Archive for the ‘Blog Marketing’ Category
The FeedBurner View of the Feed Market report 2007 was released today, much to the delight of many industry analysts closely following the movements of RSS tool vendors. These analysts had been waiting for the report long enough: since the previous installment of the report, in November 2005, RSS marketing has become a much more serious business.
The illustrated report that FeedBurner made public today has a focus on web-based aggregators, which means that we can expect separate blog posts with FeedBurner’s take on the role of desktop readers, widgets and e-mail-based headline viewers. As a whole, FeedBurner is capable of differentiating over 3,000 different user agents.
Since its first Market Report for 2005 in the blog post Feed For Thought, FeedBurner’s various RSS services have gained tremendous popularity: according to information handed to me last week by Rick Klau, Vice-President of Publisher Services, FeedBurner currently handles these immense numbers:
- 340,000 feed publishers, who publish
- 600,000 feeds, resulting in
- 300 million feed requests every day
As explained in the FeedBurner report, these absolute numbers of subscriptions per se are not an ideal instrument to assess an individual aggregator’s market share, firstly because each of these vendors uses specific methods to report feed data. See the various kinds of metric that each vendor delivers in the table. Another issue is that the action of subscribing to a feed alone doesn’t guarantee that the feed items actually get read. Last week, when FeedBurner was finally able to incorporate realistic subscriber numbers for Google Reader and Google Personalized Homepage, the default feed sets included by many aggregators were the main cause that a lot of FeedBurner publishers reported subscriber increases much higher than the average of 59%.
Introducing "Audience Engagement"
A more realistic view of the web-aggregator market is obtained by embracing what FeedBurner calls Audience Engagement—"people reading feeds and people clicking on feeds". It turns out that from all clicks measured coming from web-based aggregators, those from My Yahoo!, Google and Bloglines represent 95% of the traffic.
A few bloggers have taken an in-depth, demographic-breakdown perspective on their FeedBurner pie charts this week:
- Google Reader | FeedBurner Stats Show Significant Market Share – Google Reader Now #1? by Andy Beard, 2007-02-17
- Google: World’s #1 Feed Reader by Jeremy Wright on Ensight, 2007-02-17
Read the conversations with each of these posts. One commenter named Franky writes: "… if Scoble links to you today you’ll see a huge shift in your feedburner
stats, because many Scoble subscribers will visit your blog from within
Google Reader, but only for today and the following days the number
will go down again."
Representatives from FeedBurner closely track mentions of their service and never seem to grow tired to explain their calculation methods. I’m sure there will be a very animated conversation on FeedBurner’s own blog too. Update: of course there is, particularly about the part i just quoted.
Here’s a live Grazr that lets you track the 100 most recent mentions of the FeedBurner Feed Market report:
Include the code snippet into your blog and you’ll see the familiar Digg icon, including the number of current Diggs, right next to the content on your page. Full customization details are available on the Digg Tools page. Before I found out about this Digg tool, I used Bitty browser to achieve almost the same result. Read on to learn how useful Bitty is when combined with anchored urls.
A couple of weeks ago my CNET rant was promoted on Digg for a couple of hours, mostly thanks to the impression I seem to have made on one particular digger named chrisek (have I thanked you enough?) It was really fun to see the counter go up each time I refreshed the page. One particular extension for Firefox by Jaap Haitsma, called Reload Every, which lets you set a refresh frequency for Firefox tabs, came in very handy in this situation. Still, keeping the news to myself didn’t seem the right thing to do, so I did some quick thinking.
It made sense to me to update my blog post and see if I could boost its popularity on Digg even more. I couldn’t find a suitable solution on the steadily growing TypePad Widget Gallery and I had explored the Digg Tools page for clues months ago already without much success, so I figured there was no way I could show the live Digg button unless I’d be prepared to migrate my entire blog just to be able to use the Digg plugin for WordPress.
