One of the best way to distribute your blog content and help people read your blog is through an RSS Feed. “RSS” stands for “Really Simple Syndication” and is a way for your blog posts to get broadcast to a wide range of websites and Feed Readers around the internet.
So you need an RSS feed!
Thankfully, WordPress comes with an innate feed built right in. How do you find it? It is the name of your blog, followed by /feed/. So in my case, it would be
Oh, and if you want to see your comments feed, just insert /comments/ into the address:
However, WordPress does not have a way to track your feed readers, have them subscribe by email, or any of the other things that can be done with a feed. You need an extra tool to do that.
By far the best tool available to get the most out of your RSS Feed is a free tool by Google called “Feedburner.”
In this post, we will set your feed at Feedburner.
Create an Account at Google
First, if you don’t already have a Google account, create for free at Google.com. If for some reason you don’t already have a Google account, and don’t want to burn a feed, you might as well create an account anyway, because you will need it later for Google Webmaster tools, Google Analytics, and Google Adsense. Google is a blogger’s best friend.
So login to your Google Account, and then go to Feedburner. It is here that you can burn your feed. Type your web address into the space provided, and then type “feed” after it, as in the picture below.
Click “Next” and the following screen pops up. I only made a few changes to my feed. I put a space in between “Grace” and “Blogger” and on the feed address, I made the initial “G” lower case. These changes are simply stylistic.
Clicking “Next” again will give you the big Google Congratulations for burning your feed!
Let me congratulate you also: Congratulations!
Dress up Your Feed at Feedburner
Once you click next to dress up your feed, you will be shown the following screen.
I like as much information as I can get out of my Feeds. So I select Clickthroughs and the “I Want More” button. I am not planning on using my Feed for a podcast, but if you are going to use a Podcast, select the second option as well.
Now, click “Next” and let’s move on.
This is what your main Feedburner page looks like:
We are going to work through this tab by tab.
Feedburner Analyze Tab
The first tab is the “Analyze” Tab. Because the feed is new, there is not much to see here, and Feedburner tells you as much.
It will take about 24 hours for the first stats to start to appear. And since your blog is new, even once statistics begin to appear, there still won’t be much to see here. But don’t worry about that. Traffic will come with time.
Feedburner Optimize Tab
Let’s move on to the second tab, “Optimize.” We are going to begin working through the “Services” starting with making your Feed Browser Friendly.
You can leave the Appearance Options as they are.
Under the Content Options, I like to add a little personal note to people who subscribe to the Feed. In the case of Grace Blogger, I am going to put the following in the “Personal Message” Box:
Thank you for subscribing to the Grace Blogger Feed! You are why I write! If I can do anything to make the blog better, please let me know!
Make sure you click the box to Enable this Personal Message, then Click Save, and move on.
We are going to skip “Smartcast” because it is only for Podcasting. If you are setting up a Podcast, let me know if you need help, and we can set up those options also.
So let’s move on to Smartfeed.
Simply click “Activate” and move on.
Let’s look now at Feedflare.
For some reason, whenever I think of Feedflare, I think of “flair” from the movie “Office Space.” I know it’s spelled different, but the idea is actually kind-of the same.
Flare on your RSS Feed are the little friendly links at the bottom of each post which invite people to share your item on Facebook or Digg, or send it to a friend by email. There are lots of plugins today that will do this for you, but plugins and RSS feeds don’t always play nice together, and besides, we need to treat RSS Readers like royalty, and they don’t want to be bombarded with a lot of flashy plugins at the bottom of a feed item. So keep it clean and simple. Use a few Feedflare items.
Here are the ones I use.
You see? I put nothing on my site (I will use Plugins for that), and only a few items on my Feed. But did you notice something very important missing from this list?
That’s right. Missing from the list is the most important and most-used social networking platform that exists: Twitter! Where is Twitter?! Are Google and Twitter not playing nice together?
Have no fear. Let’s add Twitter to our Feedflare.
See the Personal Feedflare box?
Paste the following code in there and click “Add New Flare.” Twitter and Google are now playing nicely again.
Here is how it looks:
One final thing in Feedflare. You can arrange the order of the Feedflare items by dragging and dropping them in the window at the bottom. Here is my preferred order:
Don’t forget to “Activate” your Feedflare at the bottom!
We are going to skip the next four items and move on to “Title Description Burner.” If and when you develop a Logo, you can come back and enter it in the Image Burner section, but we don’t have one right now, so let’s skip it.
In the Title Description Burner, use the same Blog Title and Description you entered back in your Blog Settings. Remember those? They are in your Dashboard, under Settings > General. Here are mine:
I am just going to copy that right over.
And that is all for the Optimize Tab! You don’t need to deal with anything else in this tab.
Feedburner Publicize Tab
One more tab to go, the Publicize tab (Nothing can be done in the other two tabs right now).
In the Publicize tab, skip Headline Animator (because it’s incredibly annoying), and go straight to BuzzBoost.
We’re going to make the following changes:
I change the number of items to display to 5, check the box which displays the author name, the I want the items to be displayed as Full HTML, rather than Plain Text. Again, if you have a podcast, you will want to check the “Linked Media from a Podcast” box. Activate BuzzBoost, and let’s move on.
Email Subscriptions are the next option. When you first click on the menu item, there is not much there: Just an option to activate it. So activate it!
When you do, you get four more options. Let’s work through them one a time. The first email option is your Subscription management. When you get email subscribers, this is where you can learn some information about them. Right now, you will have zero email subscribers, but that will change in time.
Also, I leave the code as it is. Later, we will put a subscription area on our website, and can make any adjustments we want to the code at that time.
