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RSS Feed Counters – Should You Reveal Your Numbers?

“Hi darren! you could perhaps write a post on weather or not one should display the number of rss subscribers even though you don’t have that many. Personally I think displaying them is a sign of honesty and those who don’t… I get the feeling of trying to be something they’re not.”

PS: I’m sorry but I don’t remember who asked this – if it was you shoot me an email and I’ll include your link.

Thanks for the question. It’s actually a topic I’ve been asked about numerous times and something that I’ve heard completely the opposite argument to – ie that bloggers shouldn’t show their feed subscriber numbers because it’s arrogant.

So – is it arrogance, ego and boasting or transparent and honest?

Ultimately it’s up to the blogger to work out for themselves and in my opinion either option is a completely valid decision.

I personally show my feed counter here at ProBlogger but don’t on Digital Photography School (update: I’ve now started following my feed counter on DPS too).

I originally left them off DPS because I didn’t think that I’d end up with as many RSS subscribers on that blog as here at ProBlogger due to the nature of the topic here appealing to a more RSS savvy audience. Instead I wanted to draw people more to the email newsletter subscription option. In fact it’s been quite a while since I even checked the Feedburner numbers on the DPS feed.

So has not showing the feed counter at DPS slowed the feeds subscriber count? Let’s check the numbers:

C

That feed is now sitting on 20,602 subscribers – not bad for just over a year of blogging on that blog (this graph runs from the end of April 2006). The big jump in numbers was when they started counting Google Reader subscribers for the first time.

So how does it compare to a blog like ProBlogger which has been showing it’s feed subscriber numbers for years (I don’t even remember when I first started doing it). Again – lets let the figure tell the story:

C-1

As of today ProBloggers subscriber count is sitting at 24523. The total is higher than that of DPS, but the graph above started in February 2005 – 14 months longer than DPS.

A few reflections on my experience:


You can grow your Subscriber numbers with either method
While it could be argued that showing your number might speed up the subscribing process I think that the above graphs do prove that not showing your stats doesn’t mean you can’t grow your numbers.

Credibility/Authority
One of the main reasons that I hear people giving for displaying their feed counter is that it shows new readers coming to your blog that you’re a credible and authoritative voice in your niche. I’m not sure exactly how much this is the case but I have heard feedback from quite a few ProBlogger readers who tell me that the reason they first subscribed to my feed was because they saw so many others had and thought that I must know what I’m talking about (most of them even stuck around – so maybe I do!)

Momentum/Belonging
One of the interesting things that I’ve noticed about the feed counter here at ProBlogger is that I have a small group (I think it’s small) of readers who like to tell me what my numbers are. While I assume that they know I can see it, they email me when there’s a leap up or a fall down in numbers. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but there’s something about knowing that you’re part of a bigger thing than just yourself that seems to draw people in and give them a sense of belonging and excitement.

Animation and Drawing the Eye
Another reason that I like the Feedburner counter is that it’s not static. Not only does it go up and down each day when updated – but it has a little animation to it that I suspect draws the eye of readers to it. I like it because it’s subtle – yet noticeable.

Small Subscriber Numbers and Counters?
The question I’m always asked is – ‘should I reveal my subscriber numbers if I don’t have many’? It’s a tough question and I think there are good reasons not to – however part of me is beginning to wonder if it really matters? Be proud of your blog – celebrate the handful of readers you have (and each one you gain) and let your ‘lower’ numbers drive you to bigger and better things – whether you reveal them or not.

But then again – this is just my experience. What do you think?

Do you reveal your feed numbers (or your actual blog stats for that matter with a public stats package)? Why or Why not? Has it made any difference?

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. Peter Cooper says:

    I put my graph up the other day in this post, although I’m only in the mid 8000s. The trend/curve of growth seems very similar to yours.. it’d be interesting to see if anyone has any radically different curves.. perhaps massive uptake at the start and then slower growth, etc?

  2. Jon Symons says:

    I have to confess that I will use the number of subscribers as way to “judge” the quality of a site, although I do try and maintain an open mind.
    btw, when I first subscribed to ProBlogger you had just over 200!!! and I thought you were a star for having that many. :)

  3. lovingvama says:

    I think it’s important to show the number of your subscribers. Even 5, even 100, even 10000….

