Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been looking at building RSS feeds that POP. So far we’ve covered:
- Using Images and Video
- Scannable Content
- Titles with Bling
- Opening Lines
- Avoid Clutter
- How to Get More Subscribers to Your RSS Feed
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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