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Are RSS Subscribers Worthwhile if they Don’t Visit Your Blog?

“Why do bloggers put so much focus upon growing RSS subscriber numbers to their blog if most of them only ever read your content in Feed Readers and don’t visit your blog?”

This question (or variations of it) hit my inbox 3 times in 24 hours from different people so I thought I’d tackle it as a post instead of individual replies.

Let me start by saying that this problem can be frustrating. You see your RSS subscriber number growing by your actual visitor numbers remain steady – as do your comment numbers. It can actually feel like you’re wasting your time – I remember myself feeling kinda like this guy when I first noticed this happening to me:

RSS-Readers-frustrated.pngImage by Sybren Stüvel

However all is not lost.

There are a number of points that I’d like to make in responding to this question about RSS subscribers not visiting a blog. I hope that they give those facing this problem a little hope, encouragement and also a few ways forward.

1. A subscriber that never visits is better than a one off visitor who never returns

I had one blogger recently tell me that he’d removed the option to subscribe to his blog via RSS from his blog because he didn’t want to ‘give away’ his content. He wanted people who read his content to ‘pay’ him by visiting his blog (and earning him money from his advertising) and he saw RSS subscribers as ‘freeloaders’.

My response to him was that I’d rather have a subscriber who rarely visits my actual blog than a one off visitors who never returns because they have no way of keeping in touch.

While a subscriber might not actually visit your blog they are a powerful connection to have. My reasons for this will hopefully become evident in the points that follow.

2. Every post you put in front of a subscriber is an opportunity to reinforce your brand.

RSS subscribers are opting in to receive your content. When they hit ‘subscribe’ they are putting themselves inside your sphere of influence and are asking you to teach, inspire and communicate with them.

Each time you hit publish on a post and a subscriber sees something that you’ve written you have the potential to deepen the relationship, trust and influence that you have with your subscriber. While this might not have an immediate pay off in terms of advertising revenue – it can have a long term ‘pay off’.

3. RSS subscribers are Influencers

RSS is used by a smallish percentage of the population (around 11% at latest reports).

While the percentage may be smallish – I have a suspicion that they are a reasonably tech savvy and influential bunch of people. I’m guessing here – but I suspect that those who use RSS are also likely to have blogs themselves, they’re more likely to be into social networking, messaging and bookmarking tools.

This makes RSS readers a potentially very influential audience – capable of spreading news of your posts and blog throughout the web very quickly.

4. Making the Mind shift from Traffic to Influence

When I started blogging one of the main indicators that I looked at when measuring the success of my blog was traffic. If I had a day with lots of visitors I was happier than if I did not have anyone visit my blog.

While traffic is still important to me – I’ve noticed lately that I’m checking my visitor stats less than I used to. These days I’m increasingly interested in ‘influence’.

I don’t mind so much if someone reads my content on my blog, in an RSS reader or in some other tool – what matters to me is that people are reading it, that in doing so they interact with me, that they are drawn into some sort of ‘relationship’ or ‘community’ around the content.

My reason for this is that I’m finding that while traffic can be monetized directly – influence is actually a more powerful (and potentially profitable) thing. Let me explain more in my next point.

5. Influence can Lead to Profits

More and more bloggers are discovering that while direct income earners like advertising are great – that there’s also incredible potential for bloggers to earn an income through other more indirect income sources. Making money ‘because’ of a blog rather than directly ‘from’ a blog is possible in may ways including consulting, writing books, running training and workshops, selling products, landing other paid writing gigs, speaking at conferences etc.

The more people that you have some kind of influence with the increased chances of being able to monetize that influence in one of these indirect methods.

A subscriber might not be visiting your blog each day but if you provide great content on a daily basis to them you can bet that the day they decide that they need to hire a consultant on your topic that they’ll come knocking on your door.

6. Other Monetization Models for RSS

Indirect income is not the only possibility for RSS. There is also RSS advertising – this industry is still in its infancy and while isn’t hugely profitable using tools like AdSense I’m hearing bloggers reporting that it’s a growing income source for them.

The other great opportunity for income from RSS subscribers is affiliate programs. This taps into point #5 above – when you have ‘influence’ or trust established with readers an affiliate program can be very profitable.

7. The challenge of drawing subscribers into your blog

Just because someone subscribes to your blog does not mean that they’ll never visit it. In fact RSS subscribers can be among your most regular visitors to your blog if you draw them into actually visiting it.

I won’t go into a lot of techniques for this in this post but using techniques like asking questions, running polls, interlinking posts, writing ‘best of’ lists and more techniques can draw subscribers into visiting your blog on a daily basis.

Read more detailed tips on getting RSS readers visiting your blog.

