How to Keep Your RSS Subscribers

When it comes down to it, one of the primary reasons blogs exist is to gain readership. There are many obvious reasons why a blogger wants to bring in visitors: to share information, to build a community, to make money, and so on. Once the visitor is on their site, most bloggers want to make sure they coming back for more. One of the ways to do this is to convert new visitors into loyal readers by having them sign up for an RSS subscription via email or through one of the many popular online RSS readers so they will be notified each time there is a new post.

The more subscribers a site has, the more credibility the site gains, hence why many sites use the FeedCount chicklet from Feedburner to display the number of subscribers to the site.


Courtesy of Malevi4a


But what happens when the number of subscribers starts to drop? A few readers here and there may remain unnoticed on sites with 10,000+ subscribers, but on small to medium sites, a drop of five to ten subscribers can feel like a major setback.

Why Do People Unsubscribe


First, we have to think about the reasons readers may no longer wish to receive their subscription to a site. Last week, the question posed on my Fetching Friday post was what are some of the reasons people unsubscribe. Here are the two answers I received:

From Mitch at I’m Just Sharing

“I think the number one reason is that the content just doesn’t suit what the reader is looking for. Like organizations, people join something for one reason, sometimes find out that’s not the focus, and decide to move on.”


From Evita at Evolving Scenes

“I un-subscribe from blogs either because they stop writing period or because the more I learn about them, I realize they may not be in line with my way of thinking, etc.”


Other reasons I have seen in the past include:
The topic of the blog changes
The feed is only an excerpt
The content is reproduced or stolen from other sites

How to Keep Subscribers


Analyze what brought your visitors in the first place. Watch the comments – who regularly comments and the types of posts they comment on. Watch the numbers – specifically the number shift of your subscribers in relation to what you posted that day via Feedburner.

Stay on topic. This doesn’t mean you can’t have an occasional personal post, something which can actually be a good thing so your readers can get to know you better. But if your blog is targeted to readers interested in finance, and you find yourself writing movie reviews, then you will lose subscribers eventually.

Keep an even distribution of content. Or, contrary to the above, if you are like me, your blog doesn’t have one main focus. If you write about three topics that are typically popular, make sure an article related to those three topics appears each week. While I have no control over my poetic spurts, I do regularly have articles about blogging and social media, interspersed with photography and other topics such as motivation, productivity, and anything else that I think my readers would be interested in.

Produce original content. If you use other people’s content (photos, text, etc), be sure it is under Creative Commons or ask for their consent, and give the original creator the credit. Or in the case of my above image, if you can’t find the original creator, give credit to the location you found it.

Subscribe to your own feed. Subscribe in an RSS reader and via email to make sure posts are being displayed properly. I found out the hard way that some of the coding that did awesome things on the site displayed rather squirrely in the feed.

Publish the full article, not the excerpt. The motivation by only doing excerpts is to get your reader to hop onto your site, but this annoys some readers who like everything to be in one place. If your content is great, and you encourage comments, they will eventually go from the feed to your site – you do not want to force them.

Your Thoughts


Now I would like to know your thoughts – what would make you unsubscribe from a blog, and what can bloggers do to keep you reading?





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Comments

  1. says

    Hi Kristi!

    I love your advice and yes I completely agree. One exception the last point about posting the full feed. We used to do that and actually had 2 incidents of material hijacking/stealing by other sites, as their own material completely. So we decided to pull the full feed and just put on a small segment.

    I know that it may annoy some as they have to click, but at this point I found it sort of saves me a bigger problem of having my material stolen and on other sites. This way at least it is a little more deterring.

  2. says

    @Evita: That is a good point. I recently put in a plugin called RSS Footer that includes any test (like an author bio, links to social networks), plus a link back to the original post. I’m not sure if that completely helps, but it is supposed to be a bit of a deterrent.

