Pick a Feed and Stick to It

If you’re like most people, your blog has an RSS feed. Chances are, you don’t even know what RSS stands for, but you likely have one (if you’re wondering, it most often stands for really simple syndication, but that isn’t important).

Unfortunately, you may have more than one, which means if you want to know how many subscribers you have to your feed, you have a problem. At best, you have to add up each of the subscriber counts and get a total. At worst, you have potential eyeballs who want to see your latest and greatest, but they’re looking at outdated content. Isn’t it time you fixed this?

Depending on the platform you use, it’s something that you might be able to fix easily, and best of all, you might be able to save some money in the process.

In 2004, a service named FeedBurner was launched that provided publishers a way to offload the processing of their site’s feed. Today, none other than Google owns the service, but it is still free to use.

That means you can let FeedBurner pick up your RSS feed and then distribute it to everyone else – but you still have to make sure that everyone gets to the right place. If you have two, three or even more feeds on your site, then the FeedBurner counts like those you have seen in chicklets all over the web (or even in your own control panel) won’t be accurate. So make sure you get people to the right place.

As a side benefit, FeedBurner can also deliver your feed – no matter the format – in any format required by any other aggregator. So you no longer have to publish in a variety of competing specifications just to keep various software packages happy. But even if you don’t use FeedBurner, that makes little difference, because almost every aggregator out there can read all of the common formats anyway.

The important part is that if you have multiple formats out there, you likely have different readers on each one of them, and if you only look at a subscriber count on one, you are likely under-reporting your count. Perhaps by a large number. You might also want to look at your error logs to see if visitors are hitting common pages in the hopes of hitting a feed.

In either case, simply redirecting the common misses, misspellings and consolidating all your feeds into one, will very likely increase the feed count by a large margin. I worked on one site that saw their subscriber count go from around 1000 to nearly 7000 in just a day, simply by installing some redirects. Not bad.