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FeedBurner vs. Aweber: Do You Really Need an Autoresponder for Your Blog?

This guest post is by Aman Basanti of Ageofmarketing.com.

When it comes to turning casual visitors into regular readers there are two main options—FeedBurner and Aweber.

FeedBurner uses Feed-based technology (RSS and Atom) to send updates to your blog subscribers. Owned by Google (Google bought it in 2007 for $100 million), FeedBurner is one of the biggest feed syndicators on the Internet.

It works like this: a site visitor subscribes to your feed and every time you add a new post, a message is sent to them alerting them of the addition. The subscriber needs special software (a feed reader) to access the feed.

For more information on feeds, see Darren’s post, What is RSS?

Aweber is email-based technology that allows you to send automated email messages to your subscribers. It works similarly to a feed but does not require special feed-reading software, only an email address to subscribe to a blog.

Aweber is the most popular autoresponder software system on the Internet. Other popular brands include Infusionsoft, MailChimp, and GetResponse.

Advantages of FeedBurner

  • FeedBurner is free, Aweber costs money: The key advantage of using FeedBurner instead of Aweber (or other auto-responders) on your blog is that FeedBurner does not cost anything. Aweber, on the other hand, can cost $20-$100 a month depending on the number of subscribers you have.
  • FeedBurner take less effort: Most popular blogging platforms (WordPress, Blogger, TypePad etc.) publish feeds automatically. There is nothing more to do on top of publishing a post. With auto-responders, however, you have to manually setup the messages and sequence them (but you can now set up a blog broadcast in Aweber, which creates an automatic email newsletter).
  • FeedBurner supports both feed readers and email subscribers: The key advantage of auto-responders like Aweber used to be that you did not need special software to subscribe, only an email address. As millions of people still do not have feed readers or prefer email, this meant that you still needed an aut-responder to capture those readers. But FeedBurner changed all that by allowing people to subscribe to a feed using an email address. This means that while an autoresponder only supports email, FeedBurner supports both feed readers and email.

Given that FeedBurner is free, easy to set up, effortless to use, and supports both feed readers and email, why would you want to pay for an auto responder?

The fatal flaw in feeds

The key thing that you cannot do with a feed is sequence messages: you cannot create a series of messages to be sent to your subscribers. This means that your subscribers only get alerts for posts that are added after they subscribe.

For example, say you post four articles over four weeks, and a visitor subscribes to your blog after week three. This means they will only get alerted about the fourth post, and will not receive posts one to three, as shown in the image below.

Feedburner alerts

In FeedBurner, you cannot send alerts for older posts

Now, if you post time-sensitive information (news or latest developments) on your blog, this doesn’t matter. But if you publish evergreen content, or you want to take your blog readers through a specific set of messages, the ability to sequence is crucial.

Autoresponders allow you to do just that. You can create a sequence of messages, set how long the wait is between each message, and the autoresponder will execute that for you for each subscriber, regardless of when they join, as shown below.

Aweber sequencing

Aweber allows you to create a sequence of messages

Then there are the other benefits of auto-responders like Aweber—customization of look and feel of emails, personalization (“Hi John”), controlling the wait period between messages, solid delivery rates, split-test multiple lead capture forms, and so on.

The audience factor

A third factor in deciding which system to use is your audience. If you have tech-phobic audience, then an email-based system like Aweber is likely better for you.

For tech-savvy audiences, on the other hand, FeedBurner may be better. Technically inclined people are more likely to use and prefer to get their blog updates through feeds. Feeds also have the added benefit of allowing another blogger to include your feed on their blog, creating free exposure and traffic for your blog.

The best way to find out what your audience wants is to have both options on your site for a month and see what your readers prefer. You may even find that it is useful to have both.

The bottom line

If you have a small budget, publish time-sensitive information, and/or cater to a tech-savvy audience, FeedBurner will be sufficient for your blog.

If, on the other hand, you want to take your subscribers through a sequence of messages and control the wait periods between the messages, then Aweber is better suited to your blog.

What are you using: Aweber, FeedBurner … or something else? Tell us how you do it in the comments.

Aman Basanti writes about the psychology of buying and teaches you how you can use the principles of consumer psychology to boost your sales. Visit www.Ageofmarketing.com/free-ebook to get his new ebook—Marketing to the Pre-Historic Mind: How the Hot New Science of Behavioural Economics Can Help You Boost Your Sales—for FREE.

Google Add Socialize Feature to Feedburner – Tweet Your New Blog Posts from Feedburner

Google today announced a new feature that impacts bloggers – a new URL shortener that integrates with Feedburner and a new ‘socialize’ feature on Feedburner.

