[This post is part of the Ultimate Guide to Launching a WordPress-Powered Blog series.]
One of the most important things that you’ll want to do very early on with your new blog is sign up for a RSS Tracking System to not only track your RSS Subscribers through a 3rd party system but to also analyze and execute against the information that they can gather for you.
Why? Here are a few of the most important reasons:
- Tracking your RSS readers will help you gain more readers as you’ll be able to track usage patterns, click throughs, and even more neat information.
- Tracking your RSS readers helps significantly keep you competitive and positive with your growth. I consider growth of my RSS readers as a foundational part of my short term goals strategy.
- Some systems provide opportunities for you to actually monetize your RSS Subscriptions which can help your bottom line!
- Some RSS Subscription Services include some email subscription services which can cater to some of your users who would rather read your content in that form. By offering this you can get more readers and more traffic.
- Many RSS services can help you optimize your content delivery for many different RSS readers which will allow for greater mass-consumption of your content.
- Some RSS services allow customization of the look-and-feel of the content as it shows up in RSS readers!
- Some RSS services can help notify content distribution networks when you publish your content as well as provide direct channels into your social networking tools.
- And more!
Although the benefits aren’t near-endless they are good enough to spend a small amount of time investing in time required to find the right system for your blog and then customizing it for excellence!
So, which one to choose? Here’s what I use (if the title didn’t give it away):
I Use Feedburner:
There are more than a few for you to choose from but I choose one system without giving any others a second thought: Feedburner.
Instead of telling you why I like Feedburner the best I’ll walk you through setting it up in the best way possible using my actual settings for TentBlogger and talk to each point as we go through them!
Ready? Let’s get started!
You’ll first want to actually setup your account. Duh. Let’s start there, shall we?
1. Start at Beginning
Start by heading to the Feedburner Homepage here and signing in/signing up to the system. You may have to create a Google Account if you haven’t already but if not then you’re set!
2. Claim Your Feed
The first thing you’ll want to do is claim your feed from your WordPress blog. To do this, all you have to do is copy and paste your RSS Feed URL directly here:
Since you’re using WordPress your feed address will most likely be the following:
Just make sure to add the /feed to your blog URL! That’s it. Hit “Next”!
3. Give it a Title, Feed URL
Three things to note here, the first being that you’re going to want to give it a short title – don’t overdo it as it’ll look really funky in RSS Readers. Also you’ll want to make the “Feed Address” in all lower-case since some readers, for some strange reason, can’t interpret caps. As such, just make it lowercase. Finally, make sure your Feed Address is also as short as possible.
- Feed Title – Make it short and sweet.
- Feed Address – Make it short (and sweet too).
- Feed Address – Make it all lowercase.
4. Get Those Stats
The next screen you’ll see is above but you’ll want to make sure to hit “Next” and get some more stats:
Make sure you click those three checkboxes to tell your system to track ‘Clickthroughs,’ ‘Item Enclosures,’ and the additional Feedburner stats that are available. Even if you don’t have a Podcast right now you may have one later so just check those boxes now and you’ll be fine.
Click “Next” and you’ll be thrown into your Dashboard:
Now the real work begins as you’ll spend some time here optimizing your Feedburner System.
Optimizing Your Feed in Feedburner:
The next portion I’m going to walk you through optimizing your feed through Feedburner’s “Optimize” tab. I’ll share with you my actual settings for this blog, TentBlogger, and all of the other blogs that I run and manage!
Here we go:
1. Browser Friendly
As you can see I’ve activated Browser Friendly with the following settings.
One of the neat things here is that I’ve enabled a “Personal Message” that is completely optional but you might as well do to provide that unique touch of a personal message to your faithful readers.
It eventually looks like this via the feed:
Give it that personal touch!
2. Enable Smart Feed
This section is easy: Just enable the service! It’s pretty self-explanatory so you can read it for yourself.
FeedFlare is an interesting option that I’ve had very mixed results. To spare you a long-winded explanation I’ll just say that it’s worth it enough to turn it on for the few times that people click through it and I’ve seen a better return on its use when you minimize the choices that you give your audience (or it looks like a wild mess).
I use only Stumble It, Email This and Share on Facebook in that order:
You can, of course, add more to your own personal liking but beware of how it eventually appears in someone’s reader! A few tests will give you insight very quickly.
4. Feed Image Burner
Feed Image Burner gives your feeds some class and personality! I’m always surprised to see how many bloggers don’t spend the few seconds it takes to add a custom image to their feeds to give it some pizzazz!