    I have 40 readers right now, and it makes me really proud.

  4. Steve Olson says:

    Darren,

    I’ve struggled with this one, and have chosen not to display my subscribers. Thanks for sharing your numbers on DPS and problogger.net… it clearly show there is no right thing to do. Is it honest or is it arrogant? Neither. It a personal choice. If you have a large number, I’m sure you will get some bandwagon jumpers, but are those the readers that will stick? I don’t know, but I want people to subscribe because they want to read my blog, not because other people are reading my blog. But then I think that may be short sighted, Seth Godin said in a recent podcast that everyone uses MS Word – because everyone uses MS Word… so that makes me question my strategy.

    I can’t wait to see more comments about this.

  5. Matt Jones says:

    I think it depends totally on what the purpose of your blog is. If it is to ‘make money online’ or at least increase traffic (a ‘businnes’ blog) then “celebrating your blog” may not be such a good idea when there isn’t much to celebrate. However with a personal blog or something of that nature I see no reason why a blogger shouldn’t proudly display their humble feed statistics.

  6. I have chose not to display the number of subscribers because it is too low. I think that some people may take that as a sign that the blog is low quality. Really it is just an indicator of how new my blog is.

  7. Homemom3 says:

    To be honest, I don’t even know how many subscribers I have…if any. Guess I’ll go look today. So see, not everyone really watches them to see how many they (the blogger) actually has. I tend to skip looking at the subscriber list because that doesn’t mean that is how many people that actually visit the pages. For myself I subscribe for some, favorite others and still look more up. RSS numbers don’t matter to me.

  8. Amanda says:

    I gained more readers once I stopped showing the low numbers. It seemed like when others saw some people un-subscribing then they unsubscribed too it seemed.

    For my main community I wont show it til I feel we have strong numbers. So far it hasn’t hit passed a certain number and I can’t wait till it does!

  9. Sun says:

    Since I have a small blog, I didn’t display the number for a long time because I felt that if I showed it to people, they might feel that since not many people read it, it’s probably not good. So I chose to hide the counter. On the other hand, I also want to show people who do come to the site regularly that I am making progress in adding new readers. Eventually, I displayed the counter when the number went above 400 a month ago and now I am around 550. But I don’t disclose the Sitemeter stats.

    BTW, Darren, I emailed you about two months ago with exactly the same question, though the above message isn’t from me :)

  10. Amit says:

    I’m not going to reveal unless i reach a count of more than 200!

  11. Techie Buzz says:

    I used to reveal it but have stopped. I do have a decent number but not one that is eye catching.

    I would prefer to display feed reader numbers once I reach a certain number of readers that I am comfortable in displaying.

  12. Rhys says:

    I do, not for anybody’s benefit but my own. I can’t really be bothered logging in to feedburner every day.

    That being said, if there was a convienient firefox plugin, I’d be probably more likely to switch them off.

  13. Ali says:

    I personally love each extra reader I get and don’t exactly grumble when I lose a few the next day.

    I guess it’s how you look at it. I used to display them when I had “5″ and I display then when I have “264″ today. I’m proud of my blog no matter how many people grab my feed or don’t.

  14. Eric says:

    I agree with being proud of your blog and the handful of readers you may have. Even if you only have 20 people that read you religiously, that’s 20 real life people that find your information useful and worth their time. That’s an amazing compliment, isn’t it?!

    Imagine a school teacher who has the attention of 30 or so kids in her class. They all look up to her and respect her opinion. It’s the same for a new blog with a small RSS count, it’s still a class full of people eager to hear what you’ve got to say. Before blogging came along, when have people had that ability?

    YGG has been bouncing around 700-750 lately and I feel blessed. We’re still a small blog, and we appreciate everyone who takes the time out of their day to read our posts.

  15. It’s funny, I’ve just finished installing feedburner on my site, like 5 mins ago and I wasn’t sure whether to include a counter or not from the beginning as it would show zero.

    But I decided to include it anyway.

