Archive for the ‘RSS 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:
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.
"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