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. Jeff says:

    Yes,, sometime RSS is important

  2. Justin says:

    I like to use the similar posts plugin to include similar posts in my RSS feed. This can sometimes lead the RSS subscribers to click on other posts and get exposed to more of the website.

  3. I think Feed is all about brand. According to me people who take the feed usually bookmark the blog also. They visit whenever they feel like getting some information from your site & feed only helps them so that they do not miss any content that you post in future.

  4. Tia says:

    Definitely, RSS is important. Not only it will monetize directly (as with ads for RSS), but it constitutes a gate for more people to eventually come. I would like you to stress the importance of submitting your RSS feed to RSS submission portals, it is not a negligible source of traffic.

  5. I think RSS is important. I’ve listed 8 reasons why someone should subscribe to my blog. These reasons are meant to be funny. The first one is: “A subscription to my blog will ensure that you always step in it while it’s still fresh (and hopefully some of it will stick to your shoe so that others can get a whiff).” You are welcome to link to this post if you are trying to give people reasons to subscribe to you (I’ll even give you some return link love).

  6. Wow – great article. I RSS a lot of blogs – it is the only way to keep up. If I didn’t RSS, those blogs I follow would never get visited. I probably only open 1 out of 20 feeds to the actual blog site, but again, if I didn’t have those feeds hitting me all the time, the blog sites would be forward lost in that void I call bookmarks. Most of the good blog reads I see and post comments on (like this one) come from a Twitter post – the ultimate RSS feed! :-)

  7. IMHO. Some people will still prefer to click the title and it will open a new windows and read the news instead of read it on RSS Reader / full feed viewed on their email.

  8. Thank you for this post. I was allways thinking if the RSS feeds had any real long term value. I think Twitter is a great “alternative” to RSS feeds, well it certanly works for me :).

  9. RSS feeds are an interesting concept – and I have to agree, someone who reads the RSS regularly but doesn’t visit the site is a better customer than just one that fleetingly visits! It is about quality not quantity.

  10. I think the RSS v email v “get them into the actual blog” arguments depend very largely on WHY you created the blog in the first place. Mine is essentially an information providing exercise for guidance practitioners in the UK as an offshoot of a more direct service to a discrete membership network. Easy, quick, gives them what they need and if readers want more help / advice / information then they know who and how to contact.

  11. Web Talk says:

    the importance of RSS is known is long. Sadly a lot of blogger doesnt know about it yet. They should promote their RSS since thanks to it they will get a lot of direct traffic!

  12. Luke smith says:

    It’s an idea i’ve been toying with, but i’m not sure whether i’ve even got the coverage on most of my sites to get RSS subscribers!

  13. deden says:

    thanks for sharing your mind about RSS subscribers.

  14. Lisa says:

    My readers don’t even know how to get most out of RSS feeds. But they respond to newsletters sent through emails.

  15. Don Mega says:

    Great article!,

    I think first you have to educate your readers about RSS. It’s funny but when some people hear the word “subscribe” they tend to think it’s something they have to pay for.

    Once you educate your readers about RSS and how easy it is to subscribe and read their favorite articles in a reader then they will begin to utilize this function. I know alot of great blogs where the webmasters don’t even provide RSS, which can really bring in some decent traffic.

    Promoting your RSS feed cannot be over-looked either it goes hand in hand with placing that ever so friendly subscribe button on your webpage or blog.

    I wrote a good article about educating your readers on RSS that should also help your subscriber count. Feel free to link or copy the post to your blog, please try to place a link back and or crediting me for the original message.

    Oh, and please do not HOTLINK my RSS button from the post, it will just eat up bandwidth on my server.

    Thanks in Advance!

    http://www.megaonlineprofits.com/139/12-ways-to-recruit-new-rss-subscribers-for-your-blog/

  16. Omar says:

    Though I don’t have advertisements on my blogs – I too thought that I was waiting my time with RSS subscribers; it seems I was wrong.

    Thanks for the advice.

  17. sudan says:

    I agree with you and thank for your idea about RSS subscriber.
    Great Information.

  18. All it takes is for one interesting headline to catch a non-visiting subscriber’s attention in their reader to get another visit to your blog. From that one visit you may get just one hit, or the visitor might blog about it themselves, thus bringing in more visitors. So yes, in my opinion all RSS subscribers have some value – even if it isn’t obvious.

  19. Noobpreneur says:

    Darren,

    Agreed.

    However, in my situation, I need to figure it out how to get more people to subscribe to my blog’s feed.

    Being charming helps, but I’m not sure that it is all needed to get tons of feed readers :D

    Cheers!

  20. David Perel says:

    I cannot agree more. People too often confuse hits in quantity for quality. You could be getting 200,000 hits a day but if you aren’t getting comments / refferals / business then it doesn’t mean much does it?

