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How I Gain 4,691 RSS Reader In 1 Month

written by John Chow on November 7, 2007

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When Shoemoney challenged me to a competition to see who can get the most new RSS readers in a month, I thought it was a great opportunity to put my Internet marketing skills to the test against one of the Internet’s best. Many people speculated that RSS readership would plummet after the competition was over because people would unsubscribe since there were no more prizes up for grabs. Well, I’m happy to report that my RSS number has actually increased since the contest. I’m at a new high of 13,912 and should break 14,000 this week.

Shoe exploded his RSS to 18,003 on the last day of the contest and to over 21,000 the day after. With the contest over, Shoe has turned off whatever magic button he pushed and his feed counter is down to 14,950. That’s still 4,117 more readers than when the competition started. So how did I increased my RSS readership by 4,691 readers in one month?

Understand How FeedBurner works

The first thing I did was read up on the inner workings of FeedBurner. Since the contest would be decided based on FeedBurner numbers, it made sense to study it and find out how the counter works and see if there was anything that could be exploited.

FeedBurner’s subscriber count is based on an approximation of how many times your feed has been requested in a 24-hour period. If a reader doesn’t access his feed reader for a few days, he is no longer counted even though he is still a subscriber. So the object was to get everyone to check their feed everyday.

The “Ah Ha!” moment came when studying RSS by Email. FeedBurner counts an email subscriber for as long as they can send them emails. Unlike a RSS reader, If the RSS by Email subscriber doesn’t read his email for several days, he is still counted. The only time his count stops is if he unsubscribe to the service.

Generate The Buzz

From the beginning, I knew that any buzz I generated will also benefit Shoe and visa versa. The whole object of the competition was to increase BOTH our RSS readership. I had a good laugh from readers telling me to ask my readers to unsubscribe from Shoe’s feed. I’m sure Shoe got a chuckle as well from his readers advising him to tell everyone to unsubscribe from me.

The competition itself was the main part of the buzz. All we had to do to keep it going was get people excited and talking about it. And one of the best way to do that was by staging a month long contest that involved both readers and sponsors. At one point, Shoe and I were discussing whether or not we should hate each other and start a flame war between our blogs. Imagine the linkbait that would have created?

Opening The Bag of Tricks

While the competition and contest was the main traffic generator, I still had to get people to subscribe to my RSS once they land on the blog. The first thing I did was had Unique Blog Design add a RSS by Email subscriber box to my blog template. If I was going to win this competition it would be done with RSS by Email because subscribers are always counted even if they don’t check their email every 24 hours.

I edited my WordPress single.php file to add the following at the end of the post. The notice only showed up when you click on the post to view or comment on it. It does not show up on the front page.

If you like this post then please subscribe to my full feed RSS. It could could win you some great prizes this month! You can also subscribe by Email.

I used the WordPress Affiliate Pro plugin to turn every RSS word in the entire blog into a link to my RSS feed. In addition, there were a couple of posts (here and here) to explain what RSS is and why you should subscribe to it.

Firing The Big Gun

The big sign ups came when I sent out a newsletter to all John Chow dot Com newsletter subscribers. Since they’re already signed up to receive my newsletter by email, it stand to reason that many would sign up to receive RSS by Email. If you look at the following break down of my feed readers, you’ll see that FeedBurner Email went from zero to the second biggest subscriber group, right behind Google Feedfetcher.

feed-make-up.png

Before FeedBurner delivers the RSS by Email, a reader must first verify their subscription. If they don’t, then they will never receive a single Email and are not counted. To remind subscribers to verify their subscription, I used the Notify Unconfirmed Subscribers WordPress Plugin by Techie Buzz. This plugin will send a personalized email to all unconfirmed subscribers asking them to verify their subscriptions.

In the end, I didn’t add enough RSS by Email subscribers to overcome Shoemoney’s last day charge. However, I’m very happy with what I’ve accomplished because everything I did was legit and my RSS number continues to rise even even after the contest. The jury is still out on what Shoe did to add over 7,000 readers in two days, only to lose most of them after the contest was over. Maybe he’ll tell me how he did it at the dinner this Friday.

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{ 68 comments }

Neil Duckett November 7, 2007 at 4:36 pm

Thanks for explaining the ins and outs. I’m off to edit my single.php file now!