    And then I came to problogger to catch up on the days postings and here was this article.

    Well, after 5 mins, the counter is still at zero, but I can’t wait to see numbers start to appear slowly. I think if you know how many people you cater for then that encourages you to keep writing and be even more creative to try and rise your numbers.

    Hopefully I won’t be sitting here in a weeks time still looking at zero, but if that is the case then I know I’ll have to do things better.

  16. derek says:

    I do not show the Feedburner stats on either of my two blogs, although I do discuss the numbers with my readers in my monthly update posts.

    In those update posts, I discuss goals on growing my RSS subscribers and update on the success or failure of reaching those goals. While my RSS numbers are under 100, that really hasn’t factored into why I do not show the feed count. It is just something that I haven’t planned to add to my site, but could be a good case study to see if it impacts my numbers.

    Regardless, I am proud of the feed count that I do have and do not have any issues with discussing that with readers of my site. Likewise, I have public stats via SiteMeter and also provide regular updates on the numbers from my Google Analytics account.

    In my opinion, I do not see a problem with being very open and honest regarding the traffic to my sites. If someone takes the time to ask me a question about the stats, I am more than willing to share that information and do so on a regular basis. The one note would be that I disclose the stats on my personal blog as that discussion would be a little off-topic for my niche blog.

  17. Empress says:

    Maybe I’m an oddball here… but I don’t really care how many readers you have showing in your feed counter. I think if the site is good, I’m going to add you to my reader – whether you have 5 or 24971 – seriously doesn’t matter to me. I’m not really sure what the big deal is.

  18. Brown Baron says:

    I started showing my feed count when it was still at 0. Since every feed subscriber is precious, I don’t feel shy about displaying it even if the count is low.

  19. Alexandra says:

    I display the number of subscribers on weirdomatic.com, although it is surpassed by the number of returning visitors showed by statcounter. I added feedburner as well as feedblitz since the beginning, since they had only one reader (that means… me :D ). I consider I have nothing to hide and I’m pretty satisfied what I have achieved in 5 months. I want people to subscribe because they really want to see what I’m posting, not because they want a link more in their feed reader, that they will forget the next day among thousands and thousands of other feeds.

    If people like what you post they will subscribe no matter the number of readers is showed by feed counter. Or at least I believe that…I usually subscribe to the blogs I like, I’m not influenced by the numbers. When I find an interesting blog I read the posts, I don’t read the feedburner to realize what I like or not. I usually don’t care about the others. I have my own thoughts and opinions.

    Btw, I’m not subscribed to problogger feed. Maybe because I don’t have the necessary time to read it daily and not because I don’t like what you write. I don’t have to keep it in my feed reader to know it exists. When I’m in the mood for reading it, I just type it in Firefox.I think that’s the effect a blog should leave on its readers. To make them return because they really want to, not because the feed reader reminds them.

  20. well i don’t show mu feedburner count on my blog, I saw reason for me to do so. But i do mention the number of rss subscribers i have on my “advertise” page, since it is relevant to advertisers, but not really to my readers. my 2 cents

  21. Rich Miller says:

    I’ve had stronger growth since I started displaying the Feedburner subscriber count badge. I waited until my main blog hit 500 subscribers, which felt like a big enough number to convey a sense of authority in my niche.

    That’s the key issue for me. When I visit a blog and see a large number of RSS subscribers, it’s a sign that other discerning readers have found the blog to be worth tracking. It’s not unlike Google’s PageRank concept, in which outside links function as “votes” for a site. RSS subscriptions work in a similar fashion.

    Do you get a boost when you break 1,000 subscribers? My blog is at 983 today, so it’s a topic of interest to me. :)

  22. Lee says:

    I displayed the FeedBurner counter from zero too. After two months I’m currently hovering around 40. I had read advice that you shouldn’t display it until you had at least 50 subscribers, but chose to ignore it. I admire authenticity and vulnerability, and I knew it would grow if I kept creating valuable content, and it did. It’s been very rewarding to watch it slowly grow, and I’d take the same path again without a second thought.

