For as long as I have been getting handed business cards I have never understood peoples fascination and focus on them.
When it comes to advertising brand or product then it is necessary to be familiar with social media marketing or trends in the latest marketing strategies.
I’ve been reading articles for years from various internet marketing gurus about the importance of email list building. The consistant message I have always heard was: “The money is in the list“.
On my first blog, while I had a mailing list, I didn’t use it effectively. I only used the blog email list to deliver my latest posts via email to subscribers. When I started this blog, one of my goals was to more effectively use my email list and provide my subscribers with unique value and content just for them.
Three years later, I still haven’t done that, but that will change very soon. Preparing for that change, I elected to move off of Feedburner. I’ll explain why below, but if you’re using Feedburner, migrating to another service is something you should be doing as well.
Feedburner email subscribe
Given I was a “noob” to email list building, I started off using the same email list service I used on my first blog, Feedburner. Calling Feedburner an email list service is probably a bit of a stretch, but it does get the basics done. I even recommended Feedburner as a good starting point for list building in my Start a Money Making Blog series.
The great thing about the Feedburner’s email subscription service is that it’s simple to set-up and easy to manage. Feedburner is perfect for someone starting out and learning. As your list grows and you learn more about how to effectively use your email list, the limitations of Feedburner become apparent. The turning point for me was wanting to be able to send out a monthly newsletter that would summarize my articles for the month and include exclusive email only content. I also wanted to be able to immediately share special offers with my subscribers as they became available.
Feedburner, while great for automatically emailing your latest updates from your RSS feed, was not a good fit for doing anything beyond that. The other big concern I have with Feedburner is it’s future. There is a great deal of concern across the web on whether or not Google will continue supporting Feedburner. Google had a significant Feedburner outage a few months back and it took them days to get it resolved. Additionally, the Feedburner interface hasn’t been touched in a long time. These are all signs that Google isn’t giving it much attention to Feedburner, and most likely won’t.
I decided I didn’t want to risk it. Given my additional needs and the questionable future of Feedburner, I started looking at other options. Fortunately, I discovered two much better options very quickly and migrated to one of them.
Finding a more robust email service
Within minutes of searching and reading a few articles, you’ll begin to see one name mentioned above most others, AWeber. AWeber is an outstanding email and list building service and AWeber has established themselves as the premiere provider. I spent a great deal of time reading over their services, and even signed up for their special “1 month for a $1 offer” (affiliate link) to try it out. AWeber was great. They offer outstanding quality of service, and more options than I could probably ever learn.
But, I didn’t go with AWeber. Why? Well, as I’ve mentioned on here before, I’m a bit frugal. I don’t earn a great deal of income from this blog yet and until I do, I don’t like spending money (confession – even when I do make lots of money, I don’t like spending it). AWeber is a great service, but it costs $19/month or $228/year. AWeber absolutely seemed well worth it, if you have the money, I don’t right now.
I continued my search. Another list building service that I consistently saw being mentioned and talked about was MailChimp. The great thing about MailChimp (other than their completely epic site design) is that for email lists under 2000 subscribers and if you send less than 12,000 emails per months, their service is free. The word free has this unique ability to completely capture my attention, and thus I signed up for MailChimp to try it out.
Saying I was impressed would be an understatement. MailChimp is incredibly easy to use and their site design is probably one of the better ones I’ve seen. They also slip in some pretty funny jokes and puns throughout the user interface, which is hilarious and fun.
Using their “wizards” I quickly created a few new campaigns, lists and played around with their email designer and available templates. They have lots of prebuilt templates and customizing them or even creating your own email template from scratch is really pretty simple. They also many pre-built sign-up forms as well that can be easily placed on your blog. When you sign-up, they also send you an email series that walks you right through the process of getting started with MailChimp and using their service. I found these really helpful.
MailChimp seemed to have all the basics that I needed. I figured there was really nothing for me to lose. MailChimp (affiliate link) was certainly better and far more flexible than Feedburner. I signed up for MailChimp, and for those of you that subscribe via email, you probably noticed the format change in December. Heh, you also might have noticed a few glitches I had as well….but we won’t dwell on those 😉
Shameless promotion time – If you aren’t currently an email, subscriber – I’d encourage you to sign up! Again, I’ll be offering some exclusive content, including a new eBook I’m working to email subscribers only. You can sign-up easily just under my picture in the upper right. Yes, the homely looking picture…
MailChimp vs AWeber
I don’t want to mislead you, I am in no way an expert on either product just yet. I am getting to know MailChimp pretty well, but still have lots to learn. AWeber I have used and I am familiar with it, but I don’t know all of the ins and outs. But, given what I do know at this point, I thought it might help to compare AWeber to MailChimp for you – just to give you a basis for making the decision that’s right for you.