    So I say that as long as your 500 subscribers are reading your posts, be it on there feed or your site, you will have a huge opportunity of word of mouth. The tail is long, so RSS subscribers do count. 100%.

  21. Jay says:

    Very useful information indeed. Some great tips to help me as I’m getting ready to start my first blog. Better late then never.

  22. Ok I didn’t all 121 comments ahead of me, so I hopefully I am not repeating what any of the peeps ahead of me said.

    My personal strategy is to link to a few of my greatest posts with in my posts. Almost like making the link an extension of the post you are writing. If you can add a few intriguing links to other posts within your blog then those subscribers will be comin’ to your actual blog.

    Also if you are writing really ‘good sh!t’ then I’m the your RSS peeps will head to your blog to leave a comment. Just like I did hear. I had to get up, walk away from my RSS feed, head to Problogger just to give in my 2 cents.

    Let’s face it kids, you need to stop crying that your RSS subscribers are not coming to your blog, cause guess what…they are

  23. Nimish says:

    I think we are losing our track. Its the same old story Who came first – Chicken or Egg? Is it the crave to earn money from your blog inspired you to blog or is it to write your mind inspired you to blog. I started blogging as a voice to be heard and not the source to earn money.

  24. Harish says:

    I afford email subscription as using any reader is useless.Email subscriptions are the best

  25. Oliver says:

    I just started my official blog about a week ago now, I’ve kind of been experimenting for a couple of months to get the hang of it, and I’ve learnt quite a lot.

    I cannot wait till I get RSS subscribers on my blog, even if they don’t actually visit my blog, you must do everything you can to get your blog to read as many people as possible.

    You never know, those readers can tell their friends, and then hey, you just gained another subscriber.

    I feel that blogging is all about networking, getting yourself known and showing how many people actually read the content on your website. RSS is kind of a leech seed to be honest, you are tempting them to read the content on the blog, rather than the feed itself.

    All I can see is benefits really, theres no reason not to use RSS.

  26. Mike Martin says:

    Harish, for advanced users, I believe that RSS is a better option. More streamlined, less inbox mess, and separates emails from rss feeds which are truthfully 2 different types of content. However, for non-tech oriented users, email is just as good, if not better than RSS, because many of them are not familiar with an RSS reader.

  27. Mike Martin says:

    Harish, for advanced users, I believe that RSS is a better option. More streamlined, less inbox mess, and separates emails from rss feeds which are truthfully 2 different types of content. However, for non-tech oriented users, email is just as good, if not better than RSS, because many of them are not familiar with an RSS reader.

  28. Infonote says:

    Well, Problogger has full feeds but I still visit the page due to comments.

    So to answer your question, make people comment on your posts and you will have more visitors.

  29. Rowell says:

    I think of RSS as another way to get yourself out there but I learned a valuable tip from the first comment, focus on profits not traffic.

    If you focus on the profits the traffic will follow!

  30. VonBytch.com says:

    Good point! Afterall, word of mouth is the best form of advertising!

  31. venkat says:

    I definitely prefer email subscription over RSS ,because email subscribers read the content they tell their opinions on blog by commenting,I want to be touch with my subscribers and also with this RSS the subscriber count shows some times low ,this will not apply when you have only email subscribers it stays the same.

  32. Kevin says:

    Many times i noticed that visitors count to my blogs is far less than the feed burner subscriber counts. So even if there are many rss subscribers, reader who really visits your blog will be less…many be many reads directly from rss readers like google reader and wont come to blog.

  33. Andy says:

    Great post. I have been wondering about this as my RSS base grows. I even used RSS to calculate the value of each reader, not a great gauge.

  34. Someone who subscribed to your RSS feed is somewhat already in your sphere of influence, and one of your followers.

    As an example, I didn’t visit your site for a long time (several months), but I’m here today looking for what you got.

    Franck

  35. Personally, I keep up to date on my favorite websites by RSS alone. It tells me about things I want to read, and make sure I know what’s going on. Even if I forget to visit it’s in my reader – So if I see something interesting I click over.

    You shouldn’t show the entire blog post in your RSS feed. That’s just suppose to notify people of new content they may like. “Hey! Look over here! I’ve got a great post about widgets!”

    Title, attractive image, short description, and then they can click over to the full article of course.

  36. I’ve never really focused on promoting my RSS feed. Sure, I add it to the occasional directory, but not on a massive scale. But like you said rather have a subscriber visiting you once in several months.

  37. RSS subscriber are very essential weather they pay a visit to website or not . As seth gobin said build your tribe I think RSS subscriber are our tribe who follow us.