    - Lee

  23. Personally, if it’s under 1k I usually keep it private. Sometimes I don’t display it at all…depends on my mood I guess.

  24. I do display my feed subscriber count… even if I have something like 120 readers (it’s not that much…) …
    I also wrote a css-customizable plugin for displaying the number of readers, because I don’t like that feedburner chicklet :)

    (if you want to give it a try, it’s at http://www.mapelli.info/feedcount/ )

  25. Kathleen says:

    I just clicked on the colorful square on the bottom out of curiosity. Is that the google statistics? Because I am not techy at all, I am still trying to figure out how to submit a site map to Google for my blog, and to install the code in the right place to get stats.

  26. I hadn’t planned to display my number because it didn’t seem relevant to a blog on baby names — a topic that only interests people in short bursts. But I have 61 subscribers (as of today), and I’m happy about that, so I put it up anyway.

  27. dharana says:

    I show them since I started tracking the subscribers with feedburner. I have a personal blog and as many others have commented I feel proud of every new reader I get.

  28. Anthony says:

    I have my Feedcount displayed for myself. I’m not trying to give the impression of being more important than I am, and I want others to be able to watch along as my site grows.

  29. Webomatica says:

    The number of subscribers is relative. If your number is less than the blog your reading, it might seem arrogant, but that’s different for everyone. If I see a blog I’m unfamiliar with and see a high number, it actually is a positive meaning there is likely some interesting content here. I would think when that number gets so ridiculously huge (several thousand) and you could tell a blog’s quality just based on the number of comments (like every post gets more than 10 comments) that the added info of a subscriber count is superfluous.

  30. I have 28 subscribers for my 2 month old blog. I am proud of my subscribers. Display whether you have 1 or 10 or 1000.

  31. ashok says:

    Geez, I just thought it was a cool widget, and not emblematic of all these deeper issues. And when that one guy subscribed to my blog out of pity, I was pretty happy about that.

  32. One obnoxious guy I came across flaunts his extremely high visitor numbers as often and as loud as he can on his site and actually contacts authorities in mainstream media (news analysts and popular bloggers) just to rub it in.

    He would basically say: “Your web site is terrible and you don’t know what you’re doing. I get X million unique hits per day and I only spend two hours updating, blah blah blah.”

    Then he posts what he writes to his readers as a form of bragging. Not surprisingly, his niche is offensive comedy.

  33. junger says:

    I reveal mine — I figure, better to be open with my readers. There’s no real harm in showing it, as far as I see. Some potential readers may not think it’s a lot, but some might.

  34. Elie says:

    i reveal my blog numbers. i don’t have very many though and it’s a free wordpress blog. i don’t have a feedburner counter though. my site is: pokerlife.wordpress.com

  35. Ditto what Jon Symons said .. when I started May 31, 2005 blogging – this blog had only 284 subscribers. I know, because I wrote it down as one of my objectives … “to get as many readers as Darren does”.
    Now, two years later I might have that among 20-30 blogs in total. Obviously, I suck – You-Da-Man .. and all that! lol

  36. Jim Walton says:

    I show my numbers. Not sure why, maybe it’s pride, maybe it’s something else. But I think it helps give credibility to the author.

    I’m nothing compared to others here, my number is in the 400s, after 2 years. It’s growing and I’m always wanting more. When I see the number of readers on a blog, I gauge how good it must be based on the number readers, although I might subscribe to a blog with a handful of readers because I like it and I might not subscribe to one with thousands because it doesn’t grab me. So the number does not lock it in but it is a factor. IMHO

  37. I think that it can make readers feel that they are part of a community but I don’t feel any competitive urge to get as many subscribers as I can.

    I only display blog directory rankings because it’s part of the deal, not because I want to be loved (by faceless statistics).

  38. Woah, bad typo. Scratch X million per day. I honestly don’t remember the length of time he had for millions of unique visitors, but it definitely wasn’t per day.

    Sorry for the double post.

  39. jhay says:

    I stopped showing my numbers once I can’t get pass the 20′s mark. No point showing them off if they weren’t that many.