This allows bloggers to use Feedburner to send Tweets out automatically via Feedburner.

Of course most bloggers already have tweets going out to promote new blog posts by using either a plugin or a service like TwitterFeed.

Feedburner give you a number of options – including the ability to tweet out just the title or include some of the body (or only the body), adding hashtags (based upon your category), adding something before or after the title, filtering (to stop some new posts going out) – and limiting how many tweets go out.

Screen shot 2009-12-15 at 11.34.10 AM.png

Get more help and details on setting up your Feedburner account here.

In many ways it is pretty similar to what a lot of the other alternatives give you for this type of thing – but it is good to be able to have it all managed from one account. I’ll also be interested to see how Google/Feedburner integrate this into their Analysis/metrics (ie to see if they can measure clicks on their URL shortened links accurate – I’m not seeing any mention of this but it would seem like a logical extension).

Let me Show You How my RSS Advertising is Performing

Today I spent a little time digging around in my AdSense earnings stats to see how they’d been performing over the last 6-12 months and particularly was interested in how the RSS advertising was performing.

I decided to pull out some of the data that I found and chart it (I’m a visual kind of guy) and thought I’d share some of what I saw when I analyzed how the ads are performing in the feed of my photography site since August 2008 when I started running AdSense in the feed.

I’ve removed the figures from the chart to comply with the Terms of Service that AdSense has that prohibit sharing of too many specifics but have below charted Earnings (the blue line), eCPM (earnings per 1000 impressions – the Red line) and Impression numbers (the yellow line). I’ve also included a linear trend line to help visualize the average movement.

AdSense-RSS-DPS.png

When I initially looked at the raw data I was surprised to see how much the ads were now earning on a daily basis. It’s been a long while since I looked at the figures so they actually looked quite healthy (RSS ads now make up around 10% of my overall AdSense earnings). My first reaction was that perhaps AdSense have got RSS advertising right at last and it’s starting to earn more per impression.

However the chart above tells a different story with the increase in earnings coming from an increase in impressions. In fact eCPM has been falling.

My next question was whether this fall in eCPM was due to the economy or whether it was more to do with a trend in RSS advertising – so I decided to compare the eCPM of my RSS ads vs the eCPM of the AdSense ads on my site. Here’s what I found:

RSS-vs-Onsite.png

This surprised me. While RSS eCPM (blue) is on the downward slope onsite eCPM has been on the up and up.

Of course this could be explained by the increase in the popularity of the site and more advertisers targeting it (I’ve noticed that as traffic and the brand of DPS grows that more and more advertisers are targeting the site) – but from what I can see advertisers are targeting the feed as well as the site, yet the eCPM is falling there.

Keep in mind that this is just an observation of a single site – I’m sure it’ll differ from site to site and industry to industry (for example the RSS ads here on ProBlogger’s feeds are performing appallingly less than a tenth of what they earn on DPS despite having half as many subscribers) but it does make me wonder whether others are seeing similar trends?

How is RSS advertising performing for you?

Why Promote an RSS Feed if it Keeps People from Visiting Your Blog?

In the last 15 minutes I’ve had 3 people ask me pretty much the same question:

“Why promote an RSS feed where you share the full posts of your blog when it means people don’t read your blog?”

Rather than write another post on the topic I thought I’d simply share a previous post where I address it:

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

Also check out 10 Sure-Fire Ways to Get RSS Readers Visiting Your Blog.

Feedburner Add Customizable Subject Lines to Email Subscriptions

One month ago I wrote an open letter to Google/Feedburner suggesting that it might be time to add some more features to Feedburner – particularly the ability to customize subject lines of those subscribing to a feed via RSS.

It seems that they’ve been hard at work on that very feature.

Today I logged into my Feedburner account and noticed this in the ‘Email Branding’ area.

feedburner-update.jpg

Yep – it’s the feature we’ve been waiting for! All you need to do now is add the tag ${latestItemTitle} into the subject line and it looks like you’re set to have new subject lines on each email sent.

There’s no official word on this new feature yet from Feedburner.

Ironically it was only a few hours ago that I emailed a few questions to Feedburner who have agreed to an interview here on ProBlogger. Expect to hear more from Feedburner in the coming few days – hopefully this is a sign of things to come as they take Feedburner to the next level!

Thanks for listening Feedburner.

A hat tip to Carrie who emailed me about this new feature – nice pick up!

Dear Google: Please Take Feedburner to the Next Level

google-feedburner.pngDear Google – I have a suggestion that I submit to you for your consideration.

It pertains to your excellent Feedburner service (particularly the email subscription element of it) which so many hundreds of thousands of bloggers (I’m taking a stab in the dark on that number, it could well be more) use to deliver our content to readers.