I did some quick thinking and found a pretty acceptable solution by using "the browser in a browser" Bitty, displaying just the top-left part of the page:
I was reasonably satisfied with this outcome, but still wanted the image to be cleaner, smaller. Then I wrote to Scott Matthews, the Bitty developer, and asked if he could think of some way to have the Bitty scroll down the page, so that just only the Digg button would be visible inside the Bitty view port. Scott replied almost instantly: "Have you considered using one of the # anchor tags?"
I looked at the source of the Digg page for my blog post, discovered that there was an anchor id named "header-secondary", and added the id as an #anchor to the url used in the Bitty code. This was the result:
I promise I won’t overdo it with these Digg buttons. I’ll only display one if someone else diggs any of my posts.
The discovery about Bitty is quite cool I think, especially when you have control over the HTML source of the page that you are displaying, or when there are useful anchors available already.
As of today Answers.com made their AnswerTips service available to anyone with a blog or website. Just follow the simple steps lined out on the AnswerTips configuration page, insert the code into your site and you’re good to go. There are several icons available: smaller ones, larger ones, animated and non-animated.
These are the icons you can choose from:
In anticipation of the official press release that came out today, I had another go at AnswerTips myself to make sure the service was still working as expected, and then realized that any double-click inside an AnswerTip itself in turn spawns an AnswerTip to be opened in the same space. Now this is really useful because you can now stay on the original page and perform a gradually more precise contextual search narrowed-down through the topic that you’re interested in.
In an email exchange I asked Liz Cohen of Answers.com if web users who happen to dislike AnswerTips could disable it altogether, and it turns out they can, by checking off the AnswerTips section on the Answers.com Preferences page:
Fred Wilson, whose investment company Flatiron Partners used to have Answers.com in their portfolio, turned AnswerTips on today as well on his blog A VC. For more details visit his blog post This Blog Is AnswerTips Enabled.
If you’re especially interested in how Answers.com performs on the stock market now that this wonderful news was brought out, you may want to follow the developments on the Yahoo! Finances Message Board for Answers.com (sorry, no feed).
Then some links for those who have missed my earlier posts containing more historical background and ideas:
- AnswerTips Available as TypePad Widget (2007-02-01)
And as usual a topic news radar based on Google Blog Search if you want to keep track of the blog posts about AnswerTips, presented using Grazr:
"Keep reading, or if you can’t hold your horses, head straight for the meat of my latest achievement: an RSS-enabled Marketing Search Engine created using GrazrScript, a relatively new language to create web-based RSS applications …"
Next time I meet someone new on the web I should write down the whence, the where, the why and the how of the connection taking place. I do recall clearly that I took the initiative to connect to marketing and PR specialist Todd And about a week ago, but I’ve completely forgotten how I found out about his website in the first place. His attractive banner logo definitely must have prolonged my attention span:
Let’s forget (!) about my deteriorating memory, because what’s about to follow will hopefully blow your socks off.
Keep reading, or if you can’t hold your horses, head straight for the meat of my latest achievement: an RSS-enabled Marketing Search Engine created using GrazrScript, a language to create web-based RSS applications that was launched a few months ago by the Grazr development team. If you want to explore it yourself, I suggest you start with the GrazrScript Tutorial.
I immediately noticed Todd has a rather remarkable and attractive blog layout that he self-hosts using WordPress: two sidebars on the left-hand side, the left-most one containing an intriguing link to what turns out to be an impressive, ranked list of 150+ US marketing blogs. Here’s a quick live peek of Todd’s Power 150 – Top Marketing Blogs page using Bitty Browser. You’ll immediately understand why it caught my eye: it has RSS written all over it.
There was just one thing blatantly missing from Todd’s Power 150 page: OPML awareness. "Wouldn’t it be cool if your list were browsable, discoverable and even … searchable?", I asked him on Skype. Todd quickly understood where I was heading. Our ideas matched perfectly and over the course of less than a week, with our time zones not exactly catalyzing effective communication, I helped Todd to display an advanced Grazr widget on a page we now nickname as the "Kitchen Sink". The sections in the remainder of my blog post discuss the functionality of this RSS application and some details on how we built it.
