Saturday, April 18, 2009

Win of the Week: More on RSS feeds

You asked, I'll comply. I got many emails and comments from people who were confused by this whole RSS thing. Let's take a step back.

We're going to assume that everyone knows what RSS is, and the benefits of viewing subscriptions in a feed reader.

What I think confuses some people is when we introduce something like Feedburner.

"Why would I want to do that?"

Well, in reality, you don't need to. Every blog has an RSS feed URL whether you know it or not. When you use a service such as Feedburner, it essentially assigns your feed a different URL so that you can track stats more easily.

If you don't care about that, well, come back next week. We're going to assume that you do. Because if you know roughly how many readers you have, the better you can communicate that "reach" to any PR folk that may want to work with you. (Plus its just cool to know how many people like you.)

So...where I think some people get stuck is in first finding what their RSS URL is (again, I write these things primarily for people who use Blogger - I believe Wordpress makes this much easier).

First: Add the 'Subscribe via RSS' option to your blog.

Go to Layout, then click 'Add a Gadget'. Look for this one:


Save your blog and view it.

Next: Click the Subscribe button like you're going to subscribe to your own blog's feed. (We all do it - its OK.)


You'll see it give you an option as to which service you want to use to read your feed. I'm not sure on the others, but if you select Google (which is the feedreader I use) it will then ask if you want to subscribe to the feed as part of your Google homepage or your Google Reader. (NOTE: If you have a Blogger account, you'll have free versions of each of these as well. All three will use the same log in and password as the one you use for your Blogger account.)

It doesn't matter if you actually add your own feed at all, but you'll see it shows you your feed's URL. Click and drag to highlight that and copy it.

Then: Go to the Feedburner site.

This is another Google-owned entity. (See how I'm talking all nice about the good Overlord Google? I'd hate to wake up in the morning to find my house has been transplanted to an island at the North Pole.) That means you'll use the same user name and password as Blogger again. In fact, at this point, it may already "know" who you are and not require a log in.

You will see a link at the very top left of the page that says "My Feeds". Click that. You'll then see an option to burn a feed. Paste your blog's feed URL into that box and click Next.


On the next page you'll get an option to create the URL for your blog's feed. You can keep the default or tweak it if you see fit.


Make a note of your new feed URL and click next.

Feedburner will attempt to take you through several other steps to optimize your feed. But if you do nothing else, just make sure the new feed URL makes it back into your Blogger settings.

Go back to your Blogger account and click on the Settings tab. On the Site Feed page, you'll see an option called Post Feed Redirect URL. Paste in the new feed URL you just created and save.


Even if you leave the feed gadget that Blogger uses in place after doing this, you'll be able to log back into your Feedburner account and see how many subscribers you have, how many use which type of readers, how many actually click through to your blog.

Play around in your Feedburner account. You'll see all sorts of options for modifying your feed settings and post settings. The links you see at the foot of each of my posts (for Stumble, and to subscribe) are added by Feedburner, and if you subscribe to my blog in a reader, you'll also see ads at the bottom of each post that are added by that service as well.

I hope this helps you! There are other feed burning services out there, but I found this one to be the best. As always, find what works for you and stick with it!

If you found this useful, Stumble this post so that others can find it, too.

Next week I'll be writing about miscellaneous HTML goodies, so make sure you subscribe so you won't miss it!


Karen MEG said...

Colleen, you are so smart sweetie, thanks for this. I've been playing around with Feedburner and my RSS feed and thinking "What am I doing, sheesh!"

Timely, timely post for me! Thanks and mwuaahhhh!

Tara R. said...

I have my blog on Wordpress and because of that can't include any widget/gadget/button (yada yada) that uses flash/java. I haven't found a way to use Feedburner on my site, but do use Google Reader.

Your seemingly infinite knowledge on all that is bloggy is humbling.

Katie, Kevin and kids said...

Thanks for this very helpful post. I've been having all sorts of confusion trying to figure this out. Not anymore:)