- Free for less than 2,000 subscribers and if you send less than 12,000 emails a month.
- The form and email designers in MailChimp is better and provides more flexibility
- Live chat or Email support only
- Really nice and well designed user interface.
- For those of you using affiliate marketing, MailChimp gives you credit on your account for each signup.
- Cost is $1 for the first month, then $19/month after
- More comprehensive email tracking
- 24/7 phone support
- For those of you using affiliate marketing, AWeber has a great affiliate program that pays 30% of each sale, plus 30% of ongoing payments.
In any case, both services are flat out awesome and provide great quality of service, support and flexibility. The features and money you have available should drive you to which decision is better for you.
If you followed my Start a Money Making Blog series, and you’re currently using Feedburner – In an upcoming article, I’ll walk you through how to migrate from Feedburner to MailChimp. Don’t worry, moving over is really easy and I learned a few tricks (the hardway) that will really help you out.
For those already using an email service: What are you using and why? Add a comment!
One of the more popular articles in my Start a Money Making Blog series is the article on how to set-up Feedburner. The article teaches you how to set-up set-up Feedburner for RSS and email. While the article does teach you how to add a link for email sign-up, it doesn’t go into the details on how to add a Feedburner email sign-up form to your blog. Adding an actual sign-up form to your blog, rather than a link is one less step for your visitors and can result in a significant increase in email subscribers. This article will show you how to add a Feedburner email subscriber form to your blog’s sidebar.
Feedburner vs. AWeber
Before we dive into the details of adding a Feedburner email subscriber form to your blog, let’s talk about a question many of your may be wondering: “Why Feedburner vs. AWeber?”. For those that may not know, AWeber is the defacto standard for email marketing. AWeber excels at building email lists and sending out emails to those lists, including your daily posts. AWeber is absolutely the platform you will want to migrate too at some point. The problem? AWeber is $29.00/month. Well worth it, if only if you have $29.00 per month to spend.
I tend to be on the frugal side, and I always strive to have my blog pay for it’s own services. I’ll be migrating to AWeber very soon, but Feedburner has served me well for almost 2 years. While basic, it gets the job done.
How to add a Feedburner email form to your blog
I’m going to assume you’ve previously followed the steps in my how to set-up Feedburner article. If so, you already have email set-up and working. Of course, you’ve subscribed to your own feed to confirm it is working right? If not, go ahead and do that right now…I’ll wait.
Oh, you’re back, good! Now let’s get that Feedburner email form added to our blog’s sidebar. Here’s how:
- Access Feedburner and login if necessary.
- Select your feed and you’ll find yourself on the “Analyze” tab.
- Click on the “Publicize” tab at the top, then click on the “Email subscriptions” link in the left hand menu.
- On the “Email subscriptions” menu, you should see a an area that looks like this (minus the green arrow of course):
- What we want is all of that messy looking code in the box pointed to by my green arrow. Go ahead and select the code and copy it. Make sure you select and copy all of it. You’ve got all of it if the first few characters are <form and the last few characters are </form>
- Now head over to your blogs administration console and navigate to Appearance>>Widgets.
- You want your subscribe option to be at or near the top of your blog’s sidebar so people see it. Drag a new text widget over to your sidebar. I would suggest putting it just below the widget we added in the first Feedburner article.
- Put something like: “Subscribe via Email” or “Get new articles via email” in the title section. Be creative here, but make it clear what your readers will get.
- In the blank area below the title, paste in the code you copied from Feedburner in step #5.
- Press Save.
- While we’re here, go into the the Subscribe widget we added in the initial Feedburner article, and remove the link for the email subscription. Remember, we just added the form instead, so the link is no longer needed. Again, press save once the mail link is removed.
- Now, check out your blog. The sidebar should look something like this:
While certainly very basic, your visitors will now be able to subscribe to your blog via email using the form. These types of forms convert far better than the previous link we had. If you know a little HTML or CSS, I highly recommend styling it a bit so it blends into your site a little better. Also, one of the first things I do is remove the “Delivered by Feedburner” at the bottom. You can do this by editing the widget we just added, and removing the following code from the code you copy and pasted from Feedburner:
<p>Delivered by <a href="http://feedburner.google.com"target="_blank">FeedBurner</a></p>
I highly recommend you test out your form to be sure it’s working at this point. If so, we’re done. If it’s not working, just walk back through the steps to be sure you did everything completely. Pay particular attention to the step where you copied the Feedburner code and make sure you got all of it.
The Future of Feedburner
There has been a great deal of speculation by bloggers recently about the future of Feedburner. Feedburner recently had an issue where it showed zero subscribers for almost a week, and Google recently make the Feedburner APIs no longer available.