Search Engine Functionality
Todd’s Power 150 RSS-enabled marketing search engine lets you do the following:
- Search all listed marketing blogs by keyword
- Generate a custom keyword-feed from your search that you can add to your own RSS aggregator
- Browse all marketing blogs as a combined, River of News feed
- Browse all marketing blogs from an alphabetically ordered list
- Grab the URLs to the feeds and OPML files offered in the widget to import or subscribe to in your own feed reader
- Send feedback by e-mail
Details about the RSS Tools Used
Dynamic OPML file
I started out with the OPML file from the feed list that Todd maintains on web-based feed reader NewsGator Online. This OPML file is web-based, public and dynamic, meaning that when Todd adds, changes or removes a feed in NewsGator Online, his OPML file will reflect this update immediately. RSS specialists refer to such an OPML file as a "Reading List". The other components in the Power 150 search engine fully rely on the availability of this OPML. You can browse Todd’s OPML by clicking on "Full List of Marketing Blogs" in the Power 150 Grazr panel.
Combining into a ‘River of News’ feed
The next step was to create a River of News feed from this OPML file using a feed digesting service. I prefer mySyndicaat, an advanced newsmastering tool that I’ve found indispensable in multi-tier projects involving the merging of RSS feeds, OPML files and Reading Lists.
FeedBurner for Cleanliness and Transparancy
On my cue Todd created a FeedBurner version of the mySyndicaat output feed. This is the feed that we used for "The Power 150 – River of News" feed link in the Power 150 Grazr panel. Most of my RSS applications involve the use of FeedBurner: most people know it creates clean URLs that are easy to remember, that it renders a browser-friendly page when displayed as HTML and that it offers pretty neat feed analytics features. There’s another less talked about reason why I personally use FeedBurner a lot: if for some reason any RSS tool used in the previous steps of a project like this is no longer available, all I have to do is adjust the source feed of the FeedBurner feed and my application runs fine again.
ReFilter Feed Filtering through Parameterized URLs
ReFilter is not such a widely known RSS service. In this case I use it because it lets you filter feeds by providing keywords within the parameters of the original feed URL. Such URL parameterization is essential for vertical search engines like this marketing search engine, because we wanted to offer Todd’s readers the option to subscribe to a custom-keyword RSS feed using their own RSS aggregator. I only used a portion of ReFilter’s functionality: ReFilter’s also offers an advanced syntax for sophisticated feed filtering: you can filter by field, use boolean commands and combine several searches into one URL. ReFilter is open-source, is based on the MagPie RSS parser for PHP and was developed by Sam Deelie.
GrazrScript, Creating RSS Applications
I had played with Grazr widgets plentiful in the past, but never taken the plunge to fully explore its scripting language until this week. GrazrScript is a language that is still fully in development and I very much appreciate where the Grazr people are heading with this. As I wrote earlier, the best way to get started with this is how I did it too:
- download the GrazrScript examples
- study the GrazrScript tutorial
- modify the sample applications using a text editor
- upload one of these applications back to your own server (!)
- try it out by entering the URL of your Grazr application on the Grazr.com configuration page
I’d like to point out—magna cum gratia—that head developer Mike Kowalchik from Grazr was of enormous help to get this project off the ground in such a short amount of time. No matter how we moved our goal posts, Mike offered great input. Mike created a branded Power 150 theme with a status bar logo and custom hyperlink icons that perfectly match Todd’s strong brand.
I’ve also had quite a few fruitful chat sessions this week with Giovanni Guardalben CEO of mySyndicaat, my preferred feed digesting service. Gianni was kind enough to tweak his servers so that I could configure the combined feed with all the bells and whistles we required for this project.
