Making the Most of Your RSS Link
This is another guest post by Stephanie Stiavetti from Wasabimon. Stephanie agreed to write a couple of posts for the site while I’m busy unpacking after my move and getting ready for NaNoWriMo. Please welcome her to the site, and do yourself a favor by visiting her site too!
The whole point of a blog is that the author, or blogger, wants to share something. What they’re sharing could be anything, from 401K investment advice to tips on bathing your cat without incurring major injury. There is a dizzying array of topics that people blog about, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that all bloggers have one thing in common: they want the information they’re providing to reach readers. Otherwise, what’s the point of having a blog to begin with?
There are many ways to go about building a blog, but generally your top priority is going to be making what you have to say easily accessible to your readership. If no one’s visiting your site to read your brilliant account of backpacking in Paraguay, then you’re essentially talking to yourself.
That’s why I’m here today – to discuss something that many bloggers seem to take for granted, the RSS feed. Dustin wrote a great post about the basics of RSS here, so I won’t go into the nuts and bolts of syndication. Instead, I’ll take it a step further and talk about the finer points of linking to your RSS feed.
I can tell you from personal experience that if I stumble upon a website with content that I find interesting or useful, you’ve got about thirty seconds for me to locate the link to your feed before I get annoyed and leave. I don’t like having to search the text of your page for the words “subscribe” or “syndication,” and if I’ve gone through all that and still can’t find your feed, you’ve lost me as a reader. The link to your RSS feed needs to be clearly marked for the world to see and subscribe to. If folks can’t find it, no one will subscribe, and you’ll be left staring woefully at your dwindling web stats.
With that scenario in mind, I’d like to introduce you to my friend the RSS icon:
This little guy is pretty much the standard for clearly marking the link to your blog’s feed. Most people know it, and they look for it. When it’s not there readers get confused, then annoyed, then they navigate away from your page. This standard is a good thing, because it creates a common navigation between your site and the rest of the internet – no longer are we left to scroll through blogs in vain looking for a subscribe here link, because we know what to look for. You even have a plethora of options when it comes to stylizing your icon to fit the look and feel of your blog.
Now, let’s talk about placement. You generally want your feed link at the top of your page, usually near the top of your sidebar. Look over to the right corner of this very page – see how easy it is to find the RSS feed for the Writer’s Technology Companion? Dustin has done a good job of placing his feed icon in a location where it’s hard to miss, and goes a step further by putting a second link at the bottom of every post. If someone wants to subscribe to his blog, they don’t need to hunt all over for the link.
Many prefab blogging services, such as Blogspot and Blogger, do not clearly mark your feed by default, instead creating a little, nondescript link way down at the bottom of your page that says “Subscribe to: Posts.” This is very difficult for potential subscribers to spot, and unless they’re searching your text for the word “subscribe,” they’re not going to see it.
There are many ways to add a more obvious feed link to your blog, but if you’re not comfortable getting elbow deep in html, I recommend using a feed service like FeedBurner. They’ll let you create a feed for your site with all sorts of nifty features, and then will provide instructions on how to add the code to whatever blog platform you happen to be using. Easy! Feed services also tell you how many people have subscribed to your site, so you’ll be able to see firsthand how the placement of your feed link is affecting your returning readership.
Please be kind and clearly mark your RSS link. You’ll save your blog’s visitors a lot of time in superfluous page scrolling!
Stephanie Stiavetti is a feature writer, copywriter, and all around technical savant. Having spent the last decade ensconced in both the editorial and computer industries, she’s comfortable in either world and often combines the two. Her areas of expertise are food, cooking, nutrition, health/wellness, technology, and the writing lifestyle, though if she had her druthers, she would spend 100% of her time writing about her culinary exploits. Read more about her and her work at Wasabimon.