Turn Your Blog Readers into Feed Subscribers

Teli Adlam —  June 25, 2007

Not too long ago, one of my clients purchased a book on blogging and one of the sections mentioned increasing the number of RSS subscribers, however, the advice given was little more than “put an RSS button in the top of your sidebar.” Needless to say, it wasn’t too helpful. So, he came to me for a bit of advice and while I was crafting a response, I decided that you may be able to benefit from it as well.

But, first, let me give you a little background. His site does not cater to a tech-savvy audience. Essentially, most of his readers don’t even know what RSS is or how it can benefit them. People are not likely to subscribe to something they know nothing or very little about. That brought me to the first bit of advice I offered.

Educate Your Audience

It’s human nature to fear the unknown and to stay very far away from what we fear. To someone who isn’t around it everyday or already using it, RSS can be a scary new world. If your blog has a tech-unsavvy audience, the best thing you can do for them is to educate them on the wonders of RSS.

Take the time to write a brief page detailing what RSS is, how it can be used, and how it can benefit your audience; write it in terms they will understand and keep the techno-babble to a minimum. Use the opportunity, also, to point them in the direction of helpful tools they can begin using immediately.

When the information page is available, make sure that it’s widely accessible throughout your site, preferably somewhere near your RSS subscription button. This should go without saying, but make it obvious what the page is — for instance, use the words “What is RSS?” or “Learn more about RSS” or “Learn How RSS Can Help You” when linking to this special page.

Play Up the Subscription Options

Now that your audience has an idea of what RSS is and how it can benefit them, it’s time that you started playing up your subscription options. For instance, at the bottom of your article on RSS, make sure to tell your readers to subscribe to your feed. Get them while their newfound knowledge is still fresh.

For the more advanced users, give them additional subscription options. WordPress, among other blogging tools, provides feeds in many different flavors including category and author specific. If you have a blog that has a number of categories or multiple bloggers, it may be wise to allow your readers to subscribe only to what they want to read.

Publicize Your Feeds

It’s important that your readers are able to find your feed subscription links when they need to. Make sure that your feed button or link is in a highly visible area of your blog — one of the best areas is in the upper left or right corner of your blog. Use both the RSS feed button and a plain text link.

Add the feed link to your blog’s head meta so that it can be auto-found by feed subscription software. This is incredibly simple to do and only takes a few minutes if it’s not already in place for your blog.

Add the following code between the <head> and </head> of your blog’s theme:
<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="Title of your Feed" href="http://www.link.com/to/your/feed.xml" />

For the WordPress bloggers, you can add the following (bear in mind that most themes already come with it enabled — double check before adding it):
<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="<?php bloginfo('name'); ?>" href="<?php bloginfo('rss2_url'); ?>" />

Finally, whenever you create any special reports or articles to help market your blog, make sure that you mention subscribing to your website’s feed with a link to it directly in the report. That way, as more people come across the content and find it enjoyable, they know to immediately subscribe to your blog.

[tags]increase rss subscribers, increase blog feed subscriptions[/tags]

Teli Adlam


5 responses to Turn Your Blog Readers into Feed Subscribers

  1. Good article, Teli. I’ve experienced this difficulty also – it’s just hard to get people who have trouble even using email to sign up for RSS. On sites that catered specifically to age groups in their 40’s and above we always create some method to receive the feed through email. This usually amounted to something like you have, a weekly digest, or a daily feed update. I think it’s good to come to your users at their level (if you have the resources to do so), so offering many different forms of syndication can be helpful to them.

  2. So how do you do multiple rss links???? I think that maybe I could benefit from it seeing I have some different categories. Would they also be included as the one feed on feedburner??

  3. James,
    I’m terribly sorry that I didn’t see your comment until now. I definitely understand that some people are simply unwilling to subscribe to a website feed (I believe I even mentioned this in a later article on the subject, but the link escapes me). For those folks, I simply recommend exactly what’s you’ve mentioned — an RSS to e-mail equivalent.

    Oh, just remembered where I mentioned it…LOL

    Building Traffic with FeedBurner

    ~ Teli

  4. Jermayn,
    If you’re using WordPress (which I know you are), it’s as simple as adding /feed/ to the end of the URL if you’re using pretty permalinks or &?feed=rss2 if you’re not.

    Now, for categories, there’s a much easier way. 🙂 You just add one of two arguments, depending on your preference, to the <?php wp_list_categories(); ?> tag.

    The arguments are feed and feed_image. The former will link whatever text you’d like to appear with a link to that category’s RSS feed and the latter will display whichever image you choose with a link to that category’s feed.

    Example: <?php wp_list_categories('feed=RSS'); ?> would output something like “Uncategorized (RSS)” and <?php wp_list_categories('feed_image=/images/rss.gif'); ?> would add an image in place of “RSS”.

    For more information on that, read up on the template tag at the WP Codex.

    Hope that helps,
    ~ Teli

  5. One of my sites has never had anyone subscribe to the rss. I will try some of the tips and see how it goes. Thanks.