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How To Increase RSS Subscriptions

written by John Chow on March 30, 2007

The Ultimate Online Profit Model

I’ve received a few requests to write a blog post on how to increase the number of RSS subscribers. Here are some tips on how to rocket that FeedBurner RSS counter.

Why Do You Want A Big RSS Subscription?

Before you try to increase the number of subscribers to your blog, you need to decide if this is what you want to do. A RSS feed is much harder to monetize than a blog. Income from RSS accounted for only $99.80 of the blog’s $7011.05 February income. That’s really bad when you consider over 3,000 people read this blog from RSS everyday.

Despite the low income, there are many valid reasons to increase RSS subscriptions. The main one being RSS represents a loyal reader base and as such, anything you can do to increase it helps your blog in the long run. Another reason to increase RSS is because some ad networks, like ReviewMe, take RSS subscribers into account when determining your price – the higher the RSS number, the more stars you get.

Offer A Full Feed

If you really want to increase your RSS base, then you must offer a full feed. Many RSS users won’t subscribe to your feed if it’s not full. I have over 30 feeds in my Google reader. Everyone single one of them is a full feed. If you don’t have a full feed, I’m not subscribing.

I use my RSS feed to give my readers a mostly ad free version of this blog. Do not use RSS as a teaser in the hopes that the reader will click to the blog in order to read the full post. Unless your blog is updated 20+ times per day, reader won’t sign up to the RSS in the first place.

Don’t Show Your RSS Count When It’s Small

FeedBurner offers a nice chicklet that displays the number of RSS readers on your blog. Right now, it shows 3,812 for this blog. The number represents the amount of people who access the blog via RSS yesterday. I don’t recommend a blog shows this chicklet until the subscriber counted reaches at least 50.

This is human psychology at work. People in general are like sheeps. They’re scare to step outside their comfort zone and won’t do it until they see others do it. When they see a blog with a chicklet showing six readers, their tendency is not to subscribe. It’s best to hide your RSS number until you have enough subscribers to display a decent number. Big RSS numbers makes people subscribe. Small RSS numbers turns them away. It’s not fair, but that’s how it work.

If you want to be evil, you can fake a RSS feed count by displaying someone else’s Chicklet number. Net Business Blog wrote about how to do that in How I Got 283k Feed Subscribers in 1 Day.

Make Sure Your RSS Button Is visible

Your RSS button should be placed near the top of the blog and be visible without scrolling. You want to let the readers know right away that you have a RSS feed and you can’t do that if your button is out of site. I label my button with “Full Feed RSS” to let the readers know they can read all my content from RSS. If you really want to get the readers attention, you can try integrating the world’s biggest RSS button into your blog.

Worlds biggest RSS button

Ask Readers To Subscribe

If you want readers to sign up for your RSS, then ask them. The best way to ask is at the end of the post. Add a line that says, “If you like this post, then consider subscribing to my full feed RSS.”

Instead of adding that line on every single post, an easier way would be to edit your template files. In WordPress, you would edit the single.php or page.php file. You can also edit the index.php if you want the request to show on the blog home page.

Monetizing The RSS Feed

The best way to make money off a full feed RSS is to encourage readers to visit your blog. I wrote about that in how to get RSS readers to visit your blog.

My RSS feed is monetized with FeedBurner Ad Network and Text Links Ads Feedvertising. FeedBurner Ad Network ads are CPM based display ads that appear below a post. The CPM rates can get very high (up to $8) but the fill rate is very low.

Text Link Ads Feedvertising ads are just like text links for a blog. Instead of buying a link on a blog, the advertiser buys a link in the RSS feed. Like TLA links on a blog, pricing is flat rate so you don’t have to worry about variable CPM rates or click fraud. When you sign up for Text Link Ads, you are given a choice to add Feedvertising in your RSS. If you are already a TLA publisher and would like to add Feedvertising, you can do so by editing your listing in the TLA control panel. Feedvertising requires WordPress 2.0 or higher.

A Feedvertising link on this blog cost $550 per month. However, new advertisers can use this $100 coupon to bring the price down a bit.

