. Potential subscribers may not know what a feed is.If you’re targeting people who are already tech-savvy, that’s one thing, but otherwise – don’t assume that your potential subscribers will know what a feed is.
Here’s my basic definition:A feed contains recently updated content from a website.
Here’s a scenario so you can see why a feed is useful:When you visit a blog for the first time, if you like it, you might bookmark it. Great if you want to find it in future, but how do you know when it’s been updated? You could visit the blog again. This quickly becomes unrealistic if you bookmark a lot of blogs.
That’s where a feed comes in. I view a feed as a combination of a What’s New page and a bookmark. You can still bookmark the site if you wish, but if you subscribe to the feed, you’ll get a lot more out of it.
Inform and educate:If you inform and educate your readers, instead of assuming they will already know what you’re talking about, they might subscribe to your site. Somehow, I think it’s worth the effort.
2. Not having a full feed defeats the purpose of subscribing.Did you know that some people unsubscribe from sites because they don’t have a full feed? Would you rather have someone who uses their feed reader to get your latest posts, or would you rather that person didn’t even read?
To be fair, some people may only subscribe to stay aware of new content, and won’t mind going to the site to read the full post… but I’m not one of them. I think I’ve removed all of the feeds where the author only included a summary instead of the full post.
3. Once a post appears in someone’s feed, that’s it.If you’re someone who likes to publish a post just to get it online, but then go back and edit it as you find errors, you’re going to be in trouble. Once the post appears in someone’s feed reader, you won’t be able to delete that post. So be careful!
Using FeedBurner gives you a bit more time to play with, as FeedBurner doesn’t update immediately – but it’s better to proof-read and get the post right first time. Much better.
4. Editing the title of a post can duplicate it in your feed.Let’s say you’ve published a post and it’s already showing in the feed readers of all your subscribers. Now, you decide to edit the post and change the title – maybe you made a mistake, or maybe you think there’s a better title you could use.
The result is that some feed readers (such as Google Reader) look at the title of a post to determine if it’s new. Change the title of a post, and there’s a good chance the post will show up twice. Don’t go thinking this is a good thing, either! It just looks like you messed up your feed, or you’re spamming people. Avoid doing this at ALL costs.
5. Some people want to subscribe by email.I used to subscribe by email, and it flooded my inbox. I couldn’t do it again. However, some people swear by it. Don’t cut them out – let them subscribe by email. It’s an option that can be enabled if you use FeedBurner.
Having said that, it would be nice to get more emails in my inbox that aren’t spam. Maybe subscribing by email isn’t such a bad idea after all.
6. Some people may never be subscribers.We all work in different ways – or don’t work, as the case may be. I like subscribing to a site using Google Reader. You may prefer to subscribe by email. Others may not be sold on the idea of subscribing – at all.
Don’t get too pushy with getting people to subscribe (more on that in a moment) – and don’t worry if you don’t have a lot of subscribers. There may be many more people reading your site than you realise.
Keep an eye on your comments to see how much discussion your posts generate. If you get a good amount of comments but you don’t have many subscribers – so what? At least you have the comments. Of course, it’s not the same if most of the comments are your own replies. Try not to talk to yourself too much. (Yes Ben… that means you.)
7. Nagging for subscribers can be a major turn-off.Some sites use a popup window to ask for subscribers, and I’ve heard a few of them do well out of it – but isn’t it annoying? Is it worth getting some extra subscribers when you consider how many other people may be turned off by the popup?
Even without popups, some sites go overboard with linking to their feed in EVERY possible location – and then some. As for subscribing just to enter a contest… give me a break. What’s the point in temporarily inflating your subscriber count with people who don’t care about your content and just want to win a prize?
Oh yeah… more subscribers makes it look like your site is worth visiting. Just don’t blame me if you don’t have good content and loads of people subscribe, then they complain you don’t have good posts. I’m just saying.
8. Hiding the subscription link is a bad idea.
At the other end of the spectrum we have sites where you have to play “hunt the feed”. You can usually click the orange icon at the end of the address bar, but some sites don’t even have that. How am I supposed to subscribe… if I can’t subscribe?
Thinking about it though, hunt the feed could actually be a fun challenge for your readers. If you don’t mind that most of them won’t be able to subscribe. OK, maybe not.
9. Unexpected topic changes can make people unsubscribe.If off-topic posts are taking over your blog, you may start losing subscribers. People subscribe for a reason, and if you suddenly change your posts to a topic that’s not related to what they thought they’d be getting – why should they keep reading?
Top Ten Blog Tips is a fairly loose concept and can be adapted in a number of ways. I think it’d be a waste of time if I wrote a string of posts that don’t stick to the format I’m using now. I could vary it a bit, like writing 9 tips or 11 tips and pretending I can’t count, but what’s the point?
If your blog starts out as one thing but ends up as another, don’t be surprised if you lose some subscribers along the way. It may be easier just to start an additional blog if you want to write about things that don’t fit your current topic.
10. Perks can work, if you do them right.Special content for subscribers is a great bonus. But beware of requiring people to subscribe by email to get these perks. What happens if someone has already subscribed in a feed reader? Why should they subscribe by email as well?
I haven’t seen a site get around this problem yet. Some of the biggest blogs continue to offer special benefits for subscribing by email. Surely there has to be a better way. I’m probably being optimistic, because I can’t think of a better way.