  40. Palmdoc says:

    Mine’s only 100+ but it was worse until I consolidated all the feeds using the Feedsmith plugin:
    http://www.feedburner.com/fb/a/help/wordpress_quickstart

    I think it is important to display numbers for transparency and also if you want to encourage your readership to use RSS which to me is the most efficient way to scour the web.

  41. Richard says:

    The single biggest reason for showing your numbers is for the trust of transparency. From advertisers to consumers who are browsing your site, there is nothing easier and more simple to implement as a visible stats number. Only a third party can give your viewers a satisfyingly objective opinion.

  42. Derek Storme says:

    Greetings again Darren,
    ALWAYS enjoy reading your articles. Your is by far my favorite information and business building blog I go to.
    I was NOT showing my numbers for exactly your last reason. I am a month old and so I don’t have many numbers. To be honest with you, I don’t know WHAT numbers I have. Google Analytics shows me that I’ve gone from o to about 40-45 readers a day (Hey, Im getting there!), but that does not tell me in the least what my subscribers might be. I did A LOT of feature adding to my blog today though after reading through some other great posts. I’ve joined feedburner and added THAT icon today, as well as a subscription box for email, also from feedburner. I’ve open upped comments (which I removed by the way because of an article I read here at ProBlogger), so we’ll see how that goes. And I have joined MyBlogLog and WOW, I just noticed that I actually have readers! Lots of changes in one day! I hope they help. One question though, if you have a second, I have searched the FeedBurner console over and over again looking for the icon and code you are using to show your subscribers. I am just not seeing it (Im sure it’s right in front of me). Do you have a quick how-to you can offer?
    Again – Thanks for a GREAT blog!

  43. I have to say that when I displayed the chicklet in my old template, numbers jumped at a pretty healthy rate.

    I took it off when I rolled out the redesign, because I didn’t have a place for it. I tried putting it back in, but in order to fit it in the spot, I had to shrink the RSS icon by 75%. Numbers flatlined for a few weeks.

    Putting up the big RSS icon started adding subscribers again on a regular basis – so from my experience, having a BIG RSS icon PLUS showing off healthy subscriber counts brought in the most subscribers, but the size of the RSS icon seems to have had the biggest impact of all.

    Did I just say that size matters? Yikes! ;)

  44. Daniel says:

    It’s really a toss up. I use to show my subscribers but now I don’t. I think if you don’t have many subscribers it would be better to not show them and vice versa if you do.

  45. Brad says:

    I don’t show any of my numbers; rss subscribers, newsletter subscribers and unique daily hits. My reason is simple: my blog is still very new and not yet established and I only have a few regular readers. Sooooo, I just don’t advertise things like that.

  46. I show my counter. It started at zero, it’s at 29 now. I don’t care – I’m having too much fun being an author!

  47. Susie says:

    I am embarrassed to put my number up. it’s low but I have been getting traffic but not much subscriptions. Maybe you could do an article about how to get subscriptions from the readers? Cheers Darren.

  48. 60 in 3 says:

    After reading this post, I finally took a look at my feedburner page and saw that I have 30 subscribers. Instead of being depressed, I felt elated. I have 30 people who enjoy my writing enough to actually subscribe. This is great!

    Why be ashamed of something like this? I suppose if you’re a big time writer trying to launch a commercial website then 30 sounds bad, but I’m one guy trying to help people learn a bit more about fitness. I have no intention of making this a business. For me, 30 regular readers after less than two months is a cause for celebration and pride.

    So yes, I added the little widget to my site. 30 readers!!! WOOHOO!!! :)

    Gal

  49. Rian says:

    My subscriber numbers fluctuated so much every day that I took it down to see if something was wrong. There was a hiccup over at Feedburner, but nothing major. Personally though, I’ve left the count off for a while as having about 30 myself isn’t too impressive. But after reading this post, I may put it back. Perhaps a little tweaking and the counter itself will encourage more subscribers? Yes, a tutorial on how to increase our counts would be awesome! Thanks Darren.

  50. Dar says:

    Thanks for a great post, Darren. My blog is still fairly new, and I was curious as to whether one should show numbers. Sounds like it can go either way. Appreciate your thoughtful post!

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