If you like this post, then consider subscribing to my full feed RSS. :mrgreen:

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Gary Lee March 30, 2007 at 12:14 pm

you read my mind . . i would also suggest the POSTPOST plugin to monetize your feed just in case you don’t qualify for the FeedBurner program

mubin March 30, 2007 at 12:24 pm

What this POSTPOST Plugin?

Gary Lee March 30, 2007 at 1:48 pm

It’s by the famous Douglas Karr – March 30, 2007 at 5:08 pm

It might also be a good idea to automatically embed a sentence at the end of every post that says “If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to the full RSS feed”.

lyndonmaxewell March 30, 2007 at 8:25 pm

I guess that is one good way to remind readers to get hooked on your feed.

Life Training - Online March 30, 2007 at 6:45 pm

Didn’t John say that in his post? I guess repetition is the mother of all skill :wink:

Personal Development for John Chow’s Readers…

- Erich

Jonix March 30, 2007 at 7:23 pm

No that erich.

This is another superb article from john.

has always john show us very good points on how to improve the blog traffic and readers

Dave March 31, 2007 at 3:47 pm

That plugin is pretty sweet. :) Just book marked it!

Culture Shiok! March 30, 2007 at 7:47 pm

What can disqualify one from Feedburner? :?:

lyndonmaxewell March 30, 2007 at 11:45 pm

The ads or just the program? Invalid feeds/ clicks perhaps?

Dave March 31, 2007 at 7:31 am

Yo uneed to have a certain level of traffic on your RSS feed before feedburner will allow you to monetize it.

Alex March 30, 2007 at 12:21 pm

I can’t imagine anyone placing that world’s biggest RSS button on his blog (except in the post) :wink:

lyndonmaxewell March 30, 2007 at 12:32 pm

Well, I might try, for fun.. :D

ilker March 30, 2007 at 5:53 pm

We will be waiting!

lyndonmaxewell March 30, 2007 at 8:50 pm

I need to really resize the button though. :grin:

Culture Shiok! March 30, 2007 at 7:48 pm

Will that be anytime soon? :mrgreen:

lyndonmaxewell March 30, 2007 at 11:47 pm

Give me some time.. :D I need some time to beat that.

Alex March 31, 2007 at 7:50 am

I don’t have a large button. Nevertheless, you can’t miss it…

Dave March 30, 2007 at 12:35 pm

Another great article John. Thanks for sharing more of your knowledge with us :)

Blogger-Rising April 18, 2007 at 2:48 pm

Another great article. Thank you. :lol: :wink:

lyndonmaxewell March 30, 2007 at 12:35 pm

Well, it looks like my button is weeny tiny compared to JC. Seems that I have to make a bigger one so that it’s more obvious.. :twisted:

ilker March 30, 2007 at 5:51 pm

Obviously :grin:

Tyler Ingram March 30, 2007 at 12:47 pm

I took of the Feedburner chicklet thing on my site and I increased in readership too. Coincidence though? Maybe…

I used have partial feeds, but now after using Full Feeds ( I am totally for Full Feeds because I can read it without visiting the site. But I always end up going to the site to leave comments anyway!

Dave March 30, 2007 at 1:34 pm

Maybe I’ll try pulling the feed display off my site.

It’s been growing (up to 20 now) but I guess it might grow faster.

We’ll see. :)

ilker March 30, 2007 at 5:48 pm

Good idea! :idea:

Jonix March 30, 2007 at 7:24 pm

I vote on that

DanyO March 31, 2007 at 10:26 am

yes, just replace it with a visible RSS Subscription button like the one on my site. I think it will deliver good results over time. After a while, once you have more than like 1000 subscribers, add the subscription count chicklet to your site, but don’t remove the button.

Culture Shiok! March 30, 2007 at 8:30 pm

Mine’s still playing around 8-14. :sad:

I don’t know why it keeps on fluctuating. :?:

Dave March 31, 2007 at 7:33 am

Ours has been slowly creeping up this week.

