Get even more out of FeedBurner

Guess who’s featured in today’s edition of MommyBrainOnline’s The Boost newsletter? It’s me! Welcome to new visitors! Please subscribe to MamaBlogga to get more posts on finding fulfillment and blogging tips!

It’s been a while since we went through the five easy steps to getting started and seven ways to get more from FeedBurner, the RSS service. Well, FeedBurner recently added a feature to help you get even more out of the service!

FeedBurner has offered email subscriptions for a while, for your blog readers who want to get updates in their inbox instead of in a reader. But while you could customize lots of options for your email newsletters, the subject line was always the same. For years, the only way you could make your email subject line change to match your content was to login every day and do it manually.

But that’s changed! Now you can add a custom feature to your subject line to make it match your post titles. Under Publicize > Email Subscriptions > Email Branding, here’s the new “hot tip”:

gooburner-custom-subject-line
Just add ${latestItemTitle} to your subject line, and the title of your latest post will appear in your subject line.

If you have more than one post per day, you can customize your subject line even more if you check the checkbox. A popup menu appears giving you even more options:
gooburner-custom-subject-line-mult

Why is this helpful? It will help your email subscribers see what’s coming in your email. It should also increase the number of email subscribers who actually open your email, since it won’t get lost in a sea of same-subject emails (like Darren Rowse of ProBlogger points out).

Here’s the official Google announcement of the FeedBurner change.

More Works-for-me Wednesday

So get out there and make your email newsletters even better!

Guest blogging at Blogging Basics 101

Don’t worry, you won’t miss out on great blogging tips today—just not here. I’m guest blogging over at Blogging Basics 101 for the week with lots of great information on RSS features.

Yesterday, I covered how to find out how many RSS and e-mail subscribers you have. Continuing with the RSS/subscription theme, today’s post is on how your readers can get e-mail updates from your blog.

Still to come this week: how to display the number of subscribers you have and how to encourage more people to subscribe to your blog.

So, for lots more on RSS, check out Blogging Basics 101 all this week!

Use FeedBurner? Check it out!

Are you using FeedBurner to manage subscriptions to your blog? Check out your subscriber numbers today—they could be a lot higher. There appears to be a glitch today affecting many blogs, sending up feed counts by as much as tens of thousands!

Sadly, the counts probably aren’t correct. The problem looks to be FeedBlitz. They’ve acknowledged the error on their blog.

How can you tell if your popularity has grown or if there’s just a mistake? Go to FeedBurner to your feed’s dashboard. Click the “See more about your subscribers” link below the Feed Subscribers chart. If the pie graph that appears has a big piece for FeedBlitz (especially when compared to the day before), your counts will probably be back to “normal” tomorrow.

Not all blogs have been affected. Mine isn’t (too bad). So, while the error will be corrected soon, why not celebrate your current all-time high?

Seven Ways to Master FeedBurner

Last week, I offered some basics of FeedBurner. This week, I have seven ways to master FeedBurner. You probably won’t need or even want all of them (I don’t), but they’re pretty cool and you never know what might come in handy!

1. MyBrand. This service, found under My Account, is absolutely great for anyone who owns his or her own domain. Instead of your feed address being http://feeds.feedburner.com/feedname, your address can be http://feeds.yourblog.net/feedname. Feedburner MyBrandWhy is that so cool? It means that, should something terrible happen to FeedBurner, your subscribers are all subscribed to your domain and it will be easy to keep your subscribers and move them. Although BlueHost hasn’t been very helpful (why can’t I just make my own CNAMEs?!), this should be very easy to do, if a bit technical. Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land wrote a definitive tutorial on MyBrand back when the service charged a nominal fee; today the service is free!

 
2. Title/Description Burner. Found under the Optimize tab, FeedBurner’s Title/Description Burner let you change the title and description on your feed without altering your site in anyway. If the title of your blog is coming through garbled or would be displayed better in a different format on your feed, use this easy service to make them pop!

 
3. Feed Image Burner. Speaking of popping, FeedBurner also has a service to insert an image into your feed. Also found under the Optimize tab, the Feed Image Burner is great for adding a logo to your feed stories to distinguish your blog from the dozens of other identical-looking stories passing through your subscribers feed readers every day. It’s also a good way to brand your blog and quickly remind your visitors of what blog they’re reading. I know I’m not always the best about remembering which mommy (or search marketing) blog is which on name alone—but a logo might help!

 
4. Headline Animator. Another great way to brand your blog, the Headline Animator is found under the Publicize tab. Use the same colors and images that appear in your website and logo to create a custom animator, then include that graphic wherever appropriate. I’ve seen them in email signatures, blog sidebars and, as FeedBurner puts it, “anyplace you can put a snippet of HTML,” all promoting your blog.

 
5. Email Branding. Under Publicize>Email Subscriptions, Email Branding can help you make the email version of your feed stand out in your subscribers’ inboxes—and make your email subscription look more like your blog itself. Here you can customize the subject MamaBlogga logoline of your feed emails as well as their appearance. As with the Feed Image Burner, you can include a logo to remind readers what blog they’re reading. You can also customize your font (but you’re limited to the five major font families: Arial, Verdana, Trebuchet, Georgia and Times New Roman), size and color of text and links. As with the Headline Animator, using images and colors from your blog can provide a sense of continuity for your readers. My own logo, at right, is a version of my header.

