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A Secret to Finding New Subscribers for Your Blog

Posted By Darren Rowse 6th of February 2008 Blog Promotion, Featured Posts, RSS 0 Comments

‘How do I find new subscribers for my blog?’

This question hits my inbox so regularly that I that I’d answer it publicly rather than retyping my answer to each person who asks – it’s a topic that is on the mind of many bloggers these days so lets tackle it head on.

I’ve written an extended entry on this topic with 11 practical suggestions at Ways to Find New RSS Subscribers for Your Blog – however there’s one ‘secret’ that I’m increasingly convinced is a key to increasing subscriber numbers on a blog.

I say ‘secret’ because it eluded me for years – although in the end it was staring me in the face.

This ‘secret’ has helped me build both of my blogs into the 40,000 subscriber range (and beyond) and it’s something I see many other bloggers using to build their blogs – sometimes strategically and sometimes intuitively.


Today I want to introduce this secret and then over the next few days I want to follow it up with some practical tips on how to use it in practice.

At the hear of what I want to talk about is a simple question:

Why do People Subscribe to Feeds?

I am sure there are numerous reasons that people subscribe to a blogs feed – however in most cases they simple truth is that they subscribe for one obvious yet powerful reason:

they think that the blog might produce content that they’ll want to know about at some point in the future.

As I say – this is a simple (and very obvious) truth – but it is actually a secret to building RSS subscriber numbers and it’s worth repeating.

People will subscribe to your blog if they think that it will enhance their lives in some way in the foreseeable future.

Ponder that for a few moments before reading on…..

Perhaps instead of asking ‘how can I get people to subscribe to my blog’ a better question to ask is:

‘how can I convince people that I will write something tomorrow, next week or next month that they just can’t miss out on.’

This ‘secret’ of building your subscriber numbers to your blog is to create a sense of anticipation in those who visit your blog. Build this and you’ll find people seek out ways to track with you rather than you having to find ways to shove your means of anticipation down their throats.

How to Create Anticipation on a Blog

My hypothesis is that creating a sense of anticipation among your readers increases the chances that they’ll subscribe to it.

But how do you do it?

This is where I create a little anticipation of my own and let you know that I’m going to unpack this further tomorrow when I’ll give you some practical tips on how to create anticipation on your blog. (update: here’s my next two posts in this series –how to build anticipation on your blog and more on how to build anticipation on your blog).

In the mean time – some questions for discussion:

  • How do you build anticipation on your blog?
  • How have you seen others do it effectively?

Feel free to share specific examples if you’ve got them.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Of course!

    Nice work.

    Best stuff is simple…

  2. One of the best posts you’ve written.

    It could be that I’m at the point of my blog where I am truly worrying about my subscriber count..

    But I think the reason why it is truly a great post is how you changed the question about subscriptions to.. “How can I convince people that I will write something next… that they cant miss out on.”

    Wonderful insight

  3. I expected a more elaborate post from you, darren..anyway..one of the trick is to give a hint(or sort of one) in the latest post about what you might write next…like..if you had written someting about the Microsoft bid for Yahoo, maybe you can end with a hint about some previous acquisitions by Microsoft (like the Norwegian company Fast Search) which are not popularised..

    one more way is by improving your profile(if the blog is hosted on blogger or wordpress..tell the topics and subjects that you are passionate about in your profile..someone will strike the cord with your thoughts and subscribe to the feed..

    anyway..thx Darren..

  4. Lots of bloggers have their own “secret” about how they raised the quantity of subscribers for their blog, but these really makes sense.

    And no questions asked, your feed proves it… :)

  5. Writing a series of posts will creat a sense of anticipation in your readers. ^.^

  6. I remember going off topic in some of my posts to say things like “Oh, that reminds me. Look out for my X Post on X Topic in the next few days. It won’t disappoint”. Something as simple as that sparked discussion in the comments and brought in new subscribers.

    I suppose that’s the most basic form of creating anticipation.

  7. I think even just having a fixed posting schedule can show that you’re going to keep posting quality content in the future.
    If I know when the next thing will be posted I’ll look forward to that particular date, and am more likely to subscribe since I know what I can expect.

  8. This is a very true and useful information…


  9. Very True, I often find myself subscribing to blogs who have blog writing contest e.t.c.

    I’ve tried to do it by answering readers questions with some success.