  3. says

    I follow blogs on blogger, which I can then read on GoogleReader. I’m not sure if that is RSS per se. 2/3 of blogs I follow I do so anonymously. If and when I find time, I will read them in more detail and either follow them openly or disfollow.

    harveys last blog post..The Rector

  4. says

    Awesome read! You really did your homework on this. I also recommend, that if you are displaying your reader count, make sure you have at least 200 or more. It looks much better when you have a large reader following which will convince the next visitor that you must be doing something right!

  5. says

    I unsubscribe from someone’s rss feed for a number of reasons.. I’d say at the top of that list would be 1) I’m not getting anything of value 2) Lost interest in the topic generally, and 3) too much of something that I only have marginal interest in.

    I normally don’t unsubscribe due to long periods of inactivity from someone’s feed. I guess I figure if they get back to it, then fine I’ll be happy to pick it back up again.

    For me it comes down to interest and value. Are you keeping my interest? And am I gaining something in value by spending my time with your posts?

    Erics last blog post..Scratchboard piece – “Faces”

  6. says

    I have often wondered why so much attention is paid to RSS subscriptions. The only reason that I use an RSS feed is so that I can use it on other sites that will pull my feed and post it on their site. I have never bothered to track my RSS feed subscriptions. I have always though that kinda weird. I have never used an RSS feed reader.

    I want people visiting my site reading and leaving a comment and maybe exploring our site a bit more. I don’t get that from an RSS feed. So while it may be easier for the one using an RSS feed I don’t see that it offers much benefit for my site.

    Having said that I still set up a bright red bar for subscribing at the end of each blog post. I will likely soon be replacing with a newsletter subscription option. I will still include an RSS feed but it will not be as prominently displayed.

    Thanks for allowing me to add my $.02.

    Boriss last blog post..The 109 Day Link Building Explosion Day 69

  7. says

    Kristi,

    Great post! Reasons to unsubscribe to RSS feeds would be posts that do not benefit the reader or offer any relevant information on a consistent basis.

    Again, thanks for a great article.

  8. says

    I have a Google RSS feed setup but find I prefer to keep all my links on a Word Document as I use word every day and just find its easier for me to open the document up and take a look whilst working. If I do stop following a blog it will be because I no longer find the posts of interest.

  9. says

    For me the number one reason to follow any blog is that I am interested in what is being written, whether that is a personal or business basis.

    I also like people to stay on subject if possible i.e. it does what it says on the tin, rather that than someone try and bamboozle you into thinking you are going to get some good info on a topic and it turns out they are not on subject.

    One other thing, there is only so much time in a day, so if I find a site covering a topic of interest better than the one I am following, I will switch and to keep the list manageable I will loose one in favor of the other. So quality content is important.

    Nice posting by the way.

    Brians last blog post..Reviews of French Holidays Aude Wesbsite

  10. says

    Good post Kristi. I unsubscribe when it becomes clear the sole motivation of someone’s posts are to sell a product. That’s fine every now and then but when every post points to an affiliate link I begin to question the sincerity. I love marketing and thing a little advertising is ok but I want content too. That’s one of the reasons why I love your blog.

    Brian D. Hawkinss last blog post..Why Not Just Ask For Subscribers?

  11. says

    Excellent write up, I’m in the middle of a similar discussion on another blog also…I’ll drop a link when it comes back to me if you want to read it also.

    One thing full feed users need to do, especially if they want more action taken on their post, is to fully utilize the “FeedFlares” (links you can include at the end of your feed) located within your Feedburner account. One of them being a link straight to the comments section.

    Dennis Edells last blog post..798 Views & 5 Comments – Are You Doing All You Can To Engage Them?

  12. says

    Probably the only person who uses excerpt whom I don’t unsubscribe to is Grizz (the ugliest yet most popular MMO blog you can ever find). Simply because his article is packed with “real gems”.

    Personally, I think the way the blog owner connects and interacts with the readers is the key to keeping them “subscribed”.