Wayne Liew November 7, 2007 at 11:18 pm

Adding a reminder at the end of any posts is always the key to get more RSS subscribers.

I didn’t edit my single.php file but instead, I manually type it in every time. If I forgot about it, that’s it… :???:

Teejay November 8, 2007 at 1:34 am

I have it right now although I don’t I will have a lot of subscribers yet.

One Buck Wiki November 7, 2007 at 4:37 pm

My question is a little off topic but how do you rate WordPress Affiliate Pro? It seems like a great tool to link any keyword in your blog to whatever you want. Example: You could raise a PR of a website simply by linking all words related with that websites such as “make money online” for this site. :idea:

Thomas Sinfield November 7, 2007 at 4:38 pm

Great overview. I didn’t know that about feedburner. I will have to get more people signed up with the email rss.

Interesting how shoe’s count has dropped so much since the end of the competition.

Jack November 7, 2007 at 6:53 pm

Yeah, He’s really good on writing any review. the one thing i still don’t understand is,
If you like this post then please subscribe to my full feed RSS. It could could win you some great prizes this month! You can also subscribe by Email.

How can we know who subscribed to our feed rss? with email it’s easy, but with feed reader? how john chow knows who subscribed to his feed and give them prizes?

I have sent this question once before to john actually, but he seems quite busy so didn’t answer it.

any one can help me please?

MoneyNing November 7, 2007 at 7:54 pm

You can do this by using the plugin that shows a message only in RSS feeds. You can ask them to click a link where you give contest rules. This way, only RSS subscribers will be able to join and people will subscribe to your feed.

I forgot what the plugin is called but go to my site, subscribe to my feed and you will see an example right now. :evil:

Jack November 7, 2007 at 10:41 pm

ah.. clever evil! :)
yeah why didn’t think about that before.
forgot the plugin too, but it’s easy to create by my self. thanks for the idea.

MoneyNing November 8, 2007 at 10:19 am

No problem :) Glad to help a fellow blogger!

Jamie Harrop November 7, 2007 at 4:47 pm

That was a fatastic analysis, John.

Of course, the whole thing would be better in percentages. If we could see percentages (calculated from the number of people who visited your site during the competition), us small-timers would be able to see what sort of visitor to subscriber conversion is really possible with a lot of hard work. I know, I’m just adding more work for you. I’m sorry, but it would be really useful. :)

Ventrilo Server November 7, 2007 at 4:50 pm

Thanks for the post. I was wondering how you all were getting those new registrations. I didn’t realize emails were counted like that

great008 November 7, 2007 at 5:00 pm

What if he gamed you by, oh i don’t know, getting his huge social networks to use proxies. Do you think he could have done that??

Chris Jacobson November 7, 2007 at 5:10 pm

When Shoe tells you, obviously you’ll tell your loyal readers, right? :mrgreen:

One Buck Wiki November 7, 2007 at 5:18 pm

Yeah, I am sure it’s not by any chance, Shoe must have made 4000 extra email accounts and then simply subscribed to it… hmm….let me try if that works on my zedomax.com site for pure experiment… :evil: :evil: :evil:

Teejay November 8, 2007 at 1:36 am

lol. let me know when you’ve done it. :p

Make Money Online November 9, 2007 at 2:24 am

It’s not hard to write a small bot app to create and sign up e-mail accounts. Without a prize involved I don’t think I could be bothered though!

Dena November 7, 2007 at 5:17 pm

Very interesting. I did not know that feedburner does not count the RSS subscribers when they don’t check in on a regular basis. I guess my goal for this month will be to count email subscribers.

MoneyNing November 7, 2007 at 5:20 pm

Great explanation! Thanks for sharing since increasing readership/subscriber count is always on our radar screen :)

I’m getting the notify plugin right now since i have quite a few non-verified email subscribers! :)

An Internet Marketer November 7, 2007 at 5:23 pm

I’m not really into the whole RSS thing. I realize it works for you. But it seems to me that it really only works for people in this sort of field. In the internet marketing guru field ;) I mean… Do normal people really use RSS feeds? Would something like this be valuable for someone running a site… let’s say.. about cats? or dogs? or baseball? I get the feeling it would not. Let me know if you think otherwise.

