One of the best and easiest ways to manage your blog subscriptions is to create a trackable RSS (Rich Site Summary) feed. What is RSS? It’s a format for delivering web content, and it’s most commonly referred by its nickname — Really Simple Syndication. Any site with continually updated content (such as a blog) will have an RSS feed icon (the little blue box with white lines) in the right-hand side of the URL in the browser’s address bar. Do you see it? These are commonly called “chicklets” because they are small and colorful — similar to Chicklets gum.
Why should you care about RSS?
Basically, RSS is a hassle-free way to share your blog updates with readers. When you click on a website’s RSS icon, you get a choice of ways to subscribe — either through an online “feed reader,” (and there are many to choose from), or a page that displays all your RSS subscriptions in one place. Look up “Google homepage” for more information.
How do I set up a feed?
If you’re using a blogging platform, the feed is automatically st up already. All readers have to do to subscribe is to click on the icon in the browser’s address bar. However, to increase your traffic, it’s a good idea to encourage subscriptions and to know how many subscribers you have and who they are.
There are several ways to deliver your RSS feed. I use and recommend Feedburner, which is now owned by Google. This is a free service and requires a Google user account (also free — see details at Google.com). Don’t let the “Techie Tip” category title concern you — this is very easy to do, even for non-Geeks, so relax. (And if you are a Geek, you’ve probably already done this, so go play WoW or something.)
To start the process, go to Feedburner’s site and log in using your Google account. Once you’re logged in, look for the box with the words “Burn a feed right this instant.” (Perhaps the writer of that page had a two-year-old on his lap at the time.)
The next screen says “Welcome! Let us burn a feed for you.” The page also explains what’s about to happen and lets you know your new feed’s address — http://feeds.feedburner.com/NameOfYourSite. Simply click “Next.”
The next page displays a hyperlink (also called a “live link”) to your new feed. It also provides a link to an informative article titled Feed 101. You can read this article if you want to know way more about feeds than is necessary. Click on the link to your site’s feed. You’ll see your blog title at the top followed by the last few posts from it. In the top right-hand area of the page, you’ll see a list of feed readers, also called news readers. These are handy tools that enable you to scan headlines & excerpts from literally dozens (or more) of blogs. (Read a great article on this by Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson.)
Now that Feedburner has your feed up & running, click Next to see options on managing your site’s feed. You can choose which services you want, and in the first paragraph of this screen, there’s a link to a page that answers FAQ about the various options. Read that if you want more information before choosing which, if any, options you want. Remember, this is all free, so click away if you want a lot of information about your site’s readership.
Setting Up an Email Subscription Signup Form on Your Site
When you’re done checking boxes, click Next. This screen gives a list of the most popular blogging platforms, including WordPress. The links provided here are to informational articles. The next thing we’re going to do is put a signup box on your site so your readers can receive updates via email. Look at the line of tabs and click “Publicize.” Feedburner’s site offers a wealth of information if you stop and read every article it links to, but let’s get going for now. In the left sidebar, click “Email Subscriptions.”
Before you can go further, you have to allow Feedburner to activate this service. Click “Activate.” Now you’ll see a page with a box of code. There isn’t a choice to create an automatic widget for WordPress, so you need to select all the code in the box and copy it.
Open a new window in your browser and go to your WordPress admin area. Under the Appearance menu in your dashboard’s left sidebar, click Widgets. When the Widgets panel opens, you’ll see a list of your sidebar choices. People who know way more about this than me say to put your signup form on the top of the right sidebar, so that’s what we’ll do now.
The Widgets area uses drag & drop, which makes it easy to place the widget you want where you want it. Locate “Text” from the list of available widgets and grab it with your mouse. Move it to the top of your right sidebar. When the box opens up (usually automatically), type something like “Email Updates” in the Title area and paste the code you copied into the text box. Click Save and Close.
Go look at your site. Viola! — you have an email subscription form. Enter your own email into the form and sign up to start receiving updates from your blog!