    Definitely food for thought

  10. I think it probably eluded you more than it alluded you :-)

  11. When I check out new blogs/feeds, I look at the previous 10-15 posts to see if there is anything that impresses me, or looks like it might produce similar useful posts in the future.

    If nothing looks interesting enough, I dismiss it. If just one post is vaguely useful, I’ll bookmark that one post. If at least one post is fantastic (or if several are vaguely useful), I’ll subscribe to the feed.

    Aside from one or two multi-part posts – where I whet the appetite of readers by explaining what was coming up in the next part – I haven’t done much to create anticipation on my own site.

    But it’s a fair point and I really like this post. So I’ll see what I can do to remedy things on my site for the future.

  12. I always used anticipation to keep RSS readers and frequent visitors, but I guess it works with picking up new readers and subscribers too.

    I’ve created anticipation on my blog by starting projects and alluding to what their going to turn out as. Although this plan doesn’t work on all blog types.

    Creating anticipation means planning for tomorrow, something a lot of blogs don’t do.

  13. For the blogs I subscribe to, I don’t think it’s anticipation over new content that drove me to subscribe; it’s because I *expect* something great to be produced. The blogs I subscribe to deliver useful, valuable content; because of this, they get another number in their RSS ticker.

    Content, content, content!

  14. My niche is focused on teaching people about the “Toyota Production System.” With this said we study the people of Japan quite closely.

    So, when I announced I was headed to Japan to tour 5 top Japanese companies, including Toyota, I saw my RSS subsciptions take a nice bump.

    As the trip approaches I plan to start “teasing” my readers a bit more… I plan to take video, record podcasts, etc.

  15. Darren, I don’t often read metablogging posts anymore where I go ‘Ah huh!’, but this one did that. I’d never thought about this way before. It makes a whole heap of sense.

    Thanks for giving me some real food for thought :-).

  16. Hi Darren,

    Mine it’s a new blog. For building anticipation in my blog (of course, I think that anticipation is an important element, sure) I create a series of interview.

  17. Ooh, that’s evil. :) Now I have to come back tomorrow to see the exciting conclusion. Then again, I was already subscribed. I’m not sure this anticipation thing would have much effect on me personally. If I see that someone is writing good posts, I’ll naturally anticipate that they’ll continue to do so. But maybe a little persuasion can help win over some people.

  18. “This is where I create a little anticipation of my own and let you know that I’m going to unpack this further tomorrow when I’ll give you some practical tips on how to create anticipation on your blog.”

    – Well Darren, how’s that for creating anticipation on your blog? :)

    By the way, the viewpoint discussed here, was a real eye opener for me. Couldn’t agree with you more on that. The only reason why people subscribe is because they want to see how the future posts will benefit them. And in doing that, they need some assurance that the future article is as useful as the article that drew them to ths blog at the first place.

    Creating anticipation – as you have said – is the key. As it makes the prospective subscriber wonder about what future holds when he/she actually subscribes for that. Adding something, it mentally influences a human to trial out the blog subscription, making that prospective subscriber, an actual subscriber.

  19. Darren, to attract subscribers, I do a “Sneak Preview” posts. The sneak previews highlights upcoming blog posts. For instance, tomorrow a sneak preview post will talk feature upcoming interviews, including an interview with a Risqué French Postcard collector whose site was recently banned by the major search engines.

    This is a real “teaser” sneak preview that I hope will entice subscribers.

  20. Hmmm… I did this without thinking about it yesterday…

    I’m guilty of writing monolithic posts… I write my entire thought out in one long post at a time. (It’s amazing that I’ve kept up with three posts per week for the past month… I don’t think I’ll be able to keep that rate up, though.)

    Usually these posts are very self-contained. I’ll cover a topic as fully as I can at the time, then work on a different topic. Every once in a while, about once every other or every three months, I’ll write a series. Looking back, it’s about halfway through each series where I get a boost in my subscribers. (At this point, the boost is about 5 new readers… which is a big deal, considering I’m averaging just under 40 right now.)

    Looking at the raw numbers, I might want to trim down some future posts and explore their tangents a bit more in different series-based posts.

    I do have to say, though, that I generally don’t like the rapid-fire posts that I’ve seen some people use. I would say to those people that if you can’t convey the entire concept in 5 paragraphs, and you’re tempted to say “to be continued,” please just keep writing in the same post. In my opinion, a series of posts should be like different chapters in a book… All loosely based on the same topic, but each with their own main theme. Having to wait another day for a continuation of the same idea makes me want to hit the unsubscribe link and be done with it.