James November 7, 2007 at 7:00 pm

I just switched to WordPress on a static site. It is getting RSS subscribers very quickly. It has nothing to do with Internet marketing.
If you know about RSS, I think you may be more likely to sign up for a feed than you are for an email newsletter.

WordPress Web 2.0 Spot-Er November 7, 2007 at 5:43 pm

This is great overview John and exactly what I was hoping for :)

You and Shoemoney organize the fight and many other learn from your accomplishments. I think this is a great results no matter which way you have done it and something to be taken into consideration.

Thanks

Domtan November 7, 2007 at 5:59 pm

Congratulations John, for maintaining the subscribers. The competition made October an exciting month. It was very entertaining indeed.

piggybankpie November 7, 2007 at 6:49 pm

I think the ultimate tool here was the buzz. Of course Email RSS shows great potential, but if John would have asked Unique Blog Design for the Email button outside the context of this competition, the results would have been largely different. I think the competition itself was a genius idea, and both John and Shoe’s war room both came up with great plans to keep the hype for the whole month. Congratulations.

Joe November 7, 2007 at 6:52 pm

Excellent thoughts there, John. It was a good idea to study the inner workings of Feedburner, and something that I hadn’t thought of doing! I will definitely be signing up for your newsletter now, and downloading your ebook. You really know what you’re doing John, and I hope to one day be able to challenge you!

chetan November 7, 2007 at 8:13 pm

Great post there John..

And WOW 4600+ subscribers through that competition!!!

Francis Sim November 7, 2007 at 8:25 pm

I am still wondering how Shoe managed to get that amount in 2 days to win the contest. I am subscribed to both your blog and Shoe’s through email and Feedfetcher. Still, way to go for getting more than 4k RSS readers in a month!

Mike November 7, 2007 at 8:38 pm

Thanks for the tips! I will have to use them in order to defeat my arch-nemesis net buddy 4 life, Nick Ramsay! :twisted:

zaki November 7, 2007 at 8:59 pm

Thanks….those are a really nice piece of informations… :shock:

Garry Conn November 7, 2007 at 9:22 pm

Great post John. I have been focusing a lot on FeedBurner subscription numbers and investing some study time as well. So, quite honestly, this post was extremely useful for me and I appreciate you taking the time to share this experience with us.

Best Regards,
Garry Conn

Darren November 7, 2007 at 9:28 pm

Have been watching this whole competition with interest. The numbers are impressive but I have to ask – what was the point?

What surprised me about the way both you and Shoe went about this was that you promoted your competitions and promoted your RSS to email options to people who already read your blog. Yep – you seem to have convinced 4000 or so people each to subscribe a second way to your blog – but apart from having a higher number on your feed counter – what was the benefit?

When the you announced the competition I was really excited by it because I thought I’d see you both working hard to discover how to get new readers for your blog – but it ended up focusing more on reconverting people and getting them counted twice.

Don’t get me wrong – having 4k extra numbers on the chicklet is nice – but I wonder what would have happened if you’d spent the time and energy tapping into new readers.

MoneyNing November 7, 2007 at 9:51 pm

They could’ve been more efficient with their promotion and try to get brand new readers, but it was a great thing increasing their subscriber count by having people who go to either site read both their feeds.

There are people (like me) who only reads one of the blogs and not the other. Shoe and John was able to direct traffic to each other through the competition.

Also, the readers of the two blogs probably do not remember to type in johnchow.com or shoemoney.com everyday. Subscribers using email or RSS feed however are more likely to remember to go back if they see the email in their inbox or the feed.

Since every visit count, I think the competition was a great success their pockets. In the end, most if not all the money for the competition was donated/sold anyway so it didn’t really cost them one cent, not to mention that they didn’t really need to come up with as much original content for a while when all they talked about was the competition.

Blog Contests November 7, 2007 at 9:49 pm

Oh it’s on now

Etienne Teo November 7, 2007 at 10:16 pm

It was useful information to know that Rss emails stays as a count and Full feed Rss don’t when people stop checking over the days. Have any Feedburner staff came back with answers regarding this or this is just a personal discovery when doing your experiment, John?

