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10 Sure-Fire Ways to Get RSS Readers Visiting Your Blog

Rss
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been looking at building RSS feeds that POP. So far we’ve covered:

Today lets turn our attention to a question I’ve been asked by a number of readers throughout the series:

how do I get my RSS readers to visit my actual blog?

Before I give a few tips of how to do this – it is worth noting that for some bloggers this is not a major objective and they are quite happy to have their readers engage with their content where ever the reader wants to.

I totally respect this approach and feel similarly. However there are reasons why it can be beneficial for a blog to have actual readers and not just RSS subscribers. Two main reasons come to mind:

  • Interaction – to this point RSS doesn’t do interaction very well. If you want comments – you need to get people over to your blog.
  • Monetization – If you’re interested in monetizing your blog then you’ve got a better chance of doing so with actual visitors than RSS readers. While there are a variety of RSS advertising options for bloggers – in my experience none perform as well as on blog advertising (although I’m open to hearing about people who’ve found a more profitable method).

If those two things don’t interest you the following 10 tips might not be up your alley. If they do – read on for a few brief ways to convert RSS readers to actual blog readers:

1. Actively encourage comments – Last year I did a little analysis of the posts that got the most most clicks in my feeds (Feedburner offer these stats) and there was a direct correlation between comment numbers and clicks. Further analysis showed that those posts that had high comment numbers and high clicks were posts where I…. (wait for the secret)…. asked questions. Want some examples? – how about these three ‘open mike’ posts.

2. Show Readers Comment Numbers – Another way to encourage comments is to show how many others have already commented. I do this using Feedburner’s Feed Flares in my feeds.

3. Use Polls – In a similar way – running polls on your blog and announcing them in posts will draw readers to your actual blog. In fact any interactive tool or feature that can’t be carried out via RSS can bring on readers (eg, quizzes, chat tools etc).

4. Interlink posts - If you have html activated in your feed (it’s usually automatically that way if you publish full feeds) link to other posts, pages or categories within your blog as you write. Make them relevant links that fit with your post and that will give your RSS readers something useful when they follow the link. For example – this is what I did a couple of paragraphs back with my links to open mike posts.

5. Related posts – A more automated way of giving readers something to click on that will lead them to your blog is to use a ‘related posts’ section at the end of posts (in a similar way to the ‘related posts that many bloggers have at the end of posts on their actual blog). These are becoming more and more common (although I’m not sure what tool people use to do it – let us know in comments if you use one). Keep in mind that you don’t want to clutter your RSS feeds.

6. ‘Best of’ posts – The interlinked posts on steroids is the ‘best of’ post. It isn’t something you’d want to do everyday – but occassionally it can be a great way to draw readers over to your blog by pulling together a number of older posts. I learnt the power of this late last year in my Best of ProBlogger 2006 post which was one of the most clicked upon posts in my RSS feed.

7. Use Video – This is something that is changing but until recently very few feed readers allowed their users to see embedded video. These days feed readers like Google Reader do allow video (and others are following suit) but it’s still something that might work to some extent depending upon which aggregators your readers are using.

8. RSS and Bookmarking – I’ve chatted with a few ProBlogger readers recently who say they use the ‘Digg This’ link in the bottom of my feeds and that after doing so they keep coming back both to the Digg page and the post itself to see if it’s gotten popular. I’m not sure this is something many do – but it does have the potential to leverage RSS readers to help spread the word about your blog.

9. Design Changes – Once again – this isn’t something you’d want to do simply to get RSS readers to come and visit, but one of the added benefits of making design changes to your blog (and announcing them) is that you’ll often get people coming over for a look. This happens both when you completely relaunch your blog and also when you make ‘tweaks’ like adding new features to your sidebar, navigation menus etc.

10. Excerpt Feeds – I’ve left this one until last because it’s pretty obvious and is one of the main reasons that I hear bloggers giving for not moving their feeds to ‘full feeds’. I’m not going to rehash the debate here over full vs partial feeds but while full feeds is one of the ways to get more subscribers – having partial ones is a way to get people who do subscribe to come visit your blog.

A Word of Warning

As I’ve written this post I’ve felt like making disclaimers all along the way because while the above techniques will draw readers from your RSS feed into your blog – some (or most) of them can also be sure-fire ways to become so annoying to your readers that they unsubscribe from your feed in frustration.

Don’t tease your readers, don’t try to manipulate them and don’t attempt to force them into actions that they don’t really want to do.

Create a user experience IN your RSS feed and you’ll find that the benefits will flow on. You might not draw all your readers over to your blog every day – but they will come across from time to time and more importantly many of them will find what you produce useful enough to pass it on to others.

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About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. PratikG says:

    Thanks Darren…Those are some pretty good tips.

  2. retz says:

    thanks, they are very helpful tips

  3. Maki says:

    Inserting a one-liner after each post as an invitation to comment can be very useful indeed.

    Then again, if anyone really want a lot of interaction with your readers, they could always try disabling NoFollow and manually moderate comments. I’m sure some portion of readers would find that very attractive indeed and will actively visit the blog to participate in any ongoing discussions.

    Might be difficult for hugely popular blogs though.

  4. Ian McKenzie says:

    Some good tips there, though I’m not sure how well something like Polls scale. It’s okay if you post a poll and 800 of your 12,000 subscribers come and vote. If I post a poll and 8 of my 120 subscribers vote, the results won’t carry much weight.

