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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. I couldnt agree more, writing what people want to read will yield excellent results!

  2. Dammit! I read this post too late on my RSS feed! I was thinking of putting a “and tomorrow I’ll be talking about” on my blog today, but for some reason I didn’t. Then I read this. Ah well, next time, and by the way on my blog tomorrow…ha, ha.

  3. This is a long way down the comments list, so you probably won’t see it, but could you tell us what events triggered those two huge jumps on your subscription count (going from about 1,000-4,000 subscribers, and then 10,000-19,000)… that would be interesting I reckon.

  4. “I’m going to unpack this further tomorrow when I’ll give you some practical tips on how to create anticipation on your blog”

    I believe that statement answered the million dollar question. Now we are all waiting for tomorrows post, which means hello feedburner increase for you today!

  5. My website was mentioned in an email newsletter that is sent out by another bicycle touring organization, and they build some anticipation about my website without me even having to do a lick of work. Here is what they wrote:

    “There are a few other websites that exist for bicycle tourists, but my goals with this website is to show you exactly how I’ve been able to make seven long distance bicycle trips over the last seven years.” So writes Darren Alff, who has traveled by bike through twently-nine of the fifty United States, as well as several foreign countries. “I have absolutely no idea how many miles/kilometers I have ridden,” he adds, saying that he doesn’t use an odometer (and that he’ll tell readers why in a future post).

    The blurb went on a little further and mentioned my website and recommended the readers check it out. But what is important here is how they said, “he’ll tell readers why in a future post.” (refering to why I don’t ride with an odometer.)

    This one little line drove over 2000 people to my website in just one day. I received over 500 emails that day, had over 450 people sign up for my newsletter, and my income from the site that day rose dramatically!

    Yes, anticipation really does drive traffic to your site and keep them coming back for more.

    I’m using anticipation on my site now by letting my readers know that I am going to soon be releasing information on how you can actually make money by riding your bike! And that has gotten a lot of interest from my readers/subscribers. Anticipation works! Thanks Darren! I’m “anticipating” your next post!

  6. Martin, I don’t remember what triggered the first jump but the 2nd one was when Feedburner started counting Google Reader stats. Everyone’s figures jumped up at that point. I suspect the 1st jump was something similar.

  7. RSS subscribers have been elusive for me, even when I get a lot of traffic. Posting consistently and staying squarely on-topic have helped quite a lot, but I think often it’s also a function of popularity. People see a popular blog and thing “everyone’s reading such and such, I’d better not miss out” and they subscribe. If you don’t have the authority yet, a good strategy would be to seem like you do :)

  8. A multi-part series of posts is always a good way to build anticipation (much like this one). You can also hint at upcoming posts in related post. E.g, when reviewing a book you could mention that you’ll be giving away a few copies in X number of days once you receive them.

    @Darren: I believe it was actually that Google began to report the number of readers from Google Reader, not necessarily that Feedburner started to count them.

  9. Kevin – true, it was when Google made their stats available that the jump happened, enabling Feedburner to start to count them :-)

  10. Good post and good comments! I’m attempting to build anticipation by posting certain topics on certain days — Monday: best book club books Wednesday: what I’m reading Thursday: what book is your state (from Columbia Spectator) Sunday: favorite links of the week. Then I give myself the freedom to write whatever strikes my fancy on Tues and Thu (or take those days off!). My blog is new… we’ll see if it works!

  11. Excellent post.

    There are certainly MANY reasons that people subscribe to an RSS. However, I think you make a strong argument for people doing it for future possibilities. This certainly applies for people that read quality content and WANT MORE. If you can leave people wanting more, they will come back for more…hence signing up for your feed. Thanks for the new perspective.

  12. 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 :)

  13. Great post Darren! And I look forward to you next few posts on this topic.

    Actually, this post comes at a great time, as I’ve been pondering ways to increase the number of subscribers to my monthly newsletter. Indeed, building anticipation is a rather simple solution. But I think it’s easier said than done.

    But before I speculate too much, I’m going to see what Darren says first.