    YS

  13. says

    One of the things that inspires a reader to participate in a blog is the relevance of the content to the reader. For instance, I’ve observed a flux in my rss readership. Sometimes it jumps to 120, then back to 33! :(
    You can imagine my delight when Kristi sent this page to me via SU. I read it voraciously and read all the comments.
    I particularly like the idea of including the full feed – this is something I don’t practice..( I appreciate the balance, of course, provided by Evita (of evolvingscenes.com) )
    Frank J’s counsel is also cool and smart ;)
    I also love Dennis Edell’s counsel on the Feed flares.
    Thanks Kristi for a very relevant work.

  14. says

    Hi, Kristi:

    Another fine and informative post.

    One thing that always has bugged me is the complications associated with setting up an RSS feed. I started early using bloglines as my aggregator. When I would find an RSS icon to click on, I would get a window with a dozen aggregator choices and some instructions that I am sure would deter anyone who was not a dedicated blog reader. I just wish someone would make it more automatic. If I want to subscribe to an email letter, I just send in my email address. Why couldn’t this be done with RSS feeds. PS: Now when I find a blog I want to subscribe to, a click takes me to my bloglines page where I can confirm the reuest – although even then I am asked to key in information that supposedly was included with the original request.

    Now to the question of “unsubscribe”: I don’t know that I have ever unsubscribed from a blog. It has never bothered me that it sits there inactive or that I may get information I have no interest or time for. One more click on the feed and it is gone until the next feed. And it’s not as if it clogs up an email box. RSS feeds are so much superior to email. They sit there, in the cybersphere, taking up no room on your computer, until you are ready to read them. I try to tell first time readers this to get them to sign-up. I think the complications stand in the way.

    Finally, I subscribe to one feed on bloglines that shows only one subscriber when I click into it. That blog is much to busy and interactive to have only one subscriber. What’s up wid dat?

    (The blog address I show here is one a maintain for a plastic surgeon in Fort Myers Fl.)

    Wiliam Waitess last blog post..Cosmetic Surgery – You can have dramatic eyes without it.

  15. says

    hey Kristi,
    I think a blog will always lose some readers just because people lose interest in reading blogs in general… so I think it’s important to always keep your readership growing to make up for that. That said, you make excellent points about what to do and not do.
    It’s also funny you mention RSS FOOTER. That’s the third time I’ve seen it mentioned this week. I’ve got to check it out. ~ Steve, the trade show guru

    Steves last blog post..Green Trade Show Displays

  16. says

    First, I’m glad I gave you a usable quote. Second, I agree wholeheartedly with the comment about not having one’s feed only give excerpts; that irks me to no end. And third, I’ll add that, until you get so big that it’s time consuming, interact with your commenters as much as you possibly can. No one likes being left hanging on a consistent basis.

    Mitchs last blog post..Massive Traffic To Your Website/Blog?

  17. says

    @harvey: That’s similar to RSS subscriptions. Usually, if you subscribe using the RSS feed through Google reader, it is anonymous, whereas if you subscribe by email, the blog owner would have your email address. I have subscribed to several blogs that way, and haven’t had any problems with being spammed so far.

    @Frank: It wasn’t really homework all at once, so much as bits of information I have learned here and there since I began to really optimize this site. I was pretty proud when I hit a hundred subscribers. :)

    @Eric: Those are good reasons. I usually keep inactive people too, especially if I was active on their site. Sometimes I even worry about people, depending on their last post. But some people just lose heart in posting, or move on to another subject elsewhere.

    @Boris: You’re welcome. It all depends on what your goals are for your website. I always hope that people subscribe, and that when they see a post with valuable information, they will make the leap and click through the feed to the site. That’s also why I include links to older posts in the article and in the related posts area – that way if they see something interesting, they really have to come to the site to see the older posts referenced.

    @wholinks2you: Thanks. Interesting information that link provided me on backlinks to my site.

    @Sonia: Thanks for the input. I’m hoping to generate lots of good reasoning through the comments so future readers can get insight on what is going through reader’s minds when they unsubscribe. It will help bloggers in building more sticky, subscribe-worthy sites and content.

    @khaled: Interesting approach. Thanks for sharing!

    @Brian: Thanks for the input. I think there are bloggers who do something to incite readers to subscribe (like contests) and then do not put so much effort into future content to keep people interested.