 
6. Link and/or Photo Splicer. Under the Optimize tab, these two options make it easy for you to include extras in your feed that you might not be able to otherwise: links from various social bookmarking sites (del.icio.us, Digg, etc.) and photo sharing sites (Flickr, Buzznet and Webshots only). No tweaks, no plugins, and you can even set them to update once an hour, once a day or once a week. If you tag your images in Flickr, you can set it to only include pictures with a particular tab, too—keeping the rest of your photos more private.

 
7. FeedBurner Ad Network. Found under Monetize tab, the FeedBurner Ad Network can help you make money from running ads in your RSS feed. I personally cannot vouch for how hard it is to be invited into the network, since I’ve never tried, nor can I vouch for how much you can make off the ads, but if that’s something you’re interested in doing, FeedBurner already has a way to do it set up.

 
feedburner edit feed detailsOne last capability that isn’t as neat-o as these seven, but is one of the major advantages of FeedBurner is the ability to change your blog address and easily transfer subscribers. Click on Edit Feed Details to find the box where you entered your feed address. Should you move your blog, you can easily update this address to your new one, without sacrificing your subscribers.

5 Steps to Getting Started with FeedBurner

FeedBurner is an excellent blogging add-on service that makes your feeds more accessible to readers and easier to subscribe to. Plus, you can move your feed easily when you move to a different blog address without losing any subscribers. And (possibly my favorite part) you can see how many people subscribe to your blog (although the number isn’t exact). Or maybe this is my favorite part: it’s free.

ugly xmlHow many times have you clicked on a subscribe button and gotten something like this at right?

You don’t want to do that to your latest potential subscriber, do you? FeedBurner gives you a pretty subscribe page with tons of options:
pretty feedburner options

And it’s really easy to do. Just go to the FeedBurner homepage:

step 1
and type in your blog’s URL in the box (step 1).

step 2
It finds your feed (if you have more than one, you get to choose which one to use, and in my opinion it doesn’t really make a difference which one you choose) and moves you along the sign up process (step 2).

step 3
I recommend changing the name of your feed from (the second box, next to the red arrow above) to something more descriptive than /feedburner. (And the /caWa, as far as I know, isn’t necessary unless there’s another blog that’s already taken your desired feed name). Enter your information to create your account (steps 3 & 4).

step 4
The default settings already activated are very useful. The second step here, “Enhance Your Stats,” offers you options to gather even more information about your subscribers.

step 5
Additional options include tracking clickthroughs, to see which items your subscribers are clicking on. Generally, I recommend against using this, but the reason may not apply to you: using this service changes the actual link in feed readers (from, say, http://www.mamablogga.com/post-title-here/ to http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/mamablogga/29057901384769018346/).

If you think people might link to your post using the URL from your feed (which happens a lot in professional blogs and link round ups, but not as much in the personal blogging arena), don’t allow clickthrough tracking. Otherwise, if you’re interested, you may check that box. If you’re podcasting, check the second box. The grey shaded box may function the same way the clickthrough tracking did; I haven’t tried that one myself yet (step 5).

Getting People to Subscribe to Your FeedBurner Feed
Now, even though you’ve “burned” your feed, you’ll need to make some changes on your blog to indicate that your subscribers shouldn’t use your default feed (which still exists on your blog and is the source for your FeedBurner feed).

Blogger
After Google’s recent acquisition of FeedBurner, Blogger has more fully integrated with FeedBurner.
blogger
Go to Settings>Site Feed. In the Post Feed Redirect URL box, type the address of your newly burned FeedBurner feed (http://feeds.feedburner.com/WhateverYouNamedIt). Save your settings.

self-hosted WordPress
Use FeedBurner’s own FeedSmith FeedBurner Replacement Plugin, which directs your subscribers to your FeedBurner Feed automatically (again, you’ll have to enter your FeedBurner address). Once your plugin is installed and activated, you enter the address under the Options>FeedBurner FeedSmith tab.

TypePad
Go to Configure>Feeds. Find the FeedBurner section and click on the button to connect your feed with your FeedBurner feed. You’ll have to enter your FeedBurner login information, then you’ll be given the options to choose which of your FeedBurner feeds you want to associate with your blog. Save the changes (twice).

All platforms
No matter what blogging program you’re using, you’ll want to prominently promote your feed and encourage your readers to subscribe. FeedBurner’s own Chicklet Chooser (found under the Publicize tab) is one way to get subscription graphics in your design. I’ve also downloaded RSS Subscription graphics, opened them in photo editors and tweaked the colors until they matched my blogs.

Don’t forget to link to your FeedBurner address so when your readers click the picture, they’ll be taken to the right place!

Also: it’s always a good idea to offer an email feed for your readers who don’t use RSS or feed readers. FeedBurner offers an email feed option (also under the Publicize tab). I recommend offering a link to subscribe by email right next to the subscribe by RSS button.