Lastly I’d like to mention how rewarding the collaboration on this project was with Todd. I look forward to working with him more and extending our friendship. And, Todd…: thank you so much for the wonderful new logo for CleverClogs. I truly like your design a lot.
By the time you read this, no doubt the counter is at 314
And you, readers? Would you care to tell me what you think of this ambitious project? If so, please feel free to leave a comment.
Leon Ho, the Brisbane-based editor of A-list productivity blog LifeHack.org, sparked my inspiration today with a post on his personal blog, titled 0 to 12,000 RSS Subscribers. As his post title reveals, Leon shares several tips that might help you reach a larger readership on your blog within a relatively short amount of time.
First I bookmarked Leon’s post on del.icio.us (direct link to all bookmarks for Leon’s post), then I turned on coComment tracking so that I could follow the conversation. Still, I had some ideas of my own that would fit in nicely with Leon’s and I thought I’d submit a comment myself to add my own 2 cents to the story.
Unfortunately, Leon’s blog comment form seems to lack any basic kind of formatting so I decided I might as well devote an entire blog post to my take on increasing your subscriber base, although I realized all too well my subscriber count is at a mere 1% of his.
Summarizing Leon’s tips: use full feeds, give the RSS icon a prominent
position, provide consistent, high-quality content, offer email
subscriptions and make it easy for people to share your posts with their friends.
I’d like to a couple more tips to the mix that seemed to make a huge difference for me:
- Use large, attractive feed icons, preferably the ones that by now have become the defacto standard. They are freely available for download from FeedIcons. Host the icons yourself.
- Obvious to some: offer a browser-friendly version of your feed with FeedBurner and display the number of subscribers by embedding a FeedBurner FeedCount chicklet into your page, if you dare.
- Let people browse your feeds live from your pages by embedding a piece of code in the sidebar of your site. Really it’s not that difficult. Pick any of the many excellent tools so diligently demonstrated by David Rothman on his current and comprehensive, hands-on review page here: RSS to Web Page: Tool Output Examples.
- Make your feeds auto-discoverable and double-check that they are auto-discoverable indeed. Most blog hosting services take care of this already. If not: make sure the header of your pages contains code like this:
<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml"
title="Blog Posts Feed"
- Stick to a certain average posting frequency. To be totally honest I personally need to apply this principle to my own working discipline. When people first add your feed to their aggregator, the feed is likely to be included in a group called Probation or something similar. While your feed is there it has the attention from your subscriber. Your goal is to convince that reader to move your feed to a more permanent group, preferably the one named High Priority. So it’s ok if you don’t blog every day, as only a few people would be able to keep up anyway—just don’t drop the frequency to below once every two weeks. People lose interest or even get annoyed and bounce you off their list.
- Validate your feeds. Paste your feed URLs at feed a validator, such as FeedValidator. Fix errors.
- Consider offering email subscriptions through R|Mail. I’ve noticed a 20% increase since I signed up with Randy Morin’s service. Recipients are apparently very satisifed with how the posts are delivered. R|Mail is free.
- Subscribe to your own feed, both as a feed and by email, so that you know what your subscribers are receiving. Open the email version through web mail: sometimes the plain-text version looks awful. Switch to a different RSS-to-email service if this happens.
Excellent news from Pete Cashmore on Mashable this morning. In his post MuseStorm Launches Widget Tracking he announces that MuseStorm has extended its feed widget arsenal in several dimensions: not only does it now offer various feed widgets both for the desktop and for websites, but it also offers detailed analytics to feed publishers.
The MuseStorm people themselves call their new service the MuseStorm Widget Syndication Service, as they proudly announced in yesterday’s blog post It’s alive! MuseStorm Widget Syndication Service launches.