    @Brian D.: Thanks! :) That’s very true. I start reading a blog that sounds just amazing, and then, after a while, none of the posts have any solutions, just a link to buy an ebook or service.

    @Dennis: Thanks for mentioning those. I just added those to the ends of my feeds. I like that it shows the number of Diggs/Delicious bookmarks to each article.

    @Leanie: Quality content definitely keeps a subscriber’s interest. :)

    @Make Money: I have mine moderated because, even with the question, I still get trackback span and other things that have nothing to do with the article. I think if bloggers aren’t going to check or approve their comments, they should just close them, so no one spends a lot of time making a valuable comment, just for it to never go anywhere.

    @Clickktdotcom: Thanks! I hope you enjoy my tweets.

    @YS: Very true. Without interaction, and getting to know an author a bit more personally, there is little draw to remembering to visit their site.

    @WD Favour: I think drastic fluctuations like that could be a blip in the Feedburner count. I remember for 4 days, I went from 100+ to 20, and then it jumped back to the 100+ again. A slight fluctuation is probably accurate, but unless you write something totally awful, there shouldn’t be anything dramatic. And I’m glad you found this article useful! :)

    @William: As far as the complications, I think the only way to get the RSS to direct to the right reader is to have a link to subscribe customized to that particular reader. But considering how many there are out there, there would be a lot of individual links that would also confuse people who may have never subscribed to an RSS feed, and then would be confused as to which on to choose.

    I think I’m the same about not unsubscribing. If there isn’t anything new, I just keep browsing the rest of the feeds I’m subscribed to.

    I’ve never used Bloglines, but maybe it only counts readers who are subscribed to that site through Bloglines?

    @Steve: I’ve been seeing more and more about the RSS footers, and I think that is because there has been a lot of problem with content hijacking from full RSS feeds. I guess the perk is that if someone finds your content on another site, they will have the direct link back to you now. Plus, it gives you a chance to write a little bit about yourself and some contact information for people who may have subscribed, but not looked at your author bio and other info.

    @Mitch: Me too, it was helpful. Interaction is definitely key. I used to send emails to the people who commented, but then I read that was a bad idea. So I started replying to comments on the site, and that’s when the comments and subscriptions boosted dramatically.

    @Google Money: Thanks. I hope you enjoy my Tweets. :)

  18. says

    Good to see that you got this weeks excerpt of Fetching Friday in on time Kristi. About the RSS feed, I never thought of including my own feed. Man, that one little point will increase me feed by 100%, what a milestone that will be.

    OH, one thing before I go, where did you get that feedburner chicklet as I can’t seem to find it. I had a male’s look for it but it’s obvious that I need a female to point me in the right direction.

    Sires last blog post..Googles Interest-Based Advertising Sucks

  19. says

    @Sire: I don’t know if Feedproxy uses the same stuff that Feedburner does, but for me, when I sign into my feedburner.google.com account and click on my feed, there is a Publicize tab that has a Feedcount service. You just activate it, and copy in the code with the counter badge.

    @Dennis: I know that feeling. I have lots of ideas that just haven’t been properly researched yet too. :)

  20. says

    If I find some interesting article I often subscribe to the blog/site just to give them a chance to prove themselves. If after couple days I still enjoy reading new posts I’ll stay subscribed if not it’s bye bye RSS feed.

  21. says

    @Tom: That’s a good way to keep the feed reader organized!

    @ICECrush: The subscriber numbers do fluctuate, I think more due to the Feedburner service than anything. Just this past week, I went from 116 to 100, and then today, 127. :)

    @Bishwajeet: It’s always good to know what you’re readers are coming for in order to keep their interests.

  22. says

    wow that was a very informative article it’s great. The sad thing is that their no longer giving you any love when they decide to unsubscribe to your feed. You figure they subscribe to your feed because of your credibility, knowledge, and your wording but i guess thats not the case with many

    almirs last blog post..Vital Tips That Can Aid Any Blogger



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