On my post, Burn a Feed at Feedburner, UnkleE from Is There a God? asked some great questions about RSS feeds and how to actually implement them on your blog. He pointed out, rightly so, that while I had a post about burning a feed at Feedburner, I never actually explained what a Feed was or how to use it on your blog.
So, here is a post that will hopefully clear some of that up. Let’s start with the basics:
What is RSS?
RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication.”
Did that help you understand what RSS is? I didn’t think so….
Sometimes you will hear people talk about their “Feed.” This is the same thing as their “RSS.” Frequently, you will also hear the terms combined, and people will speak of their “RSS Feed.”
Essentially, an RSS Feed is nothing more than a different way for people to read your blog. Having an RSS Feed allows people to read your blog posts without having to actually come visit your blog. That is what the term “syndication” means. In the publishing world, a “syndicated” column appears in numerous places and in numerous formats. The RSS Feed allows your blog posts to get “syndicated” so that people can read your blog posts where they want, how they want, and when they want.
Blog Posts by Email:
I do subscribe to several blogs by email, but only a few. My preferred method is to Subscribe by a Feed Reader:
Blog Posts by Feed Reader
I prefer to read my blogs in a Feed Reader. Currently, I read over 300 blogs, and since I don’t want to get 300 blog emails a day, and I don’t want to have to visit 300 blogs a day to see if they have new content, I let Google do all the work for me. Google Reader checks the blogs for me, and when new content is available, they put it into my Google Reader so that whenever I have the time, I can go check out all of the great articles you have written!
Do I really read 300 posts per day? No. I scan the titles and opening lines the way I would any newspaper. If it sounds interesting, I will read more. If not, I move on. (What does this tell you about the importance of your post titles and opening sentence?)
Blog Posts in Feed Aggregator
Some people prefer to read their posts in a Feed Aggregator (aka Feed “Gator”) like iGoogle. Aggregator’s are widget-based websites where you can put in feeds from various sources. Sometimes on personal blogs, people will put a widget on their sidebar which contains feeds from other blogs. This is similar to a Feed Aggregator.
Choosing Your Feed
To help people read your blog, you must provide them with a feed. Thankfully, most blogs today come with a feed built right in. As I indicated on my Burn a Feed at Feedburner post, the feed is usually found by simply adding /feed after your blog web address. Go check out that post for more on finding your feed.
But if your blog already has a feed built right in, why should we get a different feed from a different website? For example, why not just use the default feed within WordPress? The truth is, you can! And in fact, most people do. And there are some benefits to using the default feed, especially now that WordPress has added some new features to the WordPress Feed through the Jetpack plugin.
However, as great as the new features are in the Jetpack plugin there are still some features which Jetpack lacks but which are provided by other feed websites. For example, I use Feedburner to manage my RSS Feed. By using Feedburner, I can do all sorts of things with the Feed, such as customize the emails it sends out, track who visits my blog from the Feed, show my feed count, and include Google Ads in my Feed.
Feedburner isn’t the only option out there, of course. I really like Feedblitz, but their service is not free, and here at GraceBlogger, we are all about making blogging FREE. Recently, I almost switched MailChimp for the email portion of my Feed, and might do so in the future. MailChimp also is FREE, and has some amazing tracking and customization tools for sending out your blog posts by email. If I had known about them when I started my blog, I probably would have used them.
Anyway, the point is that if you don’t care about any of these additional features, then you don’t need any of these other websites to help you manage and track the people who read your blog through your RSS Feed. Just use the default WordPress (or Blogger, or Typepad) feed that is built right in, and you’re good to go.
If you want these other features for your feed, you need to burn this feed at the other website, and then do something very important:
Redirect your Default Feed
Your website doesn’t automatically know you burned a feed at a different website. You have to confess to your blog what you did. It’s alright though. Your blog will forgive you.
To redirect your feed, you have to tell your blog that when people click on your various feed icons found on your blog, they must go to your new feed (at Feedburner or wherever) rather than to your default feed.
There are several ways of doing this:
First, if you have a Blog theme like the Standard Theme, it will often have a way for you to redirect your theme built right in. Just insert your new feed links for both your regular feed and your email subscription link, and the blog theme will do the rest:
If you don’t have a blog theme that does this, that’s okay. You can either edit your .htaccess file (I won’t explain how here – it’s for advanced users only), or use a handy-dandy plugin.
I recommend either the FD Feedburner Plugin or the Tentblogger RSS Redirection plugin. Install the plugin, enter your new Feed details, click save, and you’re done!
And by the way, if you are curious, you can see in the plugin that you can also redirect your comment feed as well. Feedburner and other sets will let you burn a comment feed in the same way you burn a post feed. Just use the different feed address to begin with:
Once you have done this, you can usually use the various widgets that are provided with WordPress or your other blogging platform, and when people click on them, the plugin or theme will send them to your exterior feed at Feedburner (or wherever) rather than to your default feed.
When they get there, they can usually choose to subscribe by email, or in their preferred Feed Reader.
Five Ways to Get Blog Readers to Subscribe
Once your feed of choice is set up, you need to make it easy to get people to subscribe. Here are a five ways to do so:
- Write a post about your feed, and give people the various options for subscribing.
- Tell which form you use to subscribe to other feeds, and explain how they can set up something similar for your feed.
- Make the Feed buttons easy to find.
- Add a notification above or below your posts inviting people to subscribe to your blog in a Reader or by email.
- Create a “Subscribe” Page that lays all of this out as well.
So, have you subscribed to this blog? I prefer to read my blogs in Google Reader. If you don’t already have a Feed Reader site, that is the one I recommend. Just go there, set up the free account, and click the button in the upper left which says “Subscribe” and enter this feed address:
If you haven’t done so already, subscribe now!