  14. I don’t know…I tend to RSS feed someone because I like their writing style. Or I enjoy what they have to say. I do like to learn and I find myself eager to learn, but when I feel that they are no longer “teaching” me (or holding my interest) I end the subscription and find another. That’s just me though. ;)

  15. That was totally sneaky! I love it. I’ve always toyed with the thought of ending posts with “Tomorrow: Topic A”, but for some reason never got around to it. I think a friend commented that it would seem like i’m doing pre-mediated blogging rather than something spontaneous.

  16. Hmm…while pointing out some a very useful bit of information, I can’t help but notice that the overriding theme of your post is like this old joke:

    –How do you keep a moron in suspense?

    –I don’t know; how DO you keep a moron in suspense?

    –I’ll tell you tomorrow.

    …and yet, I’m subscribing to the feed…so obviously you’re right on the money about that one.

  17. That’s not fair. I was getting really excited then too.

    I suppose you do it with series posts, upcoming competitions – anything that will make readers come back.

    Maybe I’ll give away free beer on my blog tomorrow!

  18. I agree onehundred percent about building anticipation. I am new to blogging myself but this post made me think of the old show right before commercial break when they say, “Don’t touch that dial! We’ll be right back so you can see what happens next.”

    My goal is to build that type of anticipation in my blog and then totally deliver.

    Great post.
    Rob West

  19. Making an off topic post in a new blog with a couple hundred subscribers can make us lose many subscribers as they get the impression of the future of the blog to be a crap one.
    Thanks for the tips :)

  20. Pjammez says: 02/06/2008 at 3:24 pm

    That was a brilliant blog. So brilliant, in fact, that I went to Digg it, but then realised I have to sign up to Digg and I cbf so bl.

  21. Good suggestions Darren, and I’m impressed with some other readers’ responses :)

  22. Great Post Darren!

    I for one am moving on to the 3rd part of my 5 part mini series on how to make money in the world of Video Games. I know the whole make money online thing has been done but let’s have fun with it now, shall we?

  23. Hmm. I’m debating with myself over whether I’ve implicitly followed your advice or not.

    1. The Case that I Haven’t: My posts are long and difficult and boring. The ones on news can’t be followed up on because they’re op-eds dashed off as soon as a a major story breaks, and my blog doesn’t follow any one particular story long enough. The ones on older books are meant to give the blog lasting value, but do so at the expense of the future. I still feel my best posts are early on, and I promote with that in mind.

    2. The Case that I Have: What does it take to make something important, not just useful?

  24. Hi,

    I think you are quite correct with this. It is a very good way of increasing number of subscribers. Thank you very much for your information. I really appreciate it.

  25. Darren, without a doubt, I would agree with you when it comes to building readership to a “tech” or “make money online blog”, but…(there is always a BUT right…LOL) I have a pretty successful little blog in a small but competitive sports niche with just over 19,000 unique visitors every month, and to date 3,070 subscribers to a free report via email.

    We only have just under 60 feed subscribers? Now maybe it has a lot to do with site design and the prominence of a “subscribe to this feed” icon (we have just paid over 2.5 K for a site redesign and this will go live in a few weeks), but the question remains “Do sports enthusiasts, subscribe to, or are even interested in subscribing to a feed?” What are the statistics of subscribers to rss feeds to sports blogs as opposed to tech oriented or make money online blogs?

    I read an interesting post the other day (can’t remember who blogged it), about how sports oriented blogs can increase readership via email, rather than rss, as sports enthusiasts are not “as” tech savvy?

    Is this the case?

    I use iContact for my email marketing, and most of the email subscribers we have accumulated via facebook ads and adwords to subscribe to a free 10 week report that we provide.

    Now, as a test, I used to send out 1 post from my blog every week, plus a weekly newsletter…Test everything right. We used to drive many sales (we offer a paid e-book also) by doing this.

    Since then I cut down on this kind of promotion as I lost too many subscribers because of this, but am willing to try again as sales have been down over January compared to December.

    So, the question remains, would a sports oriented blog benefit from collecting email adresses and them adding them to your rss feed (if your email provider allows this), and “officially” count these subscribers as rss subscribers?

    Or, should rss be counted as just people who click on the subscribe to this feed icon on your website?

    Any other sports bloggers out there thinking along the same lines?