  21. I love the idea of a teaser post. Give them an appetizer then deliver the main course down the road.

    I try and do ‘theme’ days on one of my sites. Monday is the weekend in review, Tuesday is ‘Question of the Week’, Wednesday is ‘Sponsor Highlight’, Thursday and Friday is ‘Weekend Preview’. This gives people some idea of how the site functions and doesn’t make me have to keep thinking of something new to post each week.

  22. Good post. Writing useful content and creating anticipation is a powerful combination to attract subscribers.

  23. Actually the answer is very simple, and I’ll tell you the answer on my blog…. tomorrow. ;)

    LOL! Great advice and I think that’s an astute view into the psyche of the RSS reader. I’ll have to think about how to work this into my posts.

  24. My question is: why is the number of RSS subscribers so crucial?

  25. What a fabulous and well-timed post, Darren!

    I JUST posted (this morning) introducing a five-part series, “Health Made Easy” for my total health blog, Live Lighter.

    What do you think? Did I effectively create anticipation?

    I’ve seen Brian Clark of CopyBlogger do this successfully with his Magnetic Headlines Series.

    Super great post, Darren. Thank you!!

  26. thanks for the insight. being a new blogger is a bit of an uphill battle, so I appreciate the great advice. I’ve created my blog as a learning experience on my end, and i’ll just post what I learn. Not rocket science, but without technical skills and not being an expert on one topic in particular, I think it’s important for me to have people “follow” me through my blogging journey, and hopefully we can learn from each other.

  27. Brilliant, love it!

  28. Ha ha ha! Clever use of the technique!

  29. I think this also does tag in with creating a niche and stetting yourself as an authority….But I will agree…I’m going to subscribe if I think you will write something that will add value to my world.

  30. never ever display ur feedburner count until u get a decent no. of subscribers ———- this is the basic method u have to follow to get subscribers [ apart from quality content ] .

  31. Definitely one of the things that amazes me most — how you drive subscribers in.

    In fact a just yesterday I wrote a post about why I think ProBlogger’s visitors are more loyal compared to ShoeMoney or John Chow:


    It’s no big discovery but I’m sure it’s a little bit interesting :)

  32. Actually that is a good point? Do you or do you not display the subscriber count? At what point do you show it? Is it really bad to show a count less than 100?

  33. That is a really interesting concept, and one that sounds so simple, but when you really think about it, its genius. Thanks Darren.

  34. Way to put into words something I just realized last week at my own site. I’ve started to create anticipation by running contests (who wins? I don’t know!) and by running a series on common beginning blogger mistakes on my blog. If you like the first entry you’ll want to check in again for the next one.

  35. Excellent post — never really thought of it that way – looking at the future. I always tend to focus on getting the best content out today.

    I think using post series is a great way, a contest, or a mystery post where an answer will be revealed at a later date can also help.

  36. I’m sorry, but I have to take a contrarian view of this. RSS is only a metric of success, and it’s a flawed metric at best.

    I’ve written more about this at the link under my name, but consider this:

    99% of my ad revenue comes from one time visitors. RSS readers and the the few hundred “regulars” contribute almost nothing – if my main concern is income, I’m far better off scheming about SEO and Google results position than I am caring about RSS readers.

    Moreover, everyone of us knows that just because my RSS reader goes to fetch your feed every day doesn’t mean that I’m actually reading it. I might just be skimming headlines, or I might just be reading the feed with a program looking for certain key words.

    And yet a Google search for “Increase RSS subscribers” turns up thousands of articles like this.

    Comparing RSS subscribers can be interesting, but it’s only one measure and it often isn’t measuring what people think it is.

  37. Thought about this as i read your post. Interesting, some write blogs with this in as something usual. Like a continuing story that no one wants to miss, what happens next. I must know this first. Or they subscribe because it is simply easier to check on new posts they are interested in via a simple rss reader rather than checking the site again.

  38. Interesting concept.

    This is something that I surely need to work on to improve the subscriber count for my blog.

  39. You’re right. It’s remarkably obvious – now that you’ve pointed it out. The smart money in old media do it constantly with teasers, and trailers.

    I’ve got a great article in the works on this subject for Friday. You won’t be disappointed. ;)

  40. Darrin…you are really a professional writer and marketer. Creating a blog post about anticipation and then ending it with you saying that you will “unpack this further tommorrow” is brilliant! You should be a Soap Opera writer!