My observation of Feedburner is that it seems to have stalled a little in terms of it’s development of features and options for bloggers.

I know that you’ve done a major transition recently in integrating Feedburner into the Google fold and that this must have been a massive job – but I’d love to see you accelerate the development of this important service – most bloggers I know rely upon Feedburner to deliver our content to subscribers, it’s central to what we do so we’d love to see it be everything that it can be.

One of the areas I’d like to see improved is the service that allows us to deliver our RSS feed to readers via email. This is one of the most popular ways that my readers access my feed – it’s crucial to delivering my content to tens of thousands of readers every day.

One of the improvements that I’d like to see made is illustrated by an email that I received from a reader of my photography blog yesterday.

I would not really have taken a lot of notice of her suggestion except for the fact that she’s the 7th reader so far this month (it’s only 18th of June) to email me asking the same thing. Here’s what she asked me:

I really enjoy reading the DPS Daily Update emails, and I am quickly amassing a library of them in a saved Outlook email folder for future reference. Problem is, when I want to refer to my growing library of saved DPS emails, all of the subject lines are the same, and I do a lot of searching for the topic I’m looking for. While I could use my email search tool, I generally want to quickly scan the subject lines and see a description of what’s actually in the email.

I’ll save today’s email, because there’s a great tip on fixing keystone issues. How cool would it be to scroll down my list of saved emails and see…

“Digital Photography School – Daily Update: Photographing Industrial Deserts and Fixing Keystone Issues”

“Digital Photography School – Daily Update: Metering Modes and Batch Resize”

“Digital Photography School – Daily Update: Fluid Mask 3 and Smart Scaling”

Google – at the moment every email that I send to my subscribers using the RSS to email service that you offer (I have over 21,000 readers subscribing this way) gets the same subject line, every single day of the week/month/year/decade.

Here’s how it looks when I look at the folder that contains these updates:

dear-google-feedburner.png

As I say – this is not an isolated complaint – I get it it every 2-3 days. Readers are telling me that they unsubscribe because they don’t find the emails as useful as they could be.

Other RSS to Email solutions allow publishers to customize the emails that they send using tags (Aweber’s Blog Broadcast tool for example). I’d prefer to keep all my subscriptions where they are but am slowly getting to the point where I think I’ll be forced to move.

Another feature that other tools give is to change the frequency that these RSS to email subscriptions are delivered. You can have them delivered as posts are written, daily, when there’s X# of posts written, weekly, on a certain day of the month (you allow us to choose a time of day which is great – but how about going to the next step?).

They also give you the option to go in and manually edit emails before they’re sent so that you can add extra content just for subscribers of these emails as well as use different designs, templates and customizations to make your emails look more unique (you allow some color changes and adding a logo which is cool – but it’s still pretty limited).

All in all the product you’re offering looks pretty much the way it did a year or two back from the front end. Gone are the days when we used to see new announcements of features from Feedburner every few weeks. Yep – Feedburner works (for most of us) but where is the innovation that we used to see?

Perhaps I’m convincing myself to switch my list over to Aweber as I write this, but I guess I wanted to verbalize my suggestions before moving on. I hope that they help to improve what you’re offering your publishers.

Now that you’ve got your publishers all onto the Google feeds system I do hope that we’ll see the product taken up to the next level.

Darren Rowse

ProBlogger.net

9 Tips to Help You Find More RSS Subscribers for Your Blog

Finding RSS Subscribers is something that many bloggers spend a lot of time thinking about – so in this video I thought I’d put together a few thoughts on how to grow your subscriber numbers.

See the full sized version of this video here at YouTube.

PS: in the post I mentioned some links that might help you to expand upon some of the ideas touched upon in this video. Here they are:
[Read more...]

AdSense for Feeds Ads Showing in Feedburner Email Updates

Today I was chatting with someone that subscribes to ProBlogger via email through the Feedburner RSS to Email service that we offer readers and they mentioned in passing that they see the AdSense ads in the emails that they receive.

At first I was a little taken aback by this. AdSense don’t allow their ads to be sent via email – it has always been in their Terms of Service. I know this because publishers have been asking for it to be allowed for years.

So on getting home just now I’ve checked my inbox in Gmail to see my latest email updates from my sites and sure enough – there are AdSense ads in them.

Here’s how they look on my photography blog’s daily updates:

Picture 3.png

and another one:

Picture 2.png

The ads are AdSense for RSS ads that I run in my feeds (and have done for a while). They appear at the bottom of each of my posts when someone is viewing them via RSS – but it also appears that they’re showing up in some emails. I say SOME emails because when I view these same emails in my Apple Mail email client I don’t see the ads – but in my Gmail I do.