DanyO March 31, 2007 at 10:18 am

how often do you update your site? if people keep unsubscribing from your feed, your doing something wrong. do you offer full feed? do you offer quality content on your site? do you update your site often (3-5 times a day) with meaning full content?

Bottom line is, people subscribe to your feed when they hit your site, but once your feeds start rolling in, they are not satisfied.

Dave March 31, 2007 at 3:49 pm

We post at least once a day, good meaningful content as well.

Our feed fluctuates as well, I think that’s just natural though, it has slowly been creeping up.

DanyO March 31, 2007 at 7:30 am

true. I guess the more you put your readers at ease, the more they will endup participating (visiting, commenting….)

Alex April 1, 2007 at 7:27 pm

Full feeds rock :!:

Stuart Hannig March 30, 2007 at 1:04 pm

Didnt you post this button like twice before.

John Chow March 30, 2007 at 3:14 pm

I think this is the 4th time now. :smile:

ilker March 30, 2007 at 5:46 pm

Ah ok.. I was wondering where those 3812 readers came from!

Jonix March 30, 2007 at 7:25 pm

they came from SE’s and some are returning visitors. I’m right, john?

Dave March 31, 2007 at 7:34 am

It’s a comically huge RSS button, he wants to post it any opportunity he can! :P

Alex Shalman March 30, 2007 at 1:04 pm

I agree with John on this completely. I had applied all the ideas that he’s mentioned and my fairly new blog has 232 subscribers today.

I would also suggest adding a new visitors page to your blog. Offer it as a button or a link, and include instructions on what is RSS, how to subscribe and navigate your site. I’ve recently added this feature to my site, and have been tracking how many people visit it. Unfortunately I can’t know the conversion that this page produces, but I’m sure it’s helping the numbers.

Alex Shalman March 30, 2007 at 1:16 pm

Oh, I’d also like to mention, that instead of stealing someones feed, you can make a .gif image of the feed in photoshop, and display it instead. You pick your numbers, but if you’re going to be involved in such john chow evil tactics, make sure you change it ever so often, so people don’t catch on.

On the other hand, you can always right click a feed, go to properties, and see where their feed is coming from. Evil works both ways.

Jonix March 30, 2007 at 7:26 pm

Are you replying to yourself? :twisted:

Mike Panic March 30, 2007 at 1:16 pm

I’m still not sure that I like huge RSS icons, Big ass RSS feed icons suck links to the original huge RSS icon here…

One way I’ve found to get more readers is to use the FeedBurner email (or FeedBlitz) and run a contest giving out a prize after XXX number of people sign up. It seems to be working for me so far.

DanyO March 31, 2007 at 7:14 am

yes, I think contests are a good idea to get people onboard with you.

Dave March 31, 2007 at 3:50 pm

Contests can be excellent, if you have a traffic base to draw from. If no one visits your blog to start with, no one will enter your contest :)

Abdul Aziz March 30, 2007 at 2:22 pm

I always share complete posts in my feed. But I don’t think RSS is a good medium of advertisement. Its better to drive people to your website than subscribe to your RSS.

lyndonmaxewell March 30, 2007 at 11:52 pm

Not in the sense of money making, but to get good old loyal folks to keep coming back for more. Implement images/ videos so that the folks have to get to the actual site sometimes to view them. They can’t do it in full feed, i guess.

Dave March 31, 2007 at 7:39 am

RSS readership effects the price of your ReviewMe reviews. So that’s where the money for having a high readership comes from. Review Me is John’s highest earner on this blog.

Ronaldo March 30, 2007 at 2:26 pm

There’s a nice trick I saw on Chris Garrett’s blog: he offers a free ebook, but the link for download is only available in the RSS Feed, so… you gotta subscribe to get the ebook :twisted:

Jason March 31, 2007 at 6:28 am

This is damn good but it may annoy readers

DanyO March 31, 2007 at 7:32 am

definitely something one should think about. Makes you think about squeeze point and all…

Dave March 31, 2007 at 7:35 am

I bet a lot of people subscribe to get the link, and then unsubscribe.

Shinzo Abe March 30, 2007 at 2:29 pm

a good insight on rsscribe and feed count.


