Syndicating your blog’s content is one of the bare minimum requirements to attract more readers. Usually, your blog theme or template by default takes care of exposing your RSS or ATOM feeds to the readers. However, most of us opt to serve the blog rss via free services like (Google) FeedBurner so that a number of features can be added to your blog rss feed and the subscription and traffic received via feed can be tracked.
Most bloggers, though, forget to optimize their feeds for the best results in terms of look and feel as well as to promote their content. Further, the additional nice features that come free with FeedBurner also are forgotten. Let us take a look at some of the easy to do optimizations that make your feed looks cleaner, potentially fetches more traffic for you and can be used as a powerful mechanism to promote your offers.
Optimizing and redirecting your feed
Some of the new generation web browsers and feed readers have feed auto discovery mechanisms built into them. This can sometimes cause issues as not all your syndicated content will be fed through FeedBurner. In other words, the auto discovery can detect your raw content and comment feeds as well which would mean that you will loose track of the number of readers via feed. To avoid this FeedBurner has provided an excellent plugin by name Feed Smith. By downloading and activating this plugin you can make sure that all your feeds are redirected through FeedBurner alone thereby providing all rich features that comes with FeedBurner. (This feature is available only for self-hosted WordPress blogs)
Your FeedBurner account has a feature called Title/Description burner (under Optimize tab) that can be used to change the default title of your feed. Use this feature to add the punch line or blog description to make your feed more attractive.
FeedFlare is another feature of FeedBurner that helps you to add your social bookmarks easily to every post that is fed. Use this feature to enable bookmarking (Digg, Stumble, Del.icio.us etc) links as well as Email this, Email the author, Add a comment links.
Sometimes having these social book marks alone is not sufficient to meet your feed needs. There is an excellent plugin by Blog Clout that can be used to add additional footer information (including HTML and hence images etc) to your post feeds. You can download this plugin using this link (There were minor bugs with this plugin at the time of writing this post). Another similar plugin that I like a lot is the RSS Footer plugin which can also be used to provide a backlink to the original post from the feed footer area.
Analysing your feed traffic
Once the feed has been optimized, you can enable the analysis services of FeedBurner usin the Analyze tab. By using the FREE FeedBurner Status Pro link there you could enable the site and feed analysis options that provide rich information on the traffic generated via your feed, such as usage patterns, top hit pages etc. The FeedStats also provides the subscriber information such as their email addresses etc.
Your FeedStats and SiteStats are something that you need to keep watch on regularly rather than just seeing the feed count.
Promotion via your feed
The Feed Footer plugin or RSS Footer plugin also gives you an excellent opportunity to display your services (messages with link backs), announce new offers etc. You can also promote your eBook or other literature via the same.
The footer is a great place to promote your referral URLs as well, as long as that doesn’t conflict with the ToS of the respective networks.
Monetizing your feed
Apart from adding your referral links, you could add feed ads provided by your CPC networks (Google AdSense, Bidvertiser etc) or other text link ads. Banners may not be the right thing to be displayed on feeds though. Though feeds can be monetized using CPC ads, usually the conversion rates are low compared to the ads on your blogs.
Beautifying your feed
Feeds usually look very plain if the actual content is not formatted well. The following are some tips to make them look better.
- Make some of your keywords, important phrases and points bold. This makes the feed content more attractive when viewed in almost all readers. Also, you may avoid underlined text as much as possible. This is my personal opinion and others could differ here
- Use images in your posts wherever possible that can automatically make the feed look good
- In addition to post content related images, blogs like Maki’s DoshDosh use some cool animes in the beginning of each post (and hence the feed as well) that improves the looks big time as well as makes it unique
- Use demarcation (probably an underline) to separate your main contents from the feed footer
- The changes that you are doing to your feed via Feed Footer or content will be reflected only from the next post onwards (You can try saving your post in ‘unpublished’ mode and then ‘publish’ once to reflect the change. This may not work with all plugins). Existing posts do not get affected by such changes. The FeedFlare changes, however, will be reflected immediately
- The images and other links that you are adding to the blog post must have their permanent or absolute URLs (and not relative URLs) so that they are shown properly or valid regardless of where they are displayed.
- The optimum number of posts to be syndicated may be limited to 8 or 10 so that your readers do not need to scroll through a huge list. Also syndicate your full feed rather than excerpt or summary. A lot of people use offline feed readers and may get irritated with the summary alone. This may reduce the number of hits on your blog but ensure invaluable reader ship
- There are a number of other features that FeedBurner provide (and keep adding as well) which may be of interest to you. So keep a watch on your FeedBurner account!