  5. The “annoyance factor” is why I offer full feeds.

    As a subcriber to other’s feeds, I want to read the whole article in my reader. That’s WHY I subcribed in the first place. I want the article to come to me. The extra click through to read on the blog feels manipulative, and I’ll usually unsubscribe before too long.

  6. Andy Beard says:

    I am progressively introducing a lot of features into my feed to encourage readers to visit my blog more often.
    Rather than using the optional link to link to my blog, I have just used it to link through to my feed so you can see exactly how some of these tips Darren gives can be implemented.

    I personally don’t have a large enough readership to offer polls yet, but many of the features are included, plus a few more to enhance things like disclosure.

    Some of the things you can’t see on the feed is that I also use a dofollow plugin, so comment links are live and allow juice to flow, the same is true of trackbacks. This isn’t something new like the current wave of people adopting dofollow, I have always used dofollow on my WordPress blogs.

  7. Andy Beal says:

    Another great list Darren. Every time you do one of these lists I find at least nugget I hadn’t thought of.

  8. Darren:

    This was a timely post as just today I asked my readers the question I’ve been asking myself: I know people link to my posts and use the information — how can I get more people to comment? I do ask questions; perhaps some are not as compelling as I thought.

    I like to subscribe to RSS feeds through Google homepage and I actually I open people’s blogs when I read their posts. The idea is to get the full visual experience in addition to the content. That’s how I like to be with people as well — nonverbal communication included.

    So today I talked about what people like you (I did link) and others know and asked my readers to tell me if I keep my brand promise. The decision was made for me as I thought about what I wanted my blog to be — an extension of the story and experience of me online.

    I think ultimately that is the deciding factor in success and popularity: transmitting who you are through the medium. I see no fault with asking your readers to participate if you need feedback.

  9. Thilak says:

    Actually, they hack wp-rss2.php and add the related post template tag. (The same one which you use to show related posts below your post)

    A similar alternative, is to use related post for feeds plugin which was recently release.

  10. Barrett says:

    It sounds like you can sum up the whole strategy into two words: “Invite” and “facilitate”. Thanks

  11. I encourage comments by making my commenters into stars! When you add a (meaningful, non-spam) comment to my blog, your link appears at the top of every single page.

  12. jhay says:

    That word of warning is a nice touch. It would remind all of us bloggers not to go into over-optimization. ;)

  13. Great tips! Thanks!

    Brian Aldrich
    Owner and Operator of ThePrizeBlog.com

  14. Tim says:

    I’ve found that actively encouraging comments is very efficient. I don’t do it, but often when I see other bloggers do it, such as Darren, I really try to think up a comment even if I don’t have a good spontaneous one in mind.

  15. Kim says:

    Thanks for the tip.

  16. Justin Smith says:

    These are some great ideas. Thank you very much for making this all a lot easier to understand.

  17. Ashish Mohta says:

    Loved the last part.I was using partial feed initially but then i figured why will i subscribe to a blog if i have to still go to the website for reading the complete info?

    Then i started giving full feed and now i have more readers.Else they might sometimes just read the topic or may be they are lazy who will read lets go to some other blogs feed for complete read!!!

  18. Cage says:

    Once again you deliver the goods! Thanks for providing us with some really great tips!

  19. lior says:

    Hey, Darren
    I would like to hear from you a little bit about advertising with rss, you know as a blogger that makes good money from adsens, how do you think we can icrease our income with rss adds?
    thanks

  20. Another tip is to offer something worth visiting for.
    If your blog is purely information, then this is not so easy but if you can, add things like tools or software every now and then and you’ll get people visiting other pages.

  21. Thanks Darren,
    This article is really helpful for bloggers like us. We hope to get more from you and we will read it :) and ofcourse implement on my blog. Where can i know more about RSS ? Thanks in advance..

  22. Kristi says:

    Came over from the Bloggies award site. Congrats! And good luck.

    And now it looks like I have lots of reading to do here. My blog is definitely suffering from a lack of readership. Maybe I can find something here to help my cause. With only an average of 35 hits a day, my site just putters along.

    Thanks for having these tips readily available for bloggers like me.

  23. I think titles that bling is a great way! I also think great titles increase the click thru rate of individual articles and seeing the title from a search engine result motivates the searcher to click thru to your website.

  24. thetechbay says:

    This is awesome. I will surely take your advice. Thanks!

  25. Sure-Fire says:

    Mr. Rowse,

    I appreciate the content above. Of all of the suggestions, suggestion #1 seems to stand out as a must. Isn’t it true: whether you’re listing to a speech or reading an article online, you’re much more likely to take action if you’ve been given a call to action?

    One question I have is whether it’s better to not disclose comment numbers until after a few people have commented? (suggestion #2) It seems that this idea would only help once some people have commented…

    Thanks again for making your expertise available free of charge!

    Justin

  26. The most useful hints I read about blogging so far.

  27. Sophia18 says:

    I like reading posts and finding out what people think. I will keep an eye on the information you will add and see what you come up with. thank you

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Darren Rowse has added another installment in his RSS readership series entitled 10 Sure-fire Ways to Get RSS Readers Visiting Your Blog. Since the actual blog (not the RSS feed) is where you’re going to have most of your monetization setup, it’s important to get your feed readers to visit it. Not only that, but you also want these guys participating and commenting as well. This post reminded me of one John did a while back called How to Get RSS Feaders to Visit Your Blog. It’s not a top 10 list, but it will do. [...]

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