Phil March 30, 2007 at 2:35 pm

If you dont offer a feed than maybe you are losing out on regular readers if you do then maybe you are losing out on people actually visiting the site – its a catch 22. I think in general though most people will still visit the site sometimes anyway to comment, read comments or just to get away from the feedreader!.
I still visit the sites in my reader.

Make Money Online With A Free Blog

Dave March 31, 2007 at 7:41 am

One tactic you can use to get your RSS visitors to view the blog, is post a video every now and then.

Then you can put in the post, if you’re reading the RSS , click here (link to the post) to see the video.

Kenny March 30, 2007 at 2:42 pm

I noticed the RSS subscribers flucuates quite a bit here. Yesterday it was 2900 or so, and today its 3800. Usually drops on weekends, but that is strange.

lyndonmaxewell March 30, 2007 at 11:54 pm

If people subscribe, but do not return to read, they will be eliminated. It works that way.

Paula Mooney March 30, 2007 at 2:48 pm


ilker March 30, 2007 at 5:44 pm

double nice

Jonix March 30, 2007 at 7:32 pm

triple nice, :mrgreen:

Tamar Weinberg March 30, 2007 at 3:03 pm

I see that you’re listening. Thanks John :)

ilker March 30, 2007 at 6:09 pm

You know what.. he does sometimes :)

He is not that evil

Jonix March 30, 2007 at 7:32 pm

not that evil, come on… :twisted:

Daniele Salatti March 30, 2007 at 3:11 pm

That’s exactly the article I was looking for!!

ilker March 30, 2007 at 5:39 pm


Jonix March 30, 2007 at 7:33 pm

double likewise

jacob March 30, 2007 at 3:20 pm

How do you set up for a full feed with WP? I’ve just got the default setup but don’t know where/how to do this? So far as I can tell, I don’t have this setup and unsure how to.

I think this is my first time commenting and wanted to thank you for sharing the information you have been about blogging! it’s great!

Tyler March 30, 2007 at 4:15 pm

If there are any PHP programmers out there and you wanted to really fake the subscribers in feedburner just use the GD Library and have PHP insert the numbers over top of a blank chicklet.

Similar way they do those crazy advertising signs or you know.. that girl who holds the sign in her hand in a webcam shot that says she loves me!

Billy Mac March 30, 2007 at 5:11 pm

I just started a contest where those who signed up for my feedblitz feed is enterd to win $100 dollars on Memorial day….I’ve gotten a decent response so far. What do you think is better feedburner or feedblitz?

ilker March 30, 2007 at 5:38 pm

Yeah.. I started a contest as well. You can win $2000! :mrgreen:

DanyO March 31, 2007 at 7:39 am

nice graphics, i’ll keep that in mind when I get my site redesigned.

DanyO March 31, 2007 at 7:34 am

i think contests are the way to go. With a little bit of though put into the concept, it will bring you lots of readers.

Dave March 31, 2007 at 7:42 am

Contests are great if you already have a userbase to draw from. If you don’t have any users, then it’s not so useful.

lyndonmaxewell March 31, 2007 at 7:51 am

Too many contests with so many blogs carrying out at the same time does little good for you too. My approach would be to take note of some of the others around my niche and set up contests when there are minimum carrying out.

ilker March 30, 2007 at 5:26 pm

Your famous biggest RSS button that you took from somewhere else again.. you should hire a graphic designer to do a custom one for you! :wink:

Ronaldo March 31, 2007 at 12:51 am

That button was created for ReviewMe, it showed on their home page right after the site launched.

Jack March 30, 2007 at 5:37 pm

Probably the best post I have read in a while, exactly what I was looking for.

ilker March 30, 2007 at 6:21 pm

I have to agree with that statement. :!:

DanyO March 31, 2007 at 7:36 am

yup, RSS is one of the areas people usually underestimate as far as their potential to create loyal subscribers.

ilker March 30, 2007 at 6:21 pm

Thank you John!! This was a very informative post :grin:

Stephanie March 30, 2007 at 7:00 pm

I took down my feed counter the other day, since it was low enough that I felt it might drive some people away. Good thing I did, too – a few days after I took it down, I had major problems with my feed, and it dropped down to 12 subscribers for one day! Luckily, it bounced back right after I fixed it, but it might not have it I’d had that counter up!

lyndonmaxewell March 31, 2007 at 4:42 am

Yea, it’s better to take off the feedcounter if it is too low. Might make readers think twice before subscripting. Numbers speak louder in this case.