The person who told me about this also uses Gmail. I’m yet to test it using any other email client but it could just be that they show in Gmail.

I’m not sure if Google’s Feedburner or AdSense or Gmail teams (or a combination of them) are just testing this temporarily or if it is a permanent thing but as a publisher I’m definitely not disappointed by it – it means more ad impressions!

Have you seen AdSense ads like this in RSS to email subscriptions that you have? If so – what email clients have you seen them in? Just Gmail or are they appearing in other email clients too?

update: It seems AdSense did announce this previously – check out the last paragraph on this post on their blog (thanks to @mvizdos on twitter for the link). Question is – when are they going to let those of us with newsletters add AdSense to our emails!? I’d love that!

You’re Losing Subscribers, Here’s How to Get them Back

Today Glen Allsopp a Personal Development blogger at PluginID shares a great technique for capturing lost subscribers to your blog. You can subscribe to his blog here.

A few months ago, I was messing around in feedburner and noticed something pretty drastic, I was rapidly losing subscribers on a regular basis. I bet that you are losing subscribers too, even ones that have signed up for your feed. Since this discovery I’ve been regularly ‘getting them back’ and I’m going to explain exactly what I mean today.

What brought me to remember this (and decide to do a guest post for ProBlogger) is a new tool I’ve been testing out called BLVD Status, it’s brought to you by a team of internet marketers and includes some awesome features. My favourite: live analytics.

So, on a normal day my blog was receiving quite a lot of traffic from StumbleUpon as shown in the screenshot below:

blvd.jpg

The panel for BLVD Status is very simple, giving you a brief overview of what is going on in your site at any one moment. I particularly like the outgoing links section to see where I’m sending traffic too, this also includes people subscribing to your RSS feed. I noticed quite a few of the StumbleUpon visitors were opting to sign-up for my email feed:

outgoing-links.jpg

And then BAM! I instantly remembered the little area of Feedburner where I noticed that I’ve been losing subscribers, lots of them.

Lost Subscribers

Firstly, if you aren’t using Feedburner then I highly recommend that you do. It comes with a host of features such as:

  • Seeing how many subscribers you have
  • Seeing where your subscribers are coming from
  • Simple email subscription set-up
  • A chicklet that lets you show off your subscribers (great for sign-ups)
  • and much more…

Now then, once you’ve logged into your Feedburner account, click the ‘Analyze‘ tab then click ‘Subscribers‘ on the left navigation menu.

Next, scroll down the page to see your email subscriptions through Feedburner. You should have this enabled if you don’t as not everyone will know how to use normal RSS feeds, especially if you don’t have a tech savvy audience. I’m not sure if you get the same options if you use a different email provider within Feedburner, but if you go directly to them I’m sure they’ll be able to give you similar information.

feedburner.jpg

If you click on that link you should then see a list of all your email subscribers. My site is quite new (~ 3 months old) so there are only 41 right now but every subscriber counts.

Once there, you should see a list that looks a bit like this:

feedburner-2.jpg

Of course, I’ve blurred out the actual email address’ for privacy reasons, but your account will show them clearly. Now then, on the column on the right hand side you can see subscribers which are ‘unverified’. What this means is that the person has entered their email address in the box, and gone through the captcha process.

However, they have never actually confirmed their subscription which should have been sent to their inbox and therefore aren’t being ‘counted’ as a subscriber. If you have a big site, you might find quite a lot of people who are unverified, these are people who want your feed, but for whatever reason didn’t finish the process. Some possible reasons:

  • They didn’t receive the email
  • The email went to their spam box
  • They received it but forgot to confirm
  • They changed their mind (possible)

Getting them back

Luckily, all is not lost. Just because somebody didn’t verify their address, it doesn’t mean they don’t want to. It would be great if there was an option within Feedburner to re-send the activation email but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

However, you do have their email address so all I recommend that you do is send all unverified subscribers a quick, friendly email to let them know that they can try again, or ask if they had any problems. If you want some pointers on this, here is the email I sent:

pluginID.jpg

If you are sending this to multiple people at once, make sure you add them to the BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) field of your email client so they can’t see each others email address.

The result: about 40% of people got back to me and said they had either not received the email or received an error when they tried. I simply took 10 minutes to enter their emails for them and they activated their subscriptions. For some bigger sites this might be a job that takes you a day, but subscribers are an important factor in any blog, and not something that you want to lose.

I would not recommend doing this more than once as you will annoy people, but check regularly for new people that sign-up but are unverified. Hopefully, you’ll get a lot more subscribers back that you actually (kind of) had before.

Glen Allsopp writes on the subject of Personal Development at PluginID. You can help him help you by subscribing to his feed, here.