. just do it! lol

  3. Pete says:

    Thanks for sharing the tips, John. I have a large readership with , as in several hundred-thousand page views per month, but about half comes from referrals and the other half from search engines, meaning I have yet to break significant ground with RSS. I may need to learn from you in that department further!

  4. Errol Mars says:

    I was wondering when it might be a good time or even if I should display subscriber count to my sites? Now I have a better idea of what to do. Thank for the info.

  5. Tom says:

    Good point… I always figured that my readers are smart enough to find the big fat RSS button right on the top, but apparently this is not the case πŸ™„
    I’ll go and get some more links in there right now :mrgreen:

  6. eric says:

    Was there a blog income report for the month of August 2008? Sorry to ask here but wasn’t sure if I missed it or if it wasn’t posted.

    1. There wasn’t an income report form John so I had to post mine at:

      Online Dividends

  7. Shaun Carter says:

    The part about keeping your subscriber count hidden until after it reaches 100 really hit with me. I never thought of that being a hindrance before, but I’ve changed my subscriber button now and will watch to see how that affects the number of people subscribing in the future.

    Thanks for the tip John and congrats on the new RSS milestone.

  8. IronBloggerq says:

    opps I totally messed that comment up :(.

  9. I choose to publish my subscribers for now. Most people who subscribe to come from search engine traffic who are looking to make money online. 😈

  10. I can say that I have seen the impact of not showing until above 100. That’s a good tip. 😯

  11. Offer a free ebook, available only if someone subscribes to your newletter, and watch your RSS count skyrocket. The more attractive the free offer, the bigger the RSS number. It’s not rocket science.

    RSS is being destroyed by this as well – of 27,000 subscribers, how many grabbed the ebook and never returned? How many are duplicate because they had already signed up the normal way? How much of the 500 you spend on adwords per month is directly targeting people to sign up via aweber? Bottom line, RSS chicklets are as useless a form of information as Alexa these days, imo.

  12. I strongly agree that it’s like a magazine. I’ve thought that for years, even back when there were only newsletters. I always treated mine like that.

  13. Rizzo says:

    I got up to 70 on my blog lol

  14. Ganesh says:

    I’ve got 18 on my new blog. Is that bad?

  15. Nice comparision about magazine subscription and newstand issues

  16. Noticed Big Jason’s fake RSS feed as well. Sort of like Dean Hunt’s RSS feed which is displayed as “1 billion”

    1. big jason says:

      hey stanley,

      glad to see someone who isn’t so stupid to realize that it is an intentional fake count and not ripping someone else’s count off. makes me laugh at all these idiots who think they somehow “caught” me when it was discussed on my blog long before they said anything.

  17. John,

    Would you be able to track who your subscribers are? If let say we are going to have give away prizes to encourage people to subsribe to RSS, how do we know who has subscribed?



  18. TechToyBoy says:

    Hey John,

    Congrats on 29K but I guess you’ll hit 30K soon and that’ll be the real success.

    I hope I’ll hit 1K barrier one day and proudly display the number πŸ™‚
    I’d be glad if you stop by and leave a comment.

  19. Typhoon says:

    WOW!Your Blog is Zoooming…I think you will get upto 50000 RSS subscriber till the Christmas :))

  20. IronBloggerq says:

    I’m still hoping for the 100 RSS reader mark. It’s hard to get going when you start off with nothing. Slowly getting there though.

  21. Debo Hobo says:

    Fantastic information, I had lost perspective on the importance of RSS subscribers. Thanks for the reminder and congrats on your success.

    I had a chance to read about you in the US New & World Report talk about reaching the big times. Great Job John! πŸ™‚

  22. Lisa P. says:

    As always John some great tips. People always just assume that everyone knows everything & thats not always the case. I agree that you need to make it easy for your readers to find your RSS feed.

  23. I love feedsmith, I see a real difference since I started using it.
    Thanks John,

  24. John, thank you for this post! RSS is indeed a powerful interface to the world. Respecfully, Nicholas

  25. Hi there
    Really enjoyed the article on RSS. Didnt know a lot about it but am going to do a bit mroe research on it
    many thanks

  26. How long did you have to wait till you add the Rss chicklet which shows the number of RSS readers. I guess you did not accomplish the 100 readers goal in your first month of blogging. πŸ™‚

  27. fas says:

    Very informative article John,

  28. Bonie says:

    wow, i want like that, the time i will run with it…

  29. Chuck says:

    I left a comment last night but it did not show up.. Will try again:

    I use Feedburner on my blog. How do I use the Aweber Blog Broadcast if my email list is inside feedburner? Does Aweber read my feedburner list?

    Many thanks..

  30. DanGTD says:

    The RSS readers number is important, but the newsletter subscriptions are even better.

  31. leemo says:

    i’ll become 29,178th readers your rss john πŸ™‚

  32. Shaun Carter says:

    Well unfortunately I keep getting a fatal error when trying to activate the FeedSmith plugin. Otherwise I think that would be a great addition to my plugin list.

  33. Hope you reach the 30,000 milestone. Did a video for you. For free. πŸ™‚

  34. I had no idea about FeedSmith. Thx for the heads up.

  35. Thanks for the great information about RSS. I am a new blogger and I am learning a lot from your site. Thank You.

  36. Grerat information, I am wondering if there is a posibillity to track the RSS readers geographichal location? Thanks for any info.

  37. Mark Nelson says:

    Thanks for all the tips. Getting subscribers is crucial to your success as a blogger.

  38. Teoh k h says:

    Just want to know, if the person subscript your feed.Mean they also come the he group making money online.
    will they click your ads ???

  39. Shawn says:

    I think this is quite a nice post John. Besides, we appreciate decent ppl like yourself that show other how to organically grow their RSS subscribers. I know I have more than 3 RSS subscribers and was wondering why aren’t the rest counted…lol..:-)

  40. Ray says:

    What happened? It shows less than 29,000 today? Did some people actually unsubscribe?

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