So let’s move on to Communication Preferences.
By default, Feedburner puts your Google email address in the spot that the email is from. You should probably set up a specific email account from your own blog to send these emails out, or just use the one that you used when you installed WordPress.
Also, change the Confirmation email body to something that reflects your personality and blog content a little better. You can see what I changed my message to. When people subscribe to your posts, this is the first email they will get, so make it good. Once you have your email and message set up the way you want, click “Save” and move on.
Email Branding is the next option.
You should play around with this to see what works best for you, but here are the settings I use:
The first box is what will appear in the Subject line of the email. I like the title of the post to appear in the email subject line, since the title is my first chance to grab somebody’s attention. So I used the code provided to include the Post Title.
Second, sometimes I publish more than one post per day. Feedburner only sends out one email per day. So you must decide how you want Feedburner to tell your email subscribers that you made more than one post. You can include the title of one post and then tell your readers there are “M” more, or you can just list the number of articles. I have played around with this over the years, and the set up above is the one I use right now. I’m not saying it is best. It is just the one I currently use.
Finally, I made some adjustments to the font style and size. I like my headlines big, and my text a little smaller than what they suggested. The HTML preview below shows you how it looks. The emails, of course, look better than the preview, as they include paragraph breaks and other formatting options from your blog.
Once you have everything the way you like, “Save” it.
The final email menu item is Delivery Options. In here, you set up what time you want your email to be delivered.
I have played around with these options a lot as well over the years, and these are my current settings. I figure that no matter when people check their email during the day, I want the email in the box as soon as they open it. Some people argue that it is better to have the email “appear” in their box later in the day, but I found that messed up my blog posting schedule. So I use these options right now.
When I make posts, I schedule them to get published at 5:00 AM. This way, feed readers and email subscribers all getting notice of the newest post at about the same time, which will then encourage them to read and interact with it at the same time, which increases the likelihood of more comments and online conversations. I might change this strategy in the future, but it is what I currently do.
When we start writing posts, I will show you how to schedule their publication time.
Moving on now to PingShot.
You probably remember setting up some Ping Services inside WordPress. Every time you write a post, a ping service notifies various websites that you have new content, and they send their web crawlers and bots and search spiders out to see what you wrote about. So I use both WordPress and Feedburner’s Pingshot to tell these sites about my content.
The nice thing about Feedburner’s Pingshot service is that there is nothing to set up. Just Activate it, and move on.
Next up is FeedCount.
I do not recommend using the Chicklet on your website, but Activate this service anyway. Why not?
The next menu item, Socialize, allows you to send a Tweet to Twitter about your newest post. I find it interesting that Feedburner includes this option, but didn’t have a ”Tweet This” Feedflare option. But whatever…we’ll use it. If you don’t have a Twitter account, you need to set one up. It is a great way to generate blog traffic and grow your following.
The first thing you need to is “Add a Twitter Account.” Just click the grey button, and then click the blue button “Authorize the App.” Once you do, use the little drop-down menu to select your Twitter account. And then play around with some of the options:
For Grace Blogger, I left the options at default. However, for some of my other blogs, which focus on writing or theology, I might find a Twitter Hashtag which fits my posts, and include it in the “Additional text” box. Play around with these options, and you can see what the Tweets will look like in the preview box at the bottom. When you are done, “Save” and move on.
Skip Chicklet chooser. There are so many better options for displaying your feed. We’ll show you some later.
Next, is Awareness API. Not all blogs will need this, but the Standard Theme which we use for this blog has a great option to display Feedburner readers, and it needs this service activated.
So “Activate” it and move on.
Creative Commons is next.
I like Creative Commons, and use the options above. It is a form of Copyright, but is more open than traditional copyright, and encourages the sharing of your content. That sounds nice, so I use it. But use your own judgment on what to do with your content.
I skip Password Protector, as it causes a lot of problems for email subscribers and a few other issues. So leave it alone.
The final menu item is NoIndex.
10/2011 UPDATE NOTE: I used to activate the NoIndex for the Feed, but no longer do. See the comment section for why.
I activate the NoIndex, but leave the Yahoo! Pipes thing alone. (Why is that even on there?) Some wonder why we would not want Google and Bing and other search engines to index our feed. Don’t we want Search Engines to see our blog content? Yes, we absolutely do. But we want them to see the BLOG content, not the feed content. If they index both, it sometimes happens that your Feed content gets a higher search ranking than your actual blog, and then when people search, they end up on a feed item, which has strange and boring formatting compared to your blog content. If they don’t leave right away, they have to click on the item to get from your feed item to your blog post, and while this doesn’t seem like a big deal, it is for some people, and they won’t do it, and you miss out on a blog reader. When search engines index your feed, you are competing with yourself for your own content! Who wants that? So the simplest thing is not allow search engines to index your feed. Do yourself a favor, and NoIndex your feed.
And that is ALL there is to Feedburner. Our feed is completely ready to go!
Feedburner Monetize Tab
What about the Monetize tab? Well, there’s nothing in it, but a notice to go to Google Adsense:
We will include ads later to monetize our blog, but there is nothing in Feedburner for us to do with monetizing the feed right now.
Feedburner Troubleshootize Tab
Troubleshootize is just if there are problems with your feed, which, if you followed the steps above, there shouldn’t be any.
And besides, Feedburner’s tech support is notoriously bad. But it’s free, so what do you expect? So if you have questions or comments about Feedburner, you might be better off leaving them in the comment section below.
Oh, and don’t forget…Subscribe to my Feed!
Do you have more questions about Feeds? Check out this post also: What is RSS?