    Probably out of the scope of this post, but still relevant don’t you think?

  26. I instigated a Saturday QuickTip (SQT) slot on my sciencetext.com site and figured that it would be a nice tease to finish each one with a hint as to what the next week’s quick tip will be. It takes discipline to always be a week ahead of myself, but I’m hoping it will create the kind of anticipation you talk about here. By the way, my next SQT is all about using an Air Voice Recorder so you never forget an idea ever again ;-)


  27. @john

    Email subscribers are actually a much better indicator of real engagement than RSS is (see the link under my name and my comment further up the page for more on that).

    In the case of sports sites, generally you are going to have less “computer techy” people visiting, so it’s not surprising that they aren’t big RSS fans.

    Nor do they need to be: if they are getting your newsletter they are completely engaged already.

    There’s far too much emphasis on RSS in this thread. Readers and visitors are what matters, and RSS is just one metric – and it doesn’t do a very good job at that!

  28. Nice article.
    I like your style n i hope i can learn more from you.

  29. I would like to add a point that

    A content divided into different posts and publishing regularly

    may demand an observation from a visitor and hence subscription.

  30. This is a great tip,. Darren. I’m looking forward to hearing more of your thought on creating anticipation. (You’ve obviously done this very effectively.)

    I’ve recently had a boost in subscribers, and there are two things I did. I began a weekly feature, called Friday’s Frugal Feast, sharing frugal recipes for families. At the end of each post, I write, “Don’t miss the next Friday’s Frugal Feast, subscribe today.” I get a lot of SE hits for recipes, too.

    I also recently started doing reviews and giveaways. I always give subscribers an extra entry, in addition to their comment, so it behooves them to subscribe.

    Anyway, just a few of my ideas. I can’t wait to hear yours.

  31. Hmmm… I suspect anticipation is indeed an important ingredient in increasing blog subscribers. But I wouldn’t say it’s the secret. After all, no one is going to subscribe to a blog in anticipation of a series of crap content.

    I’d say anticipation in combination with regular quality content would be a winner (which obviously Darren in managing to do quite well).

  32. have u guys run a survey on this as to how many of these readers do actually read blogs being forwarded to their email addy’s for a fact that most of these people are so bussy?..

    worst, it’ll just clog their mailboxes..

    this has been my question over and over agin.. “if there’s a high rate of people reading blog’s thru feeds”..

    I’m really convince or it’s just aesthetic tool for all blogs.. ;)

  33. That was a great post Darren, its seems many are a lost when it comes to getting subscribers, so I’d like to add a little secret sauce that might help out the readership as well.

    Increasing your subscribers and getting targeted visitors to your site or blog is all about providing value to your niche.

    When you provide rock solid content in actionable steps that helps your prospect come closer to solving their problem without trying to sell them something, you’ll experience faster growth in your readership.

    Instead of writing general content about your niche, write targeted content and put it in a place where there are thousands of eyeballs a day that will see it.

    Many readers want to know about something specific and will want to continue see what you have to offer, so just focus on a particular problem and write just about that.

    what happens here is the internet is growing exponentially so your niche is only going to expand, so if you can get your targeted content online now every day a new prospect will come online searching for specific information about their problem and you have a solution for it.

    Personally you want to create a great deal of content thats specifically targeted to your niche and then give away a series of special reports to entice your prospect to join your mailing list.

    Then after you’ve done that simply show them step by step through a follow up sequence how to create and giveaway their own reports if they want to build some type of following themselves and tell them were to give the report away so they can turn around and build their list as well.

    Or if they’re not into that then simply set up your special reports with a viral element as everyone has at least one or two friends or someone in their circle with the same or similar problems

    When you provide value to your niche, you’ll attract many prospects and they’ll turn themselves into your subscribers without you having to do anything.

    hope that helps ;-)

    Many more strategies and principles for quick list building coming at you in the future

    to everyones continued online success

    Peter Parks
    millionaireondemand dotcom

  34. Excellent post.

    Many people subscribe to an RSS. They are waiting However quality content

  35. Darren,

    I’m new to the blog, but I have to tell you, it’s a definite eye-opener, and while it may sound cheesy, I do enjoy and value your blog as a resource. I’m in the marketing business, working with very large companies, but there’s clearly plenty for me to learn every day. Your blog is now one my top ten list of blogs to read on a daily basis.