MoneyNing November 7, 2007 at 10:19 pm

This is pretty easy to figure out. Feedburner is just a service that sends emails of your article out for you. There is no way of the service knowing if the email is read or not.

Actually I noticed that even if you don’t have any articles written the night before (meaning no emails were sent the next day), email subscriber still count.

Matthew Berman November 7, 2007 at 10:19 pm

how i learn to speak proper english in 1 month

bmunch November 7, 2007 at 11:04 pm

The inner intricates of RSS. Know your tool and use it well.
I notice even for the comments, all mention of RSS is linked to your feed. Well, let me help you a bit.

RSS, RSS, RSS…… :grin:

Wayne Liew November 7, 2007 at 11:15 pm

Although you have lost the competition, the results of such an increase in RSS subscribers is surely something to be proud of.

I don’t know e-mail subscribers is actually the key to this competition. I learnt a lot from this post about Feedburner. I think some can be applied but it is still important to get my contents on track first before I have time for all these.

Henrik V Blunck - Denmark November 7, 2007 at 11:49 pm

With that speed you end up with no readers at all. When it takes you one month to “gain” less than you lost overnight – on November 4th you wrote: “How I Lost 4,993 RSS Subscribers Overnight”

Either you were testing who reads and remembers what or else the stress of Shoemoney is getting the better part of you. :-)

Teddy Wong November 7, 2007 at 11:51 pm

I want to ask an off-topic question. What is your comment towards auctionads (that you have given up) ? Is it good ?

J November 8, 2007 at 12:19 am

:shock: 4691 sure is alot. grats :)

Dave (The Other One) November 8, 2007 at 12:55 am

I’ve also discovered the benefits of getting people to subscribe by email. Actually, I subscribe to JohnChow.com by email because most of the time I get so involved in marketing and promotion, I forget to check my RSS readers (Yahoo and bloglines) but I chaeck my email hundreds of times a day and it’s nice to get notified of a new post via email. Of course, I would only use an email subscription with “trusted” sites like JohnChow.com…

Anyway, John, if you actually read this, I just wanted to say thanks man. I was recently unfairly banned from Adsense (two weeks ago) for no reason and I was very depressed but after combing though your site, I found a multitude of information on earning through alternative oportunities and I’m very happy to report that following your techinques has catapulted my earnings to 5x what I was making through Google.

Thanks John, I owe you one. When I run into you at a convention or event, I’ll buy you a beer !!! better yet, I think I’m going to buy an ad from you to show my support of what you’re doing.

Now enough ass kissing – :twisted: back to business.

Bedroom Furniture November 8, 2007 at 1:21 am

So basically you are better than Sheomoney? :lol:

Teejay November 8, 2007 at 1:30 am

Nice observation. I better get more email subscribers then.

ckacey November 8, 2007 at 2:46 am

Apologies for going off topic here, but I have a (probably) lame newbie question. But, I can’t think of a better group to ask. Are tag clouds useful? Thanks…

ckacey November 8, 2007 at 6:53 am

A simple yes or no is all I need. You do know what a tag cloud is …right? :???:

MoneyNing November 8, 2007 at 8:14 am

yes :)

Domtan November 8, 2007 at 8:35 am

ckacey,

No, would be the answer. Anything that takes up real estate and doesn’t have great benefits to your readers is just a distraction. Tag Clouds fall in this category. As do BlogRush.

MoneyNing November 8, 2007 at 10:22 am

Actually I got a lot more google hits after I installed the tag cloud. Maybe it’s the keywords that it adds or something or maybe it’s just a matter of my site gaining PR and length of existence. I will never know but I will keep it on my blog.

Blogrush though is very disappointing :)

ckacey November 8, 2007 at 10:36 am

Hey…Thank You!
Your as nice as you are pretty. (that’s just a compliment , I’m a straight) girl) :grin: I think some of these guys on here don’t ask for directions either. My ex taught me that all I’ll get for that is an innordinate amount of dead ends. I did some more research, Daily Blog Tips plus numerous other SEO sights say to do it. So I will. As far a real estate is concerned, I’m new and don’t have that many ads yet. Besides, can’t it go on a page by itself? I think it can. http://www.Icanhazcheeseburger does that and he’s number one on Google for LOL cats.

