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, “whatever, 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 (http://www.yoursite.com/feed/ or http://www.yoursite.com/wp-rss2.php, 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 http://www.yoursite.com/feed/ or http://www.yoursite.com/wp-rss2.php (or whatever) are not counted. FeedBurner only counts readers subscribed to http://feeds.feedburner.com/YourBlog. 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.