Is Feedburner dead or dying? Honestly, I have no idea. Google hasn’t announced any plans for it’s demise, but on the flip side they really haven’t done much to it lately either. I intend to continue using it for as long as I can. When it’s no longer available, I’ll consider other options like FeedBlitz.
Given Feedburner’s questionable future though, I am mitigating my risk a little. I take a weekly backup of the email addresses for my subscribers. I’ll not only use this as the starting point for AWeber when I make the switch, but it also provides me a little protection in the event Feedburner just goes belly up one day.
To make a backup of your Feedburner email subscribers, do the following:
- Login to Feedburner and select your feed.
- Click on the “Publicize” tab, followed by clicking on the “Email subscriptions” link.
- At the bottom, click on the “View Subscriber Details”. This will show all of your current email subscribers and their status.
- To backup your subscribers, click on the Export to CSV link. This will download a CSV file to your computer containing the email information for each of your suscribers. This CSV file can be imported into Excel or Google Docs for viewing.
What are your thoughts on Feedburner? Think it will hang around for a while or is it on the way out? Have you made any changes to your blog as a result of the uncertainty?
Photo by: GabrielaP93
One of the set-up options many new bloggers miss as they aren’t aware of it is Feedburner. Feedburner augments your RSS feed and allows you to track the number of subscribers to your RSS feed along with email services and numerous other features. Before we jump into setting up Feedburner, let me explain what RSS is, as this is a confusion point for most new bloggers. If you’re familiar with RSS, just skip to the next section: What is Feedburner?
What is RSS?
RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” and is basically a technology that allows visitors to your blog to “subscribe” and receive updates whenever you publish new content. Updates are received by RSS Readers that the subscriber uses. Basic browsers such as Internet Explorer and Firefox comes with built in RSS readers. My personal preferred RSS reader is Google Reader when I’m on my MacBook, and FeedlerPro on my iPad.
Some of you maybe asking: Why use RSS versus just visiting the website directly? Good question and here are a couple of reasons/advantages:
- All of your favorite content in one place – RSS readers consolidate all of your subscriptions into one place. Using an RSS reader you can just scroll through all of the latest articles from all of the blogs you subscribe too, one after the other. No need to visit each website to see the content.
- Latest content only – RSS readers keep you from having to visit each blog or website only to find that there isn’t any new content. RSS readers also are set-up by default to only show you new content, so no more visiting a website and trying to remember if you read the sites latest article or not.
- Avoids email clutter – I know some people love to have updates sent to their email, but I get enough email without having updates from the more than 100 blogs I subscribe to being sent there as well. Using RSS allows me to separate my blog reading from my inbox to avoid clutter.
What is Feedburner?
WordPress by default comes with an RSS feed, it’s your domain name followed by /feed, so for Side Income Blogging, it’s http://sideincomeblogging.com/feed. The problem with this default feed though is that WordPress nor RSS provide a way to tracking statistics about your RSS subscribers though. Things like how many people are subscribed and did they click through to your website. WordPress and RSS also don’t provide any additional capabilities on top of your RSS feed, like formatting and advertising.
Feedburner to the rescue. Fortunately, Feedburner does. Feedburner not only allows us to track our subscribers, but it provides numerous other functionality to compliment our RSS feed. Feedburner is a definitely a must have for every blogger. Feedburner initially was it’s own company and quickly grew due to the fantastic capabilities and features offered. Google acquired Feedburner a few years back and added one really nice feature, Adsense integration. You don’t have to worry about that right now, but this will become an important part of your income stream later.
Feedburner works by “wrapping” or intercepting your blogs RSS feed. When you set-up Feedburner, it will ask you for your blogs feed address. Feedburner will consume your blogs feed and provide you with a special Feedburner RSS URL. This is how Feedburner is able to track subscribers and give you special abilities. Feedburner works as a “middle man” of sorts.
With that in mind, let’s get Feedburner set-up and configured.
Feedburner set-up is pretty easy:
- Visit http://feedburner.google.com
- Enter you Google account credentials or sign-up for a new Google account if you don’t have one. You’ll then be shown the My Feeds page of Feedburner. This will be the main landing page when you login and will display the various feeds you have set-up with Feedburner (assuming you have more than one blog).
- To set-up (aka burn) your new feed, enter your website’s feed address in the “burn your feed right this instance”. Remember, your feed address is your blog URL followed by /feed. Using Side Income Blogging as an example, the feed address would be: http://sideincomeblogging.com/feed.
- Click Next
- Next, confirm the feed name and URL. I would recommend leaving them as defaulted by Feedburner, but you can certainly change them as well.
- Click Next
- You should receive a confirmation window showing the URL for your Feedburner feed. Copy and save this address somewhere. While you can always log back into Feedburner, it’s often handy to have this address available. I save my Feedburner addresses along with other website information using Evernote.