You can see the custom image URL here in Firefox:
And then here in Chrome:
Of course, there are some browsers (and RSS Feed Readers) that won’t bring in your burned image, like Safari:
In either case go for it! Just upload that image (max size of 144 pixels height and width) and then give your feed some more personal flavor!
5. Title, Description Burner
This is a pretty self-explanatory feature as well and it just takes a second or two.
Here’s what it would look like in the real:
Pretty slick, right? Do it – just takes a second.
6. Thoughts on Summary Burner
I just wanted to briefly touch on one of the last options available to you in this section, Summary Burner, and how I categorically disagree with it’s use. Some people will argue that it’s “better” to tease your audience who have faithfully subscribed to your content and literally “force” them to visit your blog so you get more visits and pageviews.
Naturally, I think this is seriously lame. If your visitor has taken the time to subscribe to your blog then you should do everything that you possibly can to serve them the content in the fullest way possible! I believe that if they want to read it via their RSS Reader then they want to read it IN their RSS Reader!
Don’t force your users to engage with you on your terms as much as you can – give them options and freedom and I think that’ll pay back overtime in spades. You might “miss” a few pageviews here and there but who cares long-term? Passionate readers and community members will share your content as they consume it the way they want to consume it!
Obviously, this also applies to your internal WordPress Settings (which I’ve elaborated in that post as well):
And that’s that.
Publicize Feed Settings in Feedburner:
Next up is the Publicize tab and we’ll walk together through that very quickly with my settings.
1. Email Subscriptions
You’re going to want to offer your readers the ability to read your blog posts via email so give them that option! Feedburner makes it easy.
Just activate this service and then make sure you stick the link somewhere prominent! You can even use their code to create a signup widget as well if you wish.
- Email Subscription enables readers to subscribe to your blog and get your blog posts in their email inbox daily.
- Email Newsletter signs them up for your periodic newsletter that may be your blog posts but typically something other than your blog posts.
Got it? Good!
Don’t forget to customize your subscription email notice as well. Give it some pizazz!
For example, here’s what mine says:
You’ve decided to be super-awesome and subscribe to my blog, TentBlogger, via email!
I’m so happy! Seriously! I can’t wait to send you my blog posts directly to your inbox, daily!
All you have to do is click this link to confirm:
(If the link above does not appear clickable or does not open a browser window when you click it, copy it and paste it into your web browser’s Location bar.)
Finally, you can, of course, unsubscribe at any time but that might make me sad a bit.
If you have any issue, please feel free to email me directly here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Go and add some character and something special!
And then, give it some Email Branding by adding your custom URL to an image and some text:
And here’s how mine looks:
Easy, right? Finally, customize your delivery options. I’ve found success by putting it in the middle of the US (CST) and between the following time-slots for delivery:
Pick on and go!
Just go ahead and activate PingShot and be happy that you’re reaching as broad of an audience as possible.
Done and done.
The FeedCount system allows you to publicly show your readers how many readers that are subscribed to your blog and I think this is a good thing to share.
There are a number of reasons for this:
- There’s no shame in your “numbers” as everyone starts at zero. By publicly sharing these numbers you can give a level of authenticity to your person, blog, and community. I dig that.
- It provides a level of healthy competitive spirit both internally and externally! You’ll want to keep that number going up, up, and up! This falls well with Short Term Traffic goals!
- It shows to your community that you’re not shy about your numbers. Be proud of what you’ve done, how far you’ve come, and the room you have to grow!
So go on and be your awesome-self!
Finally, another reason that you’ll want to turn and activate this is because more than a few services need this turned on so that they can take those figures and use their values.
For example, the active subscriber widget that I have on this blog (using Standard Theme WordPress Theme which has it built-in) needs it activated so that it can pull those numbers.
So just go ahead and turn that thing on!
Some Feedburner users use Socialize and the feature to automatically tweet out blog posts on publish. Over time I’ve discovered that this is not something I want turned on, and here’s why:
- I’m not a perfect writer and so I’ll publish a blog post and then suddenly remember something I forgot or find a spelling error here or there. As such, I want some time to correct those issues before Feedburner automatically kicks it out to thousands of followers! I want control of exactly when I tweet it!
- It’s been some what unpredictable and for some reason it fails to authenticate at times. I’d rather not have a hit-or-miss feature! I’ll do it manually.
- It uses the Goo.gl URL shortener and I’d rather use the native Twitter URL shortener or my own URL Shortener (Bit.ly and TentBlo.gs). Again, I want a bit more control.
You can, of course, do what you’d like here but I think there are better options out there!
And, of course, if you can’t authenticate at all then you have your answer!
4. Awareness API
I turn this one on for the use of values and data to 3rd party services. Just turn it on and then move on!
