Today, the blog set a new RSS milestone and broke 44K readers for the first time. RSS going up is something we all like to see. However, what do you do when your RSS is going down? This guest post by Steven York of SEOpher has the answers. You can subscribe to Steven’s RSS feed here.
While it can be argued that watching your statistics is a mild form of madness (and counter productive as discussed at Problogger), if you care about making it as a blogger you have to care about your metrics. I strongly believe that your RSS feed is one of the biggest indications as to whether your blog is growing or not; visitors come and go like the tides but people subscribing to your feed indicates quality of content.
So what do you do if you see your RSS figures dropping? Well there are a few good ways to take a step back and work out where you’re going wrong. Here is my 10 step guide to rescuing your blog:
1. Is It Just a One Time Drop?
About a dozen times this year the number of subscribers to my feed has dropped by 500 or so overnight; for a super-sized blog with 25,000 subs that isn’t so much an issue, when I have 700 it’s rather noticeable. The first thing to do is not panic – you won’t have actually lost these subscribers it’s more likely to be a glitch with Feedburner or something, so just sit back and maybe write some killer content to ensure tomorrow is a new high.
2. Are You Actively Writing?
Sometimes taking a break from blogging is enough to see a small but steady decline in subscribers; fortunately this is the easiest one to resolve – just start writing again! Your readers will pick up again. If you’ve got a mailing list then it’s worth broadcasting that you’re writing again.
3. Is There Any Interactivity?
One of the biggest problems people face with their blogs is involving the reader. Posts that offer little more than a narrative on events/news within the niche don’t give the user any reason to hang around, whereas asking your readers questions or inviting feedback will help ensure your RSS feed doesn’t decrease.
4. Look at your latest content – can someone learn anything from it?
Have a look back over the past month of blog posts and ask yourself whether readers would learn anything from them? One of the biggest factors for ensuring readers return is offering them useful advice – whatever your niche, if you can ensure the reader goes away with something new then there’s every chance that they’ll come back.
5. This Point Could Literally Save Your Life
Not really, but it highlights one of the most crucial aspects of blogging and attracting an audience – writing sensationalist titles. You could be writing killer content but if you’re not selling it with the title then people aren’t interested in reading it. If people aren’t reading it, they’re certainly not subscribing to read more of it… See what I’m saying? Be descriptive and sexy in your titles and you’ll see an improvement in subscribers.
6. Run a Competition!
Ask people to subscribe via Email to your RSS feed – then using Feedburner you can get a spreadsheet of all confirmed Email subscribers; after a predetermined period of time you can randomly pick a winner. This will encourage feed subscriptions and if you follow rules 3, 4 and 5 you should be able to convert a few users. Remember, you don’t necessarily have to give away money – if you’ve got a skill you could market that as a prize. Hell, a day of my time as a consultant is comfortably $500 and that’s not a bad prize in itself. Be creative! Talk to friends, see if anyone has anything they want plugged…
7. Collaborate with Other Bloggers
Sharing readers can be a great way to increase your blog’s reach so if you’ve got friends within the niche talk to them, see if you can come to some arrangement about cross-promoting the blogs. Having guest authors raises the profile of your site and you get to share visitors – some of them might subscribe to your list too.
8. Be Honest, Be Personal and Challenge Yourself
One of the things I hate most about reading blogs is how impersonal some are; sometimes all you seem to read are loosely disguised promotions of affiliate campaigns and brags of success – to really connect to the average reader you need to be humble. Sure aspirational posts are good but I find it really hard to connect with some of the superstars because the amount of money they earn (John included) is just astronomical. These superstars can be bold about such things because they CAN earn that much. You’re probably not one of them, so be humble and honest and your readers will reward you with their attention.
9. Boast About The Things That You Do Well – But Be Constructive
If your subscribers are waining a little then it might be worth boasting about something you’ve done well (earned $1000 in one month blogging? Then explain how!). People want to read pieces of content with achievable goals, so explain exactly how you got there and you’ll attract readers. Reached #1 for a specific popular search term? Been front-paged on Digg? Mentioned in mainstream press? It’s a little like blowing your own trumpet but as bloggers we have to!
10. Last Resort, Speak To a Few of Your Readers
If all else fails and you’re still losing subscribers then it’s time to get back in touch; speak to a few subscribers you do have and ask what content they would like to see more of. It’s sometimes hard to put yourself directly in the shoes of your readers so speak to them – they’re just normal people like you! They won’t bite. Ask what content they like, what they don’t like etc. You might find the answers a little surprising. Canvas enough opinion (maybe even post a poll on your blog) and you should get an idea of what content works best for your readers – meaning you can cater to it a little closer to get your blog back to fighting weight.