During the pre-work phase of this challenge, a lot of you said:
“I don’t get Feedburner.”
“What am I supposed to be doing with Feedburner?”
“Do I really need a feed service?”
Today, I’m going to talk in more detail about Feedburner, which is the feed service I use. I don’t know much about the other services and am not qualified to discuss them. But there’s a LOT of cool stuff and cool stats you can get from Feedburner, so I want to share what I’ve learned with you.
1. What is an RSS Feed? RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. RSS feeds enable your blog content to be syndicated to other places: other websites, blogs, Google Reader and more. Think of it as a broadcasting network. Your blog is your TV show. You can keep your little show on cable’s local access, where no one will watch it, or you can offer it up to a broadcasting network to give it wider distribution.
2. Why Do I Need A Feed? You need a feed because it makes it easy for people to reach you, and your content, in the way they want it. A lot of other services, such as those that let you auto-publish posts to Twitter and Facebook, utilize feeds to get their jobs done as well. Some people never go to blogs to read material. They subscribe to feeds, and read all of their feeds in one place. So if you want to be accessible, you need a feed.
3. Set Up Your Feedburner Account. I’m not going to go into heavy details on how to set up a Feedburner account. You can Google how to do that. This tutorial assumes you have your Feedburner account and feed set up already.
4. Your FB Dashboard. Your feed’s main screen will have a dashboard of tabs across it like this. These are all the different actions you can take with Feedburner. It always defaults to your Analyze tab.
5. The Analyze Tab. The Analyze tab is the tab I use most in Feedburner because it gives me important stats about what people are doing with my feed. I can see how many people subscribe to my feed, as well as see my “reach”. Reach is how many people in all viewed and/or clicked on your feed items on a given day or time period. This is a great way to see how your subscriptions are growing and whether people are motivated to read your blog posts.
The analyze tab will also list recent popular posts and how many times they’ve been viewed and clicked. If you wrote a great post and there’s no one reading or clicking it, that’s a sign that something’s wrong. Maybe the post needed a better title. Maybe you’re not posting at an ideal time of day. Below is a shot of my stats for the last 30 days or so.
My controversial post, Inside Jokes: Bad Blogging, had a lot of views and clicks (but surprisingly, still only about 10% of my readership!) But look at Week 4′s reading – a much smaller amount of traffic. I could compare that number to my other Challenge posts to see if it’s consistent or unusually low for my Sunday challenge posts.
For a tremendously insightful article on explaining reach, and views and clicks, and why you shouldn’t get too obsessed over them, go to contentious.com. As with any data package, Feedburner is not perfect.
6. The Optimize Tab. The Optimize tab lets you configure your feed so that it is as user-friendly as possible. There are various services you can activate or de-activate depending upon your blog’s needs. The most important service I activated here was the Browser Friendly tool, which apparently makes it really easy for people to subscribe to my feed no matter how they’re trying to subscribe, whether it’s from a laptop, mobile device, or other. Feedburner gives great descriptions of each Optimize service and what they do.
7. The Publicize Tab. The Publicize tab has all sorts of cool tools, widgets and other items that help you publicize your feed. There are display items so you can put a little icon on your site showing your # of Feedburner subscribers. There are headline animator gadgets to show a scrolling list of your most recent feed posts in a sidebar.
The Publicize tool that is most handy for me is the Email Subscription tool. This is where people can sign up to receive my blog posts via email. That email is delivered by Feedburner and you can configure it all here – how it looks, how they subscribe and most importantly, when the email is delivered. I get most traffic on my blog in the early morning, so my email posts are scheduled to go out at that time as well.
This post by Lauren Wayne goes into more detail about some of the great tools that are available in the Publicize area of Feedburner. You can auto-post to Twitter from Feedburner and do a lot of other cool things.
8. The Monetize Tab. If you have a Google AdSense account, you can place AdSense ads right in your feeds and earn money that way as well. It’s a personal choice whether you want to have ads right next to your feed content or whether your users might find that distracting.
9. The Troubleshootize Tab. This tab lets you do just that – troubleshoot minor problems with your feed if you suspect problems. I’ve never had to use it – knock on wood.
That’s a quick overview of Feedburner and all of the cool things it can do. Don’t be afraid to get in there and start trying things!!!