5. Creative Commons
Using the right Creative Commons License for your work is important for you to consider. You can see my settings above and I feel this is the best and right one to choose, simply because I want to give people the opportunity to use parts of my work in their content as long as they give me credit and use the same license of their derivative work as the one that I use.
And, as you can see, I don’t put the badge in there because I’ve activated my Feed Image Burner settings for personalization.
Will people abuse this and straight-up copy your work? Sure. There’s almost nothing you can do about it, but having the right license in place today can save you some heartache in those crazy-one off situations where you may have to pursue something legal (hopefully never).
6. NoIndex Settings
I’ve requested that search engines do not actually index my RSS Feed as indicated above. There is one very important reason that you should do this:
- Google.com and Feedburner.com have an insanely more powerful PR Ranking than your blog and search engines will index your feeds before your actual real content! I’ve seen this happen over and over again and it’s really sad. Don’t let that happen!
That is a sad day if your RSS Feed indexes higher than your actual blog! Before I knew about this some of my blog feeds were ranking 1st and 2nd on the search returns and my blog was on the 2nd page.
Finally, I use Yahoo! Pipes occassionally for custom widgets and I keep this option open. For the life of me I have no idea why they even have this option considering the many other places they could or couldn’t allow access to your feed.
I mean, do you really know about Yahoo! Pipes? I thought not. Trust me, you’re not missing on anything revolutionary.
Monetize Your Feedburner RSS Feed:
The final tab is the monetization area where you can actually insert Adsense banners and text links to make a few dollars (and cents) on your feed.
Most of you, especially newer bloggers, shouldn’t really spend too much time here for now as you have better things to worry about (like developing amazing content) way before you start monetizing.
But, for those interested, I’ve captured a few thoughts here.
Adsense for Feeds can be a powerful way to monetize your feeds, but trust me when I say that you need a significant amount of traffic through your feeds to even convert into something that might buy you a #1 combo at McDonalds.
That is unless you have a very strong niche focus and have developed some robust strategy for executing!
As you can see I do make some money via my feeds but it’s not big enough of a figure for me to care too much about it at this time.
For sure, optimizing them for better conversion is important and I will spend more time this year (if I do, in fact, start advertising explicitly).
Adding a Feed via Adsense
Adding a feed into adsense is quite easy. Just head to Adsense directly via your Feedburner account and then walk through these steps:
Then click AdSense Setup at the top. You’ll jump to the following screen:
Then click AdSense for Feeds and goto the next screen:
You’ll first choose the different types of ads (images, text) and then scroll to the bottom and hit “add”!
Then you’ll see the following confirmation screen:
Not to bad, right?
As you can see, I’ve suspended the operations of my Adsense for Feedburner right now:
I’ll come back to that later perhaps.
Trouble Shooting FeedBurner:
Sometimes your feed “breaks” and/or becomes invalid, or for some reason doesn’t want to update itself.
Thankfully, FeedBurner has a few tricks up their sleeve when it comes to trouble shooting:
1. Try Pinging FeedBurner to tell FeedBurner to check your feed for an update.
2. If you’re having trouble getting your feed to work then something might be wrong with validation. Check here!
3. If nothing is working you can ultimately choose to “NUKE” the feed and see if you can re-sync it:
This is what this option does:
- Clears our cached version and refreshes its content from your Original Feed.
- Creates podcast enclosures for items that did not previously have them and contain links to podcast content.
- Reports any feed formatting problems encountered during the resync.
I have to do this on occasion but not too often. Of course, you could just do it for fun if you wanted.
Finally, you can always look at some of the history of your feed and see any issues you’ve had in the past:
If you’ve had some historical issues and it’s been recurring pretty systematically a number of things could be really messed up:
- WordPress Plugins interfering.
- .htaccess issues.
- Server/hosting issues.
- WordPress Theme issues
I’ve seen the most problems solved by changing WordPress Themes as some of them are just plain broken! Of course, I recommend you use Standard Theme and you’ll never have any issues ever, but I’m biased because I use it here on TentBlogger!
Finally you can check out My Brand and use a CNAME to serve the feed via your own domain if you’re super-interested in keeping your branding as clear and as focused as possible. If you know what you’re doing then this process isn’t too hard as it just requires you to update you DNS Zone File via your hosting provider.
Also, make sure you subscribe to your own FeedBulletin alert feed:
Subscribe so you can see what changes or updates are being made to your feed, especially if you’re having problems getting access to them:
I hope this overview of Feedburner proves to be valuable for you! I’d love to know what settings you use and if you do anything differently!
[This post is part of the Ultimate Guide to Launching a WordPress-Powered Blog series.]