- Click Skip directly to feed management, which will take you back to one of the settings pages for your new feed.
- Click the Google Feedburner logo in the upper right corner to return to the main landing page. You’ll see your new feed now listed.
- Congratulations! Don’t close the window though, because we’re not done just yet.
Feedburner Email Set-up
One of the really nice features of Feedburner is that it not only enables RSS subscriber tracking but also adds the ability to email your post updates to subscribers. This is something you’ll want to set-up as well. This will give your readers the option of subscribing to your site using both RSS and EMail. In order for email subscriptions to work, we’ll have to set-up the email subscriptions option. Here’s how:
- Click on your new feed name. If you closed the window, just access Feedburner again and re-login using your Google credentials.
- You’ll now see the details/settings page for your feed. For now, Feedburner will tell you that your feed is new and to check back. This is normal. It can take a day or so to begin showing detailed stats about your feed.
- The various tabs at the top allow you to change your feed settings. To set-up email subscriptions, click on the Publicize tab.
- Under the various services options listed along the left, click on the Email Subscriptions option.
- Click on the pink Active button to activate Email subscriptions.
- You’ll now see the Email subscription management page. Feedburner provides two options for adding email subscription options to your blog. You can either use a link or a form. The link will allow you to place a link on your website and when your visitor clicks on it, they’ll be routed to Feedburner to enter their email address and name. The form allows you to place a form on your blog, so visitors can enter their name and email directly on your website. For now, we’ll just be using the link. In a future article, I’ll discuss how to add the form directly to your blog.
- Scroll down to where it says Preview Subscription link, and copy the URL located between the quotes just after the href tag. For example, for Side Income Blogging it will be: http://feedburner.google.com/fb/a/mailverify?uri=SideIncomeBlogging&loc=en_US
- Click Save
- That’s it, email subscriptions are now enabled.
Adding your Feedburner RSS and Email links to your blog
Your subscription links should be very visible and easy to find for your readers. I highly recommend added them to the very top of your sidebar. If you’re using the Thesis theme, here’s how you can easily do that:
- Login to your WordPress admin console
- Navigate to Thesis>>Site Options
- Click on the + next to Syndication/Feed URL
- Replace the value there (if there is one) with the Feedburner address I asked you to save in Step 7 under Feedburner Set-up above.
- Click the Save button.
- Navigate to Appearance>>Widgets
- Drag the Subscriptions Widget over to your Sidebar (on the right) and drop it at the top. Once you drop it, it will open up allowing you to set tthe settings.
- For Title, I’d recommend putting “Subscribe”
- For Describe your subscription options, you can put something like “Get free updates by subscribing”, but feel free to snaz this up a bit. The key goal is to encourage your visitors to subscribe.
- In the RSS Link text, enter: Via RSS
- In the Email link and text, enter: <a href=”YOUR EMAIL LINK GOES HERE”>Via Email</a>
- Where it says YOUR EMAIL LINK GOES HERE, replace that with the Email link from step 7 under Feedburner Email Set-up above. Again, this will be something like: http://feedburner.google.com/fb/a/mailverify?uri=SideIncomeBlogging&loc=en_US
- Click Save
That’s it, you should now have a basic subscribe widget on your blog. Make sure you confirm everything is working by clicking on the links. I would suggest subscribing to your blog both to fully verify the links are working and so you can monitor your feeds to ensure they work going forward.
Feedburner Feedsmith Redirect
One last step. What if someone visits your feed URL directly or uses an RSS Reader that automatically pulls your feed? Well, the problem is that both of these would most likely use your /feed URL to pull your RSS feed. This will bypass Feedburner and make your stats inaccurate. Fortunately this is easily solved by using a plugin called FeedBurner FeedSmith Extend. This little plugin will redirect any access to your /feed address to your Feedburner URL, basically forcing any subscriptions to use your Feedburner feed. Slick huh?
Here’s how to install and set it up.
- Install the FeedBurner FeedSmith Extend plugin. This is done by using the Add New menu under Plugins in your WordPress console.
- Once installed, activate the plugin
- Under your settings menu, select Feedburner FeedSmith Extend.
- In the Main Feed feed, enter your Feedburner feed URL.
- Leave comments blank for now.
- Press Save.
Now let’s test it to make sure it’s working. In your browsers address field, enter your blogs URL and add /feed on the end. Again, for Side Income Blogging (as an example) it would be: http://sideincomeblogging.com/feed. Press enter. You should be redirected to the Feedburner subscribe page. If not, follow the instructions above again to make sure you didn’t miss something or miskey the address of your Feedburner address.
That’s it! Your blog is now fully Feedburner enabled. We’ll explore some of the more advanced features of Feedburner later, but for now just enjoy watching that subscriber number slowly grow!