Get More Out of your RSS Feeds

Posted at May 12, 2011

If you’re publishing content on a regular basis, it’s important to know as much information as possible about its consumption.  That’s the crazy thing about the Internet.  You put stuff out there, and just hope that someone is reading/watching!  Anyone with a blog knows this feeling. Aside from comments and trackbacks, the best way to get your audience “hooked” on your content is to encourage them to subscribe to your feed.

Just about any blog, publishing system, or audio/video site makes its content available via RSS.  Just visit any newspaper, video sharing, or blog site and you’ll see the telltale orange RSS icon in your browser light up (just like on the blog you’re reading now).  If your users click this link, they’ll get the opportunity to read/subscribe to a feed of your content.

Normal RSS feeds are anonymous, and offer nearly zero feedback on how many people are really seeing your stuff.  Even worse, many RSS subscribers may ONLY be skimming your content in their feed reader, and never coming back to your Website anymore.  This is a big problem for ad-driven sites, but still creates a conundrum for sites with no ads.

Make Your Feeds Work Harder

We love and recommend Google Feedburner as a great way to make your feeds more effective and measurable.  Here are some benefits of the free service:

  • Let your readers subscribe to your feeds via Email, since most people have no idea what a “feed reader” even is in the first place!
  • Track how many people are subscribed to your feed
  • Find out what people are clicking within your posts/articles (e.g. which sermon video was the most popular in the past 30 days?)
  • Make your feeds more readable in a browser (as opposed to making people look at the raw XML behind your feed)
  • Let people interact with your feed (Email, share, comment, share on Facebook, etc.)

Feedburner is easy to setup, and works with just about any RSS feed.  For example, I use it on my personal video sharing site on SiteOrganic, and we also run all of our blog posts through it from this site.

What if our site doesn’t create RSS in the first place?

If your site doesn’t generate its own RSS feeds, then you need to fix this problem before you go to something like Feedburner!  For a straight blog site, try moving to something like Blogger or WordPress.  For a site with more expansive content needs such as media, blogs, pages, calendars, podcasts, etc., you’ll want to look at a more sophisticated content management tool like Drupal, Joomla, or a full-service option such as SiteOrganic.

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