8 Tips For Making The Most Of Your RSS Feed

RSS
That's right - it is possible for a RSS feed icon to make you feel hungry.

I’m on a FeedBurner roll at the moment. Yesterday I showed you how you can tweet out new posts using FeedBurner. And today I thought it would be good to run through all of the useful settings that FeedBurner has to offer. If you’re not a FeedBurner user (hint: you really should be), I’m afraid that the majority of this article is not for you.

It took me rather a long time to realize that there is a lot more to FeedBurner than meets the eye. I would typically register a blog with the service and move on with my day. But it’s worth spending a few minutes on your options.

Before you make a start on the tips below, make sure that you have followed the step by step FeedBurner signup process I laid out in this post.

1. Subscribe To Your Own Feed

This isn’t actually a special feature of FeedBurner at all, but sound advice nonetheless. Don’t be afraid to take your own medicine – make sure that you are subscribed to your own feed. Why? Because if anything ever goes wrong, or if your content doesn’t display properly, you won’t have to rely on your readers telling you (the lazy buggers).

2. BrowserFriendly

BrowserFriendlyAs with the next three tips, the BrowserFriendly option can be found when you click on the “Optimize” tab in the main navigation bar. By default, this service is active, but you may wish to make a few tweaks.

In a nutshell, BrowserFriendly applies user-friendly formatting to the raw XML of your RSS feed when it is being previewed. For those of you who don’t know, XML is simply a “language” of sorts that allows information to be sorted into fields. XML itself does not apply any formatting (in the way that CSS does), and that is when FeedBurner comes in.

When a user clicks to subscribe to your field, they’ll be presented with a nice orderly page, rather than a mess of data. And with BrowserFriendly, you have a few customization options:

  1. Set the theme of your preview
  2. Set the subscription options your visitors will have
  3. Set what your visitors will see (i.e. post titles and content, post titles only, or nothing at all)
  4. Enter a custom message that will appear at the top of your feed

Remember, when a visitor hits your feed preview page, they are still one click away from subscribing, so you want to make sure that they don’t change their mind.

3. SmartFeed

This is an obvious one, and I honestly have no idea why it isn’t activated as standard (there’s a gold star waiting for anyone who knows). SmartFeed automatically translates your feed into a format that is understood by whatever RSS reader your subscriber is using. Activate this option – it’s a no-brainer.

4. FeedFlare

Jennifer Aniston
Three gold stars for anyone who can link Jennifer Aniston with FeedFlare (this is a toughy)

FeedFlare is yet another way in which you can promote the sharing of your content. And that’s never bad, right?

Whilst this service is activated as standard, you will probably want to take a few moments to select and order the most relevant sharing options, which will then be shown at the bottom of every post in your feed.

You have a lot of options to choose from, but I suggest that you keep the number to a bare minimum, otherwise you will probably just overwhelm your subscribers. I personally just have three options: Email This, Share on Facebook, and Stumble It!

5. Summary Burner

This option tends to divide opinion. Summary Burner, if activated, cuts down your feed so that only a certain portion of your post is shown. The logic behind this is that your subscribers have to click through to your site in order to read the whole thing.

I personally am not a fan of this option – I want to leave it up to the subscriber to decide what they want to do.

If you do want to activate this setting, you have the option of setting how many characters are shown in the feed, and what blurb you put at the end of the excerpt to draw your subscriber to your site.

Summary Burner6. PingShot

This is the first setting we are taking a look at that is found by clicking on the “Publicize” tab in the main navigation bar.

This one is another no-brainer – activating PingShot means that your subscribers’ feed reading services will be given a friendly nudge as soon as new content is published on your blog. You will already have this service activated if you followed my instructions on utilizing FeedBurner’s Socialize option.

7. FeedCount

Do you have a subscriber base to be proud of? Then make sure you are making the most it by displaying your number proudly on your blog. After all, everyone loves social proof.

FeedCount
Social proof rocks.

To get your very own feedcount graphic, just select the style you want (static or animated), and the color scheme. That’s all it takes – just copy and paste the generated HTML into wherever you would like the graphic to display on your blog!

8. Chicklet Chooser

Chicklet
Not this type of chicklet...

One mistake many bloggers make is not clearly advertising their feed. I have lost count of the amount of blogs that I have left for good because I can’t find a subscribe option. That’s right – plenty of people out there won’t come back to your website of their own accord – they will read your content on their RSS reader alone.

I remember one blog where the RSS feed was only advertised on the “About Me” page – how very odd! Make sure that the option to subscribe to your RSS feed is available on every single page – preferably somewhere prominent, like in the top navigation bar.

Chicklet Chooser allows you to pick from a wide range of graphics (or just simple text). You can then just copy and past the generated HTML into the relevant spot on your blog, just like you did with your FeedCount graphic.

That’s It!

There are of course other options left to explore in FeedBurner, but these are the ones that I feel are of true relevance to us WordPress bloggers.

But what about you? Do you know of any other FeedBurner tips and tricks that I haven’t included above?

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Creative Commons photos courtesy of El Hormiguero and Sandeep Patil

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