June 17, 2007

Manipulate your blog feed to generate more traffic

If you want more traffic to your blog, your blog feed can be one of the most useful tools at your disposal. In an earlier post, I explained what a blog feed is, and why you need one. This post will deal with ways you can use your blog feed to help attract more readers and ensure they come back for more.

  1. Make sure your blog feed is available and visible on your blog. Many blogging platforms have the option to make your feed visible or not. Make sure that you have chosen to make your RSS/Atom feed visible, and that there is a link to it somewhere on your blog. If you scroll down to the bottom of this page, for example, you'll see a simple text link for the Blogger Buster Atom feed, the default visibility for the Blogger platform. However, I've also made the feed visible in other places, which I'll explain more about later.
  2. Decide how much of your posts you want available through the feed. This is a personal choice, and depends on whether you want readers to visit your blog, or simply read what's available in the feed. In your blog settings, you shouild be able to choose if you prefer just headlines, a certain number of characters from each post, or the full post available in the feed. Personally, I'd choose to have around 200 characters available: blog headlines alone often don't give enough information about the content; full feeds can often be too much to digest in a feed reader. A good post should use the first paragraph as a teaser for the rest of the post. Unless of course, your posts are all very short!
  3. Make use of widgets! This previous post explains how to make a widget for your blog headlines which could be placed in a sidebar. Then, if readers stumble across your specific page, they can also see a snapshot of other recent posts you have written in an attractive, easy to digest format. Trawling through the archives for other great posts can be such a drag! Make it easier for your readers to find something they enjoy. Widgetbox has some great RSS/Atom widgets you can easily insert into your blog; Feedburner is also excellent, for reasons I'll explain shortly.
  4. Transform your feed into a newsletter! Many internet users aren't aware of feed readers, or simply prefer not to use them (myself included!). So why not make your blog feed available in a newsletter format, delivered by email to your readers each day (or whenever you update) instead? You can see an example of this in my right sidebar: using Feedburner's free service, I've made my atom feed available as a daily email digest to newsletter subscribers (other such services are available, though Feedburner is my personal favorite). It's easy and free to sign up for their basic service; paid subscriptions are available if you plan to make your blog a big business, but I consider the basic version to work well for most bloggers.
  5. Use a feed syndication service. To "syndicate" your feed basically means "to get it out there" and promote it as much as possible. Feed syndication services, such as Feedburner and FeedBlitz will republish your blog feed to make it available to a wider audience, and also offer services such as the email subscription I talked about above. Also, such services frequently monitor subscriptions so you're able to understand how many readers you currently have, and possibly identify trends to help you improve your performance.

Here are some more sites with information on blog feeds and promotion:

Related posts at Blogger Buster:

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