FeedFlare?
feedflare 1You can customize the way your feeds appear in feed readers with FeedBurner’s FeedFlares, found under the Optimize tag. You can add links to the bottom of your posts to add the story to social sites (like StumbleUpon or Digg), add a copyright notice, add a comment count, and lots more.

Additionally, you can add these to the bottom of posts on your site by checking the box in the ‘site’ column. Your on-site flares and your in-feed flares can be different.

Scroll down to customize the order your FeedFlares appear in by dragging and dropping them within the In Feed and On Site boxes (the first arrow below). Be sure to use the pull-down menu below the On Site box to get the code and instructions for adding the flare to your site (the second arrow below). Don’t forget to activate the service!
feedflare 2

Checking Your FeedBurner Stats
I check my FeedBurner stats at least once a day (I’m a data addict). I actually have a whole bookmarks folder of different stats and site measures that I use the “Open All in Tabs” option with at least once a day. The FeedBurner dashboard is one of those tabs, so I can see at a glance how many subscribers I have that day.

Check back next week to learn how to master FeedBurner!

Full feeds: the full story

Last week, I gave some advice on RSS to mom bloggers. In that post, I advocated full RSS feeds as opposed to partial or summary feeds. I wasn’t trying to be less than candid nor was I trying to assume the attitude of “I’ve thought about it with my superior Internet marketing intellect, so don’t you worry your pretty little heads.” I was just trying to be brief, and in doing so I gave that topic short shrift (go figure).

So, let’s take a look at the myths about partial and full feeds. Yes, there are advantages to both—but I truly do feel, as I said before, that the advantages of full feeds outweigh the disadvantages.

The scarier myths about partial feeds
Partial feeds keep my content from getting stolen
If people really want to steal your content, they will. Scrapers don’t just attack RSS feeds. It may be slightly easier for them to get your content to come to them with RSS, but it’s also not hard to visit your site and cut and paste. Scrapers attack feeds, sites and even search engine results pages. When Lorelle on WordPress addressed the issue of stolen content, she said:

I didn’t say “if” someone steals your content. That was on purpose. With the glut of information on the Internet, it’s now a matter of “when” not “if”.

The first step in learning about what you can do when someone steals your content is to know that it will happen, so the more prepared and informed you are, the better your chances of prevention and having a plan in place when they steal. (read more from Lorelle)

Yes, it’s scary and dark, but the truth is that anything that is published—online or offline—can be stolen. Scrapers can use partial feeds just as easily—only then, it might be considered “fair use”—and, therefore, much harder to stop with the force of law.

There’s nothing you can do if your blog’s content gets stolen
There are always recourses; stealing blog content is against the law. First, put copyright notices on your blog and your feed. Next, look at Lorelle on WordPress’s post on what to do when someone steals your content. You can invoke the power of the law without a lawyer.

Also, for both of these issues, there are a few things that you can do to try to prevent and catch content theft (via). You do have to be vigilant, but I’d recommend checking up on this issue whether you publish full feeds or none at all.

Less scary myths, but things that bloggers must take into consideration
Partial feeds make people click through to see my site
We all want people to see our beauteous sites. We work hard on their design. FeedBurner CEO Rick Klau said a few weeks ago, “We’ve seen no evidence that excerpts on their own drive higher clickthroughs.” Speaking for myself, I’m far more likely to click on a well-written full post (whether to see or make comments, or to blog about it myself) than the first 40 words. For most bloggers, the first 40-100 words aren’t a hook; they’re a warm up.

It’s not asking that much for people to click through to read my post.
In marketing, we have to treasure every opportunity someone gives us to contact them. It’s illegal for us to “cold e-mail” people who haven’t given us their permission to contact them. People are very reluctant to hand over their private information—even just an e-mail address. Every subscription—RSS, e-mail or otherwise—must be regarded as hard-won. Somehow, you’ve instilled enough trust in that person that they’re willing to see more of what you have to say. You have to be careful how and when you ask them to do more.

Asking one of your precious subscribers to click through every time you post may seem like a small thing to you, but to me, a blog reader, it is not. I read more than 100 blogs every day; Google Reader tells me I’ve read nearly 4000 posts in the last 30 days. What if everyone expected me to click through to read their stories?

In the same post I just referenced, Rick Klau put it this way:

As people subscribe to feeds, they subscribe to more feeds. And that means they’re consuming more content, which means that each click out of the feed reader is taking the reader away from more content. In other words, feed reading is consumption oriented, not transactionally focused.

When someone subscribes to your blog, they are saying, “I like what you talk about; I’d like to read it at my convenience.” My convenience, personally, is reading it at the same time and the same place that I read all my other blogs. I’m not reading only what you have to say; I wouldn’t bother with a feed reader if I only wanted to know when you’ve posted something new.

It’s not “just one click” to a reader. To me as a reader, “one click” is the button I clicked when I subscribed to your blog. To ask me to click dozens, hundreds or thousands of times a month really is asking too much.


If you’re still not comfortable with full feeds, I might suggest writing an engaging post summary and posting that on your feed instead of whatever excerpt might come up. I’m really getting tired of reading excerpts that don’t even have enough words in them to make sense.

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