You’ve heard about RSS feeds and XML feeds and Google Reader and Bloglines and all of that junk. But do you really understand why you should care about your blog feed? If your answer is no, don’t worry – I am going to show you step-by-step how to create a Google Feedburner feed and add it to your blog. It is totally free, in case you are worried about the current economic climate and all that stuff.
I guess you are wondering: Why do I need to use Feedburner? Some really technical people can probably give you a big list of reasons, but I have two:
Reason #1: To Help The Lovely People Who Read My Blog
Feedburner makes my feed easily available to my blog readers. I can click a few buttons and magically get the HTML code that enables my readers to follow my blog in their favorite RSS Reader. And it even lets my readers receive an email whenever my blog is updated. Bottom line: you want occasional blog readers to become subscribers, which means that they will keep coming back.
Reason #2: To Measure How Many People Read My Blog Through a Reader
With Feedburner, I know how many people subscribe to my blog. The number of feed subscribers is one of the metrics I use to measure the growth and success of my blog. Some people might not care about how many subscribers they have. These are also the same people who don’t look at their blog stats (either through their blog platform, or tools like Google Analytics). Personally, I am obsessed with the metrics related to my blogs, so I want to know how many people are reading them and where they originated from.
So, on with the steps. The first thing you’ll do is log in to Feedburner with a Google Account. If you don’t have a Google Account, you’ll need to register first.
Step 1: Burn Your Feed
Don’t let the phrase “burn a feed” freak you out. You are actually just letting Feedburner create and manage your feed for you. Your feed is just a simplified version of your blog posts that enables automatic distribution of your content. You can find more info about feeds on this page: Feed 101.
After you log in, type in the URL of your blog. For this example, I am using vintagedennison.com, a blog that I use for testing purposes.
If Feedburner finds more than one feed, you will be asked which one to choose. I’ve always selected the Atom feed (which is usually the first one listed).
Step 2: Name your Feed
Enter the title of your feed, and the address. No spaces in the address.
Step 3: Skip the next 2 steps in the Feedburner “Wizard”
Hit Next twice. You will skip through two screens. The second screen asks if you want to use Feedburner Stats. Don’t check anything for now. You can always go back later and turn those on.
Step 4: Connect your Feedburner Feed to Blogger or Typepad.
You’ve created your new feed, but now you need to link it to your blog’s existing feed. Since most of you use Blogger or Typepad for your blogs, I am pointing out the links that describe how to connect your blog to your new Feedburner feed. If you have another blog platform, like WordPress, this page also lists instructions for those feeds.
So, click the link for your blog host and follow the directions. You will have to go back to the Blogger or Typepad websites to configure the feed. It is very simple, though. Don’t be scared.
Step 5: Publish a chicklet to display your feed
If you lost your bearings on the Feedburner website, you can find this on the Publicize tab (“Chicklet Chooser” on the left column). A chicklet is a little graphic that lets users select how they want to read your feed. I strongly suggest that you keep it simple, and use the standard graphic for feeds:
After you select the standard icon, the HTML for the link will be automatically generated at the bottom of the page. You can add these to Typepad or Blogger blogs by creating a Widget. Or, if you know how to embed HTML into your blog, just copy and paste the code into a Type list or Blogger HTML Gadget.
You can see my SUBSCRIBE link up there in the right column. Click it and you can see what will happen when you add a similar link to your blog.
Step 6: Activate Email Subscriptions
The Email Subscription service allows your readers to get an email whenever you update your blog. This is helpful for readers who don’t follow a lot of blogs and probably don’t use a Feed Reader like Bloglines or Google Reader. You need to activate this service before using it. It is also located on the Publicize tab.
After activation, select how you want your readers to subscribe via email. There are two main ways to sign-up subscribers: through a form directly on your blog where your readers enter their email address OR through a link that goes to Feedburner (the reader enters their email address on that page). I prefer to have my readers go to the Feedburner site via a link because I don’t want a form that takes up space on the sidebar of my blog.
Follow the directions on the page according to the type of blog you have. You will add the magically-created HTML code to your blog. As in Step 5, you can use a Widget for Blogger or Typepad. Or, copy and paste the HTML into your blog directly.
That was easy, wasn’t it? It looked scary with all of those steps, but I bet it only took a few minutes.
Now, when you login to Feedburner, you will see the number of subscribers on the home page. Click on your feed to see the details. Here’s mine for my blog:
Click the “See more about your subscribers” for even more info (probably more than you’ll ever need) about the feed readers that your peeps are using to read your blog.
I just want to point out one cool thing – if you scroll down, you can see a section that looks like this:
Click the “Manage Your Email Subscriber List” to see the email addresses of all of the people who have opted to get your blog updates via email. Pretty cool, huh?
There are other fancy things you can do with Feedburner, but I just wanted to cover the basics in this post. You can click through all of the tabs across the top (Analyze, Publicize, Monetize, etc.) and see if there is anything that catches your eye. On the Optimize tab, check out the Photo Splicer, which lets you add your Flickr photos to your blog feed. Perfect for a blog that focuses on photography.
Your final step is to invite your readers to subscribe to your blog. Do it in your next blog post. Sure, you’ve added the links to your blog, but most of your readers might not notice them right away. So, tell them all about it. And keep them coming back for more!