Setting Up RSS Feeds & Analytics

RSS - A Brief Intro

RSS is 'Really Simple Syndication'. It allows visitors to your blog to have your posts sent to them automatically with a method of their choosing, instead of having to come to your web page each day to look for an update. This can be helpful if someone follows several blogs as they can use the RSS reader tool to look at all the blogs in just one place.

The RSS feed is a unique URL published by the blog, this is what is needed for your visitors to subscribe to your blog with RSS. You'll be glad to hear that there is very little to do, as all the blog platforms have the RSS technology already built in, including WordPress. In fact, chances are you won't have to do anything if you have already chosen your theme.

What you do want to watch out for is that your RSS icon will be clearly displayed in the top section of the blog theme. If the visitor needs to scroll way down to get to it, choose another one. Be sure that the icon is relatively large and that it stands out. Fundamentally, you need to be sure that your visitor's eyes will be drawn straight to it. If it's tucked away then it more than likely won't get used.

Full or Partial Feeds - Which to Choose?

There is an RSS feature that will send just a small piece of the published post to the RSS feed, and if the reader would like to view the whole post, they have to click to follow it through to your web page to read it. Be aware though that WordPress is set, by default, to publish a full feed, so your whole post will be sent via the feed. You can see, and amend, this setting by going to your WordPress Dashboard, then go to 'Settings', then 'Reading'.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods. If you provide a full text feed it means that your reader doesn't ever need to visit your website again - they can get all of your material directly through their feed reader. Some webmasters don't like this because it means that those people won't see their ads that they have on their site. However, all that has changed now as Google has setup a system to allow ads to be embedded directly in your feed.

The thing to realise about RSS users, is that these people understand the internet. They know all about RSS, have already chosen their RSS reader and they chose to subscribe to your feed as they want to read what you have to say. There is much less chance of these people clicking on an ad than someone who came to your website via a search engine. These are people who are hungry for information, that is why they use RSS in the first place.

The use of an RSS reader will allow them to view all of their chosen blogs speedily and saves them from the need to navigate round a whole horde of websites. The downside, then, of only sending a partial feed to your reader, is that if these people are forced to then have to click and follow through to your website, they may simply not bother, and many may even unsubscribe. This then means that your posts do not get viewed.

I would recommend that, if you want to grow a social blog and you are keen to build up a loyal audience who will read everything you write, you will need to make it a full feed. But if you are looking to create a commercial blog that is monetized heavily, and that you are not so concerned about readership, you can do a partial feed.

On-page ads, however, are not the only revenue that can be generated by your blog. When you have learned how to utilise your blog to create much greater revenue streams, it will not matter whether your readers follow your posts on your website or via an RSS feeder. With this in mind, a full feed would be my recommendation.

Utilization of a Feedburner

If you are using the unchanged WordPress theme then you will not need to do anything for viewers to be able to subscribe to your feed. However there will be no way to see how many readers have subscribed. If this is an issue and you want to know your subscriber number, then a Feedburner service will allow you to be able to track it.

The Feedburner service is completely free and is run by Google. It is also incredibly easy to set up. All you need to do once you are signed up, is give your original blog's URL to Feedburner and it will create a new Feedburner URL for you to use. You can then edit your WordPress theme to use the Feedburner URL instead.

Google Analytics - What is it?

Google Analytics is a great piece of software that will let you track all sorts of statistics about your website. This can include information on the amount of traffic you are getting, the keywords people are using to find you, links elsewhere that point to your site, where your visitors are located and so on. It's absolutely fantastic software and again is entirely free!

You will have to insert a website profile for your blog once you are all signed up. This just requires you to put in the URL of your blog and possibly your time zone, if you wish, then it will provide you with some code that you should display on your pages. Just click and copy the code on to the clipboard.

To put the code onto your WordPress blog, you can do it manually but that involves editing your theme files and if you change themes you will have to do it again. Instead, I recommend Semiologic which manages your Analytics for you. The download page has full instructions on how to use the plugin so I don't need to repeat it here.

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