I talked a lot about RSS over on another page, but now we can get into the basics of promoting that feed. When you run a CMS like WordPress, you generally get an RSS feed automatically that will allow subscribers to view your latest updates at all times as long as they’re subscribed to it via bookmark or email. But, now you can do so much more with it!
Feedburner is my choice for web feed management. Since I use Google for all of my online services, it just made sense to use their Feedburner service for my RSS feeds. Google bought the service in 2007 and has since made existing “pro” services free to all users.
Benefits of Feedburner
Using a feed management service is a great way to monitor your RSS activity. If you didn’t use one, you may never know who’s subscribing and how they’re using it. And as I’ve been teaching you, knowing as much information about your users as possible is a key to the success (or failure) of your website.
- Track subscribers – If you notice at the top right of most of my site’s pages, you’ll see a little orange box that tells you how many readers are currently subscribed to my feed. This number changes constantly, but it gives me a basic snapshot of how many people are reading my site consistently.
- Analyze subscribers – I didn’t get a chance to use Feedburner before Google took over, so I don’t know if this feature is new, but it allows you to see what feed readers and aggregators your subscribers are using. This can help you optimize your content for specific readers.
- Google AdSense – One of the major concerns webmasters have about RSS is that visitors can read the site content without seeing ads. Since ads provide your site’s revenue, this is the equivalent of using a DVR to watch tv. However, with Feedburner, you can insert your AdSense ads right into your feed content so your visitors can still click on them.
- Track traffic – You can also use Feedburner to see what’s being clicked on. Think of this exactly like stats for your website and again, this can help you optimize your site for your RSS readers.
- Optimize and Socialize – Using the optimizing tools allows you to better optimize your feed content to increase browser compatibility and make it more user-friendly. To help promote your blog, you can add a Twitter account and allow Feedburner to automatically post tweets about your latest updates.
There are plenty of other tools you can use to get the most out of your Feedburner account including HTML exporting of RSS content, merging Flickr into your RSS, etc.
My two cents
You can already tell that I’m a fan of Feedburner, but it just makes sense. If you already use Google for your other web services (and you should be if you’re not!), you can’t go wrong with Feedburner.
You’ve seen it all over my site and probably many other sites you’ve been to. It’s the little orange icon that indicates there’s a subscription you can subscribe to on a website. If you want to get all the latest updates for a website without having to go back multiple times a day to see what’s changed, subscribing to an RSS feed will help you.
RSS is short for really simple syndication and it is exactly that! A feed is the url that provides the content to your visitors. As a publisher, you enjoy the benefit of all your content and site updates being automatically syndicated through your RSS feed, while your users benefit from having these updates delivered to them instantly. Current web browsers usually offer the reading of RSS feeds inline with the browser which means it opens and navigates just like the original website. Go ahead and try it now by viewing my RSS feed. I’ll wait…
Some browsers don’t read the RSS inline, but rather bookmark the feed in the browser and then open it in a built-in RSS reader. Here’s a list of popular browsers and how they interpret RSS feeds.
- Google Chrome – Chrome opens feeds directly in a new tab (or window) and allows you to read the content in the browser. From there, you can bookmark it as you see fit.
- Mozilla Firefox – When you click on a feed link, you’re automatically prompted to bookmark the feed. This feed is then sorted by all of the content entries by title. When you click on any link within the bookmark, it takes you directly to the original page on the site.
- Microsoft Internet Explorer – Internet Explorer 7 and newer will open a feed very similar to the way Chrome does, but it has the added benefit of being able to sort content by category (site tags).
- Apple Safari – Apple also opens feeds just like Chrome and Internet Explorer, but it allows you to sort and search content in greater detail than Internet Explorer.
A old way of keeping your visitors notified of updates was to have them sign up for an email newsletter and hope they check their mail. Since email is so flooded with spam these days, it’s getting harder and harder to retain the attention spans of your web visitors. By having these updates delivered to their browser window, it increases the chances that they’ll respond.
- Ads – If you’re using Google AdSense, Google has new tools for RSS feeds that allow ads to be dropped right into the feed content and it works the same way as it does on your site.
- Bandwidth – Although images and video still show in your feeds, other images such as themes and logos don’t. This can save you bandwidth charges every month when people view your content only through RSS.
- Loyalty – Your visitors love updates and the faster and easier they can get it, the better. RSS provides you with both of these features and the best part is that it’s all automatic.
- Promotion – Your feed urls can be distributed all over the Internet to create more or less, a new following for your website.
I recommend syndicating your RSS through Feedburner, which is now part of Google. This way, you add another useful service to your Google account and also take advantage of Google AdSense. Everything is built right in and you are able to create multiple feeds in needed.