CPA Affiliates March 30, 2007 at 7:41 pm

This is great article about RSS feeds. Plus i love the BIG RSS Button!

Scot April 2, 2007 at 2:42 am

Big RSS button ROCKS

- S

Culture Shiok! March 30, 2007 at 8:08 pm

I first saw this at Jason Neuman’s post as the RSS Desperation Button. :mrgreen:

Steve from Malaysia Love Agloco March 30, 2007 at 8:08 pm

Thank for the nice info.

Roberto Alamos Moreno March 30, 2007 at 11:36 pm

Hi John,

What do you think about email subscriptions? their capacity to be monetized is as low as the one of rss subscriptions?

Nice post as usual :)

DanyO March 31, 2007 at 10:14 am

Don’t know about monetizing, but the nice perk of email RSS subscriber is that you can track them, you have their email addresses, so you can run a variety of incentives (random prize draws, and others) to boost subscription. I think here the main goal of having RSS subscribers is to necessarily to monetize the feed itself, but to create loyal readers that regularly visit your site.

Scot April 2, 2007 at 2:41 am

Its good to have a list of quality e-mails. ;)

- S

lyndonmaxewell March 31, 2007 at 1:18 am

Okay, I got my BIGGEST upside-down RSS button up as well in response. :twisted:

DanyO March 31, 2007 at 7:13 am

Great article John. This way we can all gain from your experiences with RSS

lee March 31, 2007 at 7:43 am

Great post, John! I took your advice and immediately changed my single.php page so that a request for subscription was at the end.

DanyO March 31, 2007 at 10:34 am

anyone knows if feedburner includes the number of “RSS by Email” subscribers in the total number? or is the number displayed on that chicklet only reflects subscriptions with an RSS reader?

lyndonmaxewell March 31, 2007 at 10:39 am

If I’m not wrong, that’s for readers.

Alex April 1, 2007 at 7:37 pm

All subscribers are summed up!

Scot April 2, 2007 at 2:40 am

As others have said, they’re all together.

Douglas Karr April 1, 2007 at 3:21 pm

Great post, John! I love the ‘call to action’ at the bottom of each post. I’ve implemented it today.

Scot April 2, 2007 at 2:40 am

Removed the Chiclet, lets see if my readership grows through April.

- S

KidBlogger April 2, 2007 at 3:16 am

Is that big rss button royalty free?!

Steve Tylock April 3, 2007 at 6:37 am

We had added the count in the middle of last year and I had us take it down towards the end. My impression was exactly that – the low number scared people away. Love to put it back when it gets significant;-)

I’m still coming to terms with the full feed idea…

Amanda April 3, 2007 at 6:48 am

there are actually good tips I am going to have to impliment the dont show it when its small. especially when it fluxes between small and even smaller

Chris M April 3, 2007 at 3:29 pm

Thanks for the tips, I will be trying to initiate them on my website!

Micke April 4, 2007 at 7:34 am

Isn’t it a problem that a lot of people like to count visitors on their website with different counters, and the RSS visits will not be counted with most counters? Can this lead to this people ignoring the use of RSS?

Just a thought.

Article Checker April 4, 2007 at 8:54 am

That is one big RSS button alright. I can see it all the way across the room — just brilliant! :idea:

blabWire April 13, 2007 at 9:11 am

I post a link to subscribe on the bottom of each post in all of my blogs, and it REALLY helps give people a reason to actually click the link. It’s one thing to subscribe to a “pretty web site”, and it’s another to subscribe after reading a post you enjoy.


Mr. Red April 14, 2007 at 3:09 am

This is a great resource, i didnt even think to hide my subscribe count until it is bigger.