  36. Awesome post! I’m extremely new to blogging and I find it serendipitous that in my post today, I told the few readers that I have about an upcoming website that I plan on launching.

    I’ve learned so much just from this post and from all the comments.

    I plan on applying what I’ve learned (and what I’ll learn tomorrow and in your future posts) to my blog and future projects.

    I thank you sincerely.

  37. How to monitor how many people have subsribed to your feed. I am using B2evolution platform

  38. as usuall very simple but powerfull

  39. Hi Darren

    I’ve just converted my static website into a blog using WordPress, and am using your tips on building readership (and other advice), to hopefully lay down the foundations of a successful blog.

    As a professional copywriter of over 10 years’ experience, I really appreciate your focus on providing quality content for readers. That’s why I started my blog – I was getting so many questions from clients about various elements of copywriting, I thought I’d write one post to all of them instead of answering each person individually. In this context, I love the idea of building relationships with readers who I might be able to use my experience to help.

    My attempts at blogging are in their infancy, but I think your model of providing genuine value through high quality content is a good one to aspire to. I’ll be interested to see how my blogging adventure folds out over the next few months and years.

    Thanks for your commitment and keep up the great work.

    Kind regards

    Laurence James
    MD, The Copy Box

  40. This almost seems like common sense, but many people don’t do this as often as they should (myself included). Thanks for adding clarity to this subject! You rock!

  41. I love how you SHOW and not just tell. It’s awesome. As we read, it’s obvious that you’re showing your audience what to do to gain subscribers, rather than just talking about it – great job!

    Create anticipation… got it.

  42. very useful tips, thanks for sharing..
    my blog still have nosubscriber, although it is have pr5… :(

  43. I am actually asking myself this very question, how to get more people to check my blog out and eventually subscribe.

    Right now I am holding a contest, which seems to be really popular right now, and thus I will increase my feed count. Check my contest and vote for me (A Million Readers) if you have some time: http://www.goldsmithjewelry.com/pages/diamond-stud-earring-giveaway.php Thanks!

  44. And why didn’t I think of that. I have been spinning my wheels trying to make more and more content when I need to settle down and start creating works that build anticipation and make people want to come back. Great post Darren; as usual.

  45. Increasing the RSS feed to generate net income? I really am not fan of doing business online. Alot of hypes on this industry. However, it pays for the hosting fee of my sites. But its always healthy to have a real job. Jobs which pays for your food, pay your bills and secure your children’s’ future. Net income is relatively proportion to the effort you put in advertising your site. No one is paid more for less they do. Everyone cannot be rich.Face it.. internet marketing is much more complex than you think. You cannot make money just by placing *googs adcents and other revenue generating affiliates without investing your real money before taking your cut.Internet marketing is an art and not just a direct selling approach to the buying public. No one can get reach here. Ask the boss..

  46. I found your commentary on how to entice people to your blog very interesting. I am new to blogging and looking for information on how to get my blog out to people.

    I am going to try and put into effect what you wrote down.

    Thank you for giving out the information.

  47. Thanks for sharing with us your insights. In addition to what you’ve said, it is important that there is consistency of quality for every post in any given day.

  48. Totally brilliant post. I remember reading your 31 Days to Building a Better Blog.

  49. Superb and masterful. I hope that someday I will be able to accomplish this at my site.

  50. Ria Ludy says: 02/11/2008 at 8:34 am

    Brausch talks alot about getting RSS subscribers vs getting email subscribers and of course based on the business model being used, the argument could go to either one of them.

    Darren is engaged with his RSS subscribers offering solid advice, incentives for reading (example – this post) and uses a business model in which RSS subscribers helps “sell” advertising space. Ok that’s pretty obvious but lots of new bloggers don’t think in those terms yet. I was one of them.

    Blog readers are good, we always want more. First though, determine the business model you want to implement and then decide if RSS subscribers or email subscribers are more beneficial to that model. Then start using Darren’s tactics.

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