I have been doing a lot of blog reading lately and have found some great ones to add to my Reader. The one thing that frustrates me the most when I find a good blog is hunting for the subscription feed or not finding one at all. You are losing so much in return visitors if you make it difficult for your readers to connect with you.
OK, let’s start at the beginning. For those that do not know what RSS is, it stands for Really Simple Syndication and is basically like a subscription service for your blog. There are many RSS Reader programs out there that allow you to subscribe to your favorite blogs this way, giving you an automatic update whenever your favorite blogs put up a new post and the ability to read it without going to their page. I use Google Reader and an app on my ipad called Feedler to read all my saved blogs. They allow me to organize the blogs by subject (photography, internet marketing, food, etc) and I’m able to read in bed or relaxing somewhere.
For those that use WordPress, you have the feed built into the site and those savvy enough know where to find it at yoursite.com/feed. What about the common visitor who is not too tech smart, but likes your blog and would like to know about your updates? For these people it is good to put a link or an RSS icon (it has been universal and most know what it is) on your blog so visitors can click and subscribe. Put it ‘above the fold’ on the site where it can be found when they first come on your site; don’t make them hunt for it. Somewhere in the upper right is the common place and where most look.
There are many plugins that will do this for you and use the default feed link. While this is great and a start, I have found that it still may be difficult for some to add to their reader and why not make it as easy as you can for your visitors? After all, the easier it is the better chance you have at retaining them as a future visitor. I have noticed in some browsers (mainly Safari) when you click on the feed link you just get a page showing the feed. If you want to subscribe you have to copy/paste the address into your reader.
Enter Feed Burner! FeedBurner is a free service that puts your feed on steroids. This allows you to track how many subscribers you have, analyze, and best of all monetize your feed with adsense (yes, Google owns this, too). But for this article what we are focusing on is making it easy for your visitors to add your feed. Once you add your blog you will get a new feed address and you then substitute this for your RSS link for your icon and subscribe link. You would also download the FeedBurner plugin for WordPress and once it’s set up and activated it will move all your feed data and old subscribers to the new feed. What this ultimately does is give your reader a look at your feed and a selection of readers to add it to in the upper right. If they use a reader often FeedBurner recognizes this and will eventually just show them their favorite reader.
The key is to make it as easy as you can for your visitor to follow you and your blog. If they have to hunt for your feed or it is just difficult they will move on, perhaps to never be seen again. That would make us sad as we would like to retain as many visitors we can and create a following that we can interact with.
Do you use RSS feeds to retain visitors? How is is it for them to subscribe?
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