Some are personal journals, but a large number are written by folk who have a strong desire to build their readership and increase their traffic.
RSS feeds are a seemingly simple way to do this. But there’s more to increasing your readership than just banging an RSS button into your side-bar and forgetting about it.
Jacob Share is a contestant in DailyBlogTips Blogging Idol Competition and he has set up a group writing project on his blog to gather RSS tips from all over the blogosphere. So I thought I’d add my five cents worth.
For those of you who don’t know anything about RSS I suggest you take a moment to read my article Keep Up-to-Date with Your Favourite Blogs Using RSS to learn what it is and how it can help you keep up with all that’s going on with your favourite blogs.
So how do you encourage your readers to subscribe to your RSS feed?
Now we come to the RSS button.
There are RSS buttons that you can use all over the Internet that you can download freely. Some are fancy and some are the classic orange icon such as in my side-bar.
The first thing I would recommend is that if your blog is not aimed at geeky or super blog-savvy readers don’t go fancy.
Most people who know what RSS is recognize the orange icon. And whilst it might not be as cool as an icon that looks like it’s sinking below the virtual waves, or one that’s beautifully colour coordinated with your blog theme, keeping it simple and straightforward is a good thing. It will help your readers to spot it amongst all your blinkies and banners and when they see it, there won’t be any confusion in their minds as to what it is.
So now, where do you stick the button?
Hey! Let’s keep it nice.
Well the prevailing wisdom says that if you want to grow your RSS subscribers you should place the button at the top of your blog. Either in your banner, or right at the top of your sidebar.
But I’m going against the prevailing wisdom.
I had my RSS button sitting right at the top of my side bar for over six months. And during that time my subscriber numbers slowly crept up to 100. It was a long, slow journey (and many thanks to all of you who were part of that journey). And when I reached 100 it was like I had hit a glass ceiling. I hung around 100-110 for about three months. It wasn’t as though my traffic wasn’t increasing because my stats were healthy and were showing a steady upwards trend. But readers weren’t subscribing to my RSS feed.
Finally I decided to stop worrying about building my RSS subscriptions and I moved the button further down on my sidebar. Down to ‘below the fold’ which means that you can’t see it unless you scroll down. And I stopped paying attention to it.
Within a matter of weeks, the number had doubled!
I thought there must be something wrong with the counter widget and I checked it out on Feedburner. Nope, the numbers were correct.
I was gobsmacked! For months I had given my RSS button pride of place on my blog and had limited success. And now that I had all but thrown it away, it was performing like a star attraction.
Is it sort of ‘a watched RSS number never grows’ thing?
Well after some thought, I noticed that where my RSS button was now located, way down in my sidebar, was roughly the same place where most of my posts finished. So readers who had read to the bottom of a post (as you are doing) found the button right there handy as they finished reading.
And that seems to make a lot more sense to me. A new reader is not going to be interested in subscribing to your blog feed until they have read at least one of your posts.
And once you’ve finished reading you look for the next place to click. I know I would rarely scroll back up to the top of the page again.
So when you’re thinking about where to place your RSS button to get the best results. Consider this: if you mainly post short articles and posts then perhaps positioning the button high up on your sidebar will attract the notice of your readers. But if your posts are usually a bit longer, then I suggest you try experimenting with locating it further down your sidebar. So it’s handy for your reader to click on straight after they have just enjoyed your killer article.
The moral of this RSS story:
Don’t always assume the prevailing wisdom is what’s best for you. Check it out for yourself and make your own call.
By the way, if you feel inspired to subscribe to my feed and get Scraps of Mind articles delivered to your Google Reader or Bloglines or even into your email box, my orange button is in the sidebar to the right or you can click on the link just under this article.
Hope this has been helpful.