It’s not the best measure for the health of your blog, but I fancy keeping an eye on the FeedCount widget on the top right corner of my blog.
FeedCount is a popular way for bloggers to promote their feed and it works as a dynamic graphic that displays your feed’s current circulation, as calculated by FeedBurner. From a cultural standpoint, many bloggers view their FeedCount as a means to show how important they are, like an indicator of prestige.
The point of today’s “intermediate-level” exercise is to demonstrate how you can improve your FeedCount by recovering missing subscribers, that is people reading your blog through one of your multiple RSS feeds. After I did this, the number of subscribers I had jumped from around 450 to 620+ subscribers (at peak periods). It could well be a recent article I wrote that attracted readership, but that leap is way too drastic even for my most digg-ed articles. And no, I didn’t anything unethical, but instead I optimized how feed subscribers were being tracked.
So what the heck did I do?
I simply used the new Bloglines Publisher Tools.
To do this, you need the following ingredients:
1. An existing Feedburner account tied to your blog.
2. A Bloglines account
First, understand that most people use Bloglines as their choice of RSS newsreader. As such, changes you make to the way your feed is read by Bloglines can have a big impact on your blog’s Feedburner analytics (including FeedCount). The new Publishing Tools feature lets you claim your blog’s RSS feed and manage your feed characterisitics in Bloglines. This includes adding a Feed Description, Favicon, Searchability, and Duplicate Status.
Most blog platforms automatically produce RSS feeds of various formats. Blogger.com users have Atom feeds which they can manage here. Livejournal users have both Atom and RSS feeds which can be found here. WordPress generates a lot of feeds, including RDF/RSS 1.0, RSS 0.92, RSS 2.0, Atom feeds as well as an RSS 2.0 feed just for blog comments. Since WordPress has so many feeds, this exercise would be really beneficial to those of us who can’t perform HTTP redirects (great illustration) for all feed urls to point to your single Feedburner feed (e.g. too difficult, no access to .htaccess). There is a cool WordPress Feedburner plugin to manage redirects as well, but it also requires access to .htaccess.
As such, to recover those RSS feed subscribers not going through your Feedburner RSS feed (for analytics purposes), we’ll be focusing on the Bloglines Publisher Tools “Duplicate Status” feature. Referring to the annotated Bloglines screenshot above, click on the Accounts link (1) once you’ve registered with Bloglines. Next, click on Publisher Tools (2) link. Then hit on the Begin Claim button (3) where you’ll follow the instructions providing information on your type of blog platform and URL. Once done, Bloglines will automatically detect the RSS feeds from your blog and present you a list. The next step involves proving that you own those feeds by inserting a claim key in the form of a HTML code into your blog template and blog post. This may be troublesome, but fortunately you’ll only need to do it once. Once verified, you can then edit each claimed feed (4) and assign each one as a duplicate of your Feedburner feed. As you’ll see in the screenshot, my duplicates are in italics while my Feedburner feed is in plain text, indicating that it is now the source feed.
Congrats once you’ve reach this point. You can relax and check back on your blog the next day to see how many subscribers you’ve recovered now that you’ve “lead them on the right path”. Besides improving your subscriber FeedCount, login to your Feedburner account and you’ll see how you are now able to get more useful information through your Feedburner analytics, simply because you’ve now captured a bigger readership sample.
If you know of better ways to learn more about our blog readers, do drop a comment.