Needless to say I signed up for the MuseStorm service straight away, following the feed configuration steps offered by the MuseStorm Flash wizard:
Within minutes I had produced a slick, animated-headlines version of the bookmarks that I keep in my del.icio.us RSSonate account:
Note that I resized the widget just to demonstrate that the feed widget can be widened. Several skins and other customizations are offered. Do you see the +sign in the bottom-left corner? It allows visitors of my site to copy the widget to their blog. You can also follow this link: RSSonate Feed Widget.
In addition to Google Gadget and Yahoo! Widget versions for the desktop, feed widget publishers can embed their code into any online web page. You don’t need access to your page templates: just embed the code into your sidebar or even in the body of a blog post.
Here’s a screenshot of the widget selector box:
The base MuseStorm service for publishing feed widgets is free. The Analytics module is charged at USD4 per feed per month, with the first two months free for all users. At this moment my own Analytics panel is rather boring because my panel wasn’t online until I published this post. As soon as people start clicking on any of the links inside the panel and the clickthrough numbers start showing up, I’ll upload another screenshot. This is what the MuseStorm Analytics Dashboard looks like:
And here’s a screenshot of the page where my dazzling metrics will appear:
At this moment support for the Mac desktop is limited to the Yahoo! Widget. Mac Desktop is planned for release though, as well as support for mobile and IM widgets. Keep an eye on the MuseStorm blog, aptly titled Riding the Storm: it seems to me they’ve got some cool releases up their sleeves.
I don’t know how I could have missed the MuseStorm gamma while doing research for web-based RSS tickers, but for me this beats everything I’ve tried so far—both in features and pricing. Would you do me a favor and try out the widget? Click on the links inside it, see how easy you find it copy the widget to your own web site and then let me know if you think I should replace FeedBurner’s Headline Animator with the MuseStorm one.
Have you always wondered which top-notch delivery protocol the Six Apart programmers implemented to get your tags stored safely and securely into the massive Technorati database servers?
The answer to that question is finally here, on Everything TypePad today: the blog post Sending your blog by special delivery features a special video documentary (1:57 mins) revealing inside secrets to get the job done:
Now that we’re talking Technorati-speak anyway: have you tried clicking on any of the tags at the footer of any of my own blog posts yet? Instead of performing a generic Technorati search, each tag hyperlink delivers Technorati search results from CleverClogs only.
Besides email, would you prefer other methods to connect to me? A formal contact form? What else?
"Stephan Spencer’s hands-on tips come in handy now that I’ve enabled advanced
templates for TypePad. I’ll soon turn my blog post titles into
hyperlinks, for example, and categorized feeds are on my list too."
My experiments with RSSonate,
the feed digest project I’m continually fine-tuning, often alert me to
blog posts I most likely would never have discovered myself. A fine
example is Lee Odden‘s
detailed and annotated report of one of the sessions that took place
last week at the overcrowded Search Engine Strategies (SES) 2006
conference in San Jose.
Odden covered the Blog and Feed SEO Session
on his Online Marketing Blog and on the Search Engine Roundtable blog,
summarizing numerous practical contributions from panel experts Amanda Watlington of Searching for Profit, Stephan Spencer of Netconcepts and Rick Klau of FeedBurner into a fully functional checklist for anyone interested in blog and RSS marketing. Stephan Spencer’s insightful presentation on Blog and RSS Feed SEO is available online (PPT, 57 slides, 5 MB)—each slide worth every second one spends on it.
Stephan’s hands-on tips come in handy now that I’ve enabled advanced
templates for TypePad. I’ll soon turn my blog post titles into
hyperlinks, for example, and categorized feeds are on my list too. I
would like to comment that I feel highly supported—and challenged!—by
the invaluable hacks provided by John T. Unger of TypePadHacks. Stay tuned.
The next post will be about building RSS feeds based on custom keywords using blog search engines. (this will have to wait, sorry)
Update Sept 4th, 2006: Stephan Spencer made a screencast available to the PowerPoint presentation that I refer to. You can find it here: Screencast on how to optimize your blogs and RSS feeds