    Well to be honest I don’t have billion subscriber but yeah had billionth viewed page which tragically earned 2 dollars coz nobody bothered to click adsense advert.
    Anyway I am working on it though.

  38. Jacob says:

    I haven’t really tried promoting my RSS feeds much either. I try spreading them around to get more exposure to my sites, but haven’t really focused on getting subscribers. Perhaps I should start doing that more earnestly and try to get them to subscribe and visit my sites more often.

  39. Jason Slater says:

    For me, I see it as offering choice, visitors can either visit my blog at http://www.jasonslater.co.uk, subscribe using RSS, or get updates via various social media sites for example LinkedIn or Facebook. As long as the content is proving useful to someone somewhere I don’t really mind which of the forms mentioned above it comes in.

  40. peakclick says:

    mmmmhhhh building a tribe :) interesting definiton

  41. I like the concept of influence over traffic. RSS is a convenient way for friends, clients, associates and followers to receive the latest posts or articles without the additional time required to visit my site. In my opinion it helps to retain contact with people I would otherwise be unable to get my message to.

  42. Eva says:

    As a speaker and seminar leader, I send traffic to my blog when I speak. It makes me smile to hear you say that one’s blog can help you get a speaking gig. ie., it all comes full circle. We can make revenue not only from our blog but because we blog. We can speak to many from our blog and because we blog. Perfect.

  43. Peggy Duncan says:

    Great post! Many people have subscribed to so many feeds that they’re suffering from information overload…to the point that they’re not reading most of the feeds they subscribe to. I’m keen on the fact that my blog helps my expertise stay at the top of Google’s organic searches.

    To increase readership, I have my blog feed set up in my email marketing software, iContact.com. Every time I write a new post, it goes to the people who sign up for my private email list that’s on my Website. The post and other related articles, all my links within the post, etc. go to all of my subscribers.

  44. Karen says:

    I hope that those who subscribe to my RSS feed are actually enjoying reading my posts, at least at the end of the day it shows that someone is reading my blog and in some hope they will also visit the blog to see what the comments are that people have hopefully made on the blog posts.

  45. Melissa says:

    I don’t know that I’d ever read a blog with any frequency if it weren’t for email feeds. I get the posts in my inbox, don’t have to keep checking on blogs for updated content…just makes my life easier. And, many times, when I see interesting articles, I link to them via Twitter. So, I feel like I’m sending ppl to the blog even if I’m not visiting them myself.

  46. ginevra says:

    No-one’s mentioned that Google Reader has a little script that lets you click from blog to blog reading your subscriptions.

    For me, the first time I come to your blog it’s an audition. If I like it, I’ll subscribe, otherwise, I’ll never be back (unless at least 3 other bloggers I respect post about how good your blog is…).

    I have 400+ feeds in my reader, that’s average, isn’t it? I read them, in full, each day, takes about 1 hour

    Only thing I wish for is that Google Reader would let me read all my feeds in a particular folder (category of interest) together, rather than presenting them in a time-based way …

  47. I just started my official blog about a week ago now, I’ve kind of been experimenting for a couple of months to get the hang of it, and I’ve learnt quite a lot.

    I cannot wait till I get RSS subscribers on my blog, even if they don’t actually visit my blog, you must do everything you can to get your blog to read as many people as possible.

    You never know, those readers can tell their friends, and then hey, you just gained another subscriber.

    I feel that blogging is all about networking, getting yourself known and showing how many sikiş videoları people actually read the content on your website. RSS is kind of a leech seed to be honest, you are tempting them to read the content on the blog, rather than the feed itself.

    All I can see is benefits really, theres no reason not to use RSS.

  48. desiree fawn says:

    I’ve often thought about this, but I figure hey, some like to subscribe because it’s SO simple. I value them just as much as those who choose to subscribe to my page.

  49. I say, if it doesn`t hurt, then it`s helping. Creating Brand Awareness is never a bad thing. Your feed is putting your brand into the users head. They may not be visiting, but this doesn`t mean they aren`t telling their friends….

  50. I’m both an RSS subscriber and a blogger. The blogs I subscribe to via RSS are not those that I visit on a day-to-day basis, but I read their feeds religiously, Tweet the articles I find most interesting and sometimes use as jumpling-off points for my own posts. Apart from the blogs and websites that I absolutely must read to do my (other) job, if a blog only offers a summary, I unsubscribe. Readers are busy too, and having to click through feels like an inconvenience.

    As a blogger, my blog is very young and doesn’t carry any advertising, so it makes no difference to me whether somebody reads my posts in a reader or on the blog itself. What I am using my blog for is a way of reaching out and communicating with people. For the moment. I do have a couple of plans for monetising the blog, but even when I begin, I don’t see summaries as the way to go. Readers (or customers, or even profit units) appreciate convenience.