Lincoln November 8, 2007 at 10:52 am

I use tags cloud on my sidebar and keep a separate tags page as well. I haven’t seen any traffic benefits though, and I hate having to think up tags for every post. It slows down my blogging. :razz:

I do think it has some benefits though, and for myself, it allows me to see what topics I’ve been focusing on when I blog. :grin:

Innovations & Interesting Ramblings November 8, 2007 at 2:55 am

shoe must have had more number of subscriptions through feed readers and so his count would have come down, as many people would have not been that interested after the competition…this also explains the success of competitions…in fact competitions seem to have an exponential influence in popular blogs…the more popular your blog…the more does competitions atrract readers…also John find out whether Shoe found any loopholes in feed readers…

Raymond November 8, 2007 at 3:35 am

I will definitely try this method to boost my rss counter. :smile:

Home Recording November 8, 2007 at 4:59 am

Thank you for sharing the inside story. Very inspiring. Never mind if you lost in the last lap. It was a great race, thoroughly enjoyed by all of us. Congratulations on the increase in your RSS subscription too. All is not lost after all!

Ivy November 8, 2007 at 6:03 am

Thanks for the tip John! Feedburner is hard to figure out at first, and it is great to know that it is not only a subscriber management tool, but also a marketing one. I have been wondering if I should try the newsletter feature, and what was the point of that. Now I have the answer.

PS. Do let us know how Shoemoney did it if he reveals it to you. Don’t go signing any NDA with him on this! :evil:

Thiru November 8, 2007 at 6:07 am

Feeds by Email Count – Thats the real discovery!

Starfeeder November 8, 2007 at 9:40 am

nice, interesting to know! I wondered why stats would go down and up…. now I know :) I’ve been working on increasing my subscriber count as well… still under a 100, but getting closer.

One of my posts that was stumbled I believe Sunday has sent my site more traffic then the last 3 months combined. I placed my RSS button and RSS via email link on that blog post and since gotten 30 extra subscribers since yesterday! :D

CharlesHighsmith.com November 8, 2007 at 9:59 am

We know who really won! You can be happy knowing that Shoemoney is an absolutely fraud, and a cheat. I would not be suprised if he added those rss subscribers himself with some sort of script. Somewhere shoe money has 4000 email addressess he’ll never ever need again. Why bother with him?

Andy November 8, 2007 at 10:09 am

John,
you have to get your headlines grammatically correct. This is maybe holding you back? I guess Shoemoney is laughing his socks off when he spots this basic error in your posts:

The post itself is well laid out (incredibly well laid out actually) but the most important part i.e. the heading is like a line from a Kung Foo movie!

I am surprised none of your readers pointed this out before. :shock:

Lincoln November 8, 2007 at 10:12 am

You know, it sure look liked Shoemoney basically cheated to win this competition. That’s not something I think any of us should be admiring either, nor does it help his credibility (makes you wonder what else about his site’s metrics are being artificially inflated). :razz:

mark November 8, 2007 at 11:19 am

Give me your 14000 readers :wink: Cool!

money maker November 8, 2007 at 11:21 am

just jocking :grin:

mark November 8, 2007 at 11:24 am

just jocking :cool:

SEO Optimization November 8, 2007 at 2:43 pm

Sounds as a interesting way of increasing the RSS read since it is not necessary that people visit the site so they keep counted. A nice tip…thank you ;) (now I wonder about Shoe’s magic…heh)

Reg November 8, 2007 at 8:07 pm

John,
you’ve given some great tips. I knew there was a lot to blogging and getting readership, but didn’t know there was so much.
I think I’ve been carving too big of a piece instead of tightly focusing like you have.
Thanks and I look forward to reading more of your postings.

Reg

Wahlau.NET November 8, 2007 at 8:13 pm

well done….it was a very well strategized …..pity that you did not win shoe..but you gain rss even though you did not win…

ONwebcheck November 9, 2007 at 12:14 am

So congratulations Mr. Chow – that was a really good job!

Kalle November 9, 2007 at 1:22 pm

Your readers dropped a lot lately. now its almost back to square one.

MoneyNing November 9, 2007 at 1:29 pm

Actually it’s another bug. He’s okay at 13k :)