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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. hanneng says:

    there is no right or wrong.
    If like it to see number, just put it in, otherwise don’t.

  2. Darren:

    Well, when I first started blogging, I had a Feedblitz counter up on there but then I started to catch advice from other bloggers, many of whom recommended that you wait until you have a nice number before you do it for “creditability” purposes. So I took it down.

    But one neat trick if you’re keen on showing establishing yourself as an authority without showing actual subscriber count is to install Clustermaps on your blog. It’s a neat little HTML code that tracks where your visitors came from. It shows a bunch of red dots on a global map. The neat thing is you could a bunch of red dots on this map but only have a handful of subscribers.

    Obviously if you have a lot of red dots on Clustermaps, it better than your low number of subscribers. That’s my opinion.

    Clustermaps can be found at: http://clustrmaps.com/getone.php

    Stephen Hopson

  3. small or large… I will show my rss reader numbers… It’s just a number. It’s not the size, but the motion in the ocean.

  4. Ask me STNY..? :wink:

    Actually, mine’s a conscious choice in that “busy” pages bother me.. Besides which, that type of associated number is the least of the message I’m hoping comes off these fingertips.. :)

    STNY :: Same Time Next Year.. (Thus opening a whole ‘nother can of worms in the form of in which calendar program do we store the related reminder..)

  5. 60in3,

    I have 31 readers now. I’ll race ya!

    Q

  6. Interesting post Darren.

    I personally would like to visit a blog and see the number of subscribers it has on the feedburner count. I associate credibility with it. I guess it comes very naturally to me. But that does not mean I would disregard reading any post only because the blog has a handful of subscribers. I would rather subscribe if I feel the content on the blog is worth it.

  7. 60 in 3 says:

    You’re on Q. First one to 50 subscribers has to publicly admit his biggest and most embarassing mistake made while blogging. Deal? :)

    Gal

  8. Friedbeef says:

    I revealed mine when it crossed the 100 mark…. I do agree with momentum. Mine’s at 2000 now and I suspect many of them judge my site based on the number too… like Jon mentioned in comment 2

  9. I’m rather lazy (too busy writing content) so I keep my RSS number on my weblog so I can quickly see how many subscribers I have.

  10. Ponn Sabra says:

    Well, I’m going to “test” the waters today…I just put up my widgets, I’m highly interested what kind of affect it has, because I have 225 email subscribers, but only 31 Feed readers.

    I’m at least give it a month, because I’m running a 4-week challenge to attempt to increase 500+ new subscribers in one-month…high expectations, but a colleague achieved it, so it’s worth the challenge.

    Honestly, reading this post and everyone’s comments convinced me to put up my counters, even though the challenge started 6-days ago. Sp thanks for creating a great dialogue on this interesting subject.

    All my research shows that you should at least wait until you have over 50 subscribers, or 3-digits to share.

    For those to post #s before then, I think “Good for them, congrats for their courage and pride”; but I personally subscribe to someone’s feed not because of the #s, but because of the content.

    Nonetheless, when I see a blog with 5000+ and I’m somewhat interested in their blog, I definitely subscribe. If I see one with 10,000+ subscribers, I definitely subscribe on the spot. In the 100s, I go with my solely on my interest in the content generated.

  11. Ponn Sabra says:

    Darren Strome,

    - Go to “Publicize” Tab.
    - On the Left-hand side under “Services” there’s a choice ” Feedcount”.

    You can customize colors, then get the html code to embed in your template.

    Good luck!

  12. Alex says:

    I just added my feed readers a few minutes before reading this post and I am quite impressed about people opinions, I don’t have very much subscribers but I think that is a good idea to share how many readers you have even if the number is not big. It makes your readers gain credibility and on the second view the content is more important than the number of readers.

  13. I’m hovering in the mid 30s right now and I proudly display my reader stats. I guess it is more of a motivation for me to keep blogging and to make sure my content is good. When the content is good and I am keeping that handful of readers happy then the number steadily inches higher. That’s what drives me to keep going and work even harder. If the counter wasn’t there I think I would be able to take a day of or even two and not worry about it. Who cares if my numbers fall a little? But the numbers are there and they won’t let me rest!

  14. Ponn Sabra says:

    Update: 9 days later, I put my feed counters on a Links, etc. page. After much discussion with my blogging colleagues, RSS feed subscribers are not my top priority, so I’m not displaying it (though 3 in my challenge asked for me to display the #s for the sake of the challenge).

    My top priorities are my goals in networking online for my areas of expertise, building powerful partnerships, creating content pertinent to those goals, and increasing traffic. Ironically, my ezine subscribers grow substantially every day but my RSS feed #s remain the same. Since ezine and RSS subscribers are 2 different populations and different purposes my internet marketing products/services caters to my ezine subscribers, so I’m all around much happier with this decision.

    I’ve increased the size of my RSS icon, as Wendy recommends, and changed the color to match my theme…this has not done anything dramatic to my #s yet…7 days is not long enough to judge though…

    Lesson learned: Test and Track results!

  15. ym says:

    sorry, I’m just a few days old blogger. How do I get the feed burner counter.

    And how do I make the recent viewed blogger show on my blog.

    http://dreamerbigmoney.blogspot.com

  16. My blog is new (it’s only a month or so that I’m really dived into it) and I’m not planning to show any numbers yet, because, as others already said, it might give the impression your site is not interesting and they could leave it before actually looking at the articles.
    I believe my site is interesting for those who do lotus notes, and I have 10 years of experience that I started to share just now. It would give the wrong impression.

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