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!