  41. Great post Darren! I’ve been thinking about the idea a bit for my upcoming hatchthat.com redesign.

    – Show a popular articles list, people will see at least your top headlines and hopefully click through to read them.
    – Show a recent articles list, make sure they are different to the popular articles list and are all still interesting headlines.
    – Only show dates if you post often enough.
    – Only show subscriber counts if you have enough to brag about.
    – Post about upcoming content, but not too often.
    – Prompt them to subscribe so that they don’t miss out, immediately after you mention something upcoming.
    – Run a series of posts on a topic, linking to previous ones but also showing how many more are to come and what topics they will be on.
    – Make sure every piece of the page represents value, they want to see signal not noise. Don’t post those link roundups until you have enough to make it a proper resource list.
    – Make sure you have lots of comments on your posts. If you don’t have comments you either need to promote commenting or post less so that the comments pile up on your most recent posts.
    – If you have a multi-author blog show each authors recent popular posts so the visitor knows what to expect from each person.
    – Show third party endorsements such as blog network badges, sponsor links and mybloglog recent avatars. Mention it when a popular industry blog links to you, but not too often.
    – Have a great template design, nicer blogs generally have nicer content. If it has a tight design like the A-listers you can most likely fool a few people.
    – Have an about page that paints a good picture of you and promotes interest in not only what you have done but what you are working on next. Give them a photo of you so they know who is actually writing.
    – Order your archives by interestingness, not just date or alphabetical category.
    – Add value in absolutely every post, don’t report what other people are posting because a visitor can just go straight to the source instead.
    – Have recurring themes and mention them clearly either at the end of a post or somewhere in the menu. The same applies for categories, but make sure your categories reflect your content as a whole and remember to kill off categories that don’t.
    – Keep it focussed and on-topic. If you have a blogroll make sure you only link to sites that are relevant to the blogs topic.

    I’ll be keen to see what I missed in tomorrow’s post :)

  42. I don’t know that I have been able to create a sense of anticipation but now that you mention it….

    However, I do notice that most of the blogs I subscribe to are really good at this. In fact, there is one blog in particular that I just wait for new posts each day because this blog teaches me things that you just can’t learn anywhere else…

  43. Anticipation is a big reason why people subscribe and a totally agree with you. This also begins with producing great content now, that is, it should be a continuous process because people often anticipate your next move considering what you have been doing in your previous moves. Great post :-).

  44. As U said, Expectation brings the user again and again to the blog. Raise the expectation and raise the reader base!

  45. I think you subtly answered your own question. You create anticipation by writing an excellent article that will get people’s attention but then you cut it off saying it is the first in a ‘series.’ Then people will want to come back for more.

  46. Terrific tips Darren. Well, you could, every now and again, do an interesting post and split it up into sequels. That way no one would want to miss it! I know a lot of commenters have already stated this, but its the only one that comes to mind.

  47. Hi Darren

    I think you should have headlined this “the” secret to finding new subscribers :-)

    You’re right – as readers we want to be looking ahead and remembering to go back to a site where we know something good lies ahead…

    But you can’t overdo it (not that I’m suggesting you do or would…) If it’s all ‘jam tomorrow’ people would pretty soon get fed up and unsubscribe.

    A bit like a brilliant headline – you need to follow up and deliver with the content to match.


  48. You have done a great job of creating anticipation for me Darren. I am now gagging to hear how i can put this into action on my own blog.

    I think that a good way of creating anticipation is telling somebody what is to come, and how it can help them at the end of your posts. What you will be posting about tomorrow, how they may benefit from it, and imediately at the end of each post, provide a way for them to subscribe.

    Don’t make them go looking for your subscription buttons. Put it right where they have just read what they might be able to benefit by reading tomorrows post.

  49. Wow – I think I kind of half hit on this at the weekend when I planned the posts for my blog, and decided to split some big subjects up into smaller sizes.

    I’ve got half a dozen websites and I reckon they all half get it too – it’s the “convincing” part of it that is missing!

    Looking forward to the rest of this series :)

  50. Nice layout and topic! At the end of the day whether you are an up and coming Blogger or a multi page web publisher it gets down to content or the WHY in the equation. If you write well and meaningful content and have a bit of pizzazzzz you will draw attention. Then its all about freshness and being able to continue a high level of content that the reader loves to hear about.

    Good luck all

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