“Why do bloggers put so much focus upon growing RSS subscriber numbers to their blog if most of them only ever read your content in Feed Readers and don’t visit your blog?”
This question (or variations of it) hit my inbox 3 times in 24 hours from different people so I thought I’d tackle it as a post instead of individual replies.
Let me start by saying that this problem can be frustrating. You see your RSS subscriber number growing by your actual visitor numbers remain steady – as do your comment numbers. It can actually feel like you’re wasting your time – I remember myself feeling kinda like this guy when I first noticed this happening to me:
Image by Sybren Stüvel
However all is not lost.
There are a number of points that I’d like to make in responding to this question about RSS subscribers not visiting a blog. I hope that they give those facing this problem a little hope, encouragement and also a few ways forward.
1. A subscriber that never visits is better than a one off visitor who never returns
I had one blogger recently tell me that he’d removed the option to subscribe to his blog via RSS from his blog because he didn’t want to ‘give away’ his content. He wanted people who read his content to ‘pay’ him by visiting his blog (and earning him money from his advertising) and he saw RSS subscribers as ‘freeloaders’.
My response to him was that I’d rather have a subscriber who rarely visits my actual blog than a one off visitors who never returns because they have no way of keeping in touch.
While a subscriber might not actually visit your blog they are a powerful connection to have. My reasons for this will hopefully become evident in the points that follow.
2. Every post you put in front of a subscriber is an opportunity to reinforce your brand.
RSS subscribers are opting in to receive your content. When they hit ‘subscribe’ they are putting themselves inside your sphere of influence and are asking you to teach, inspire and communicate with them.
Each time you hit publish on a post and a subscriber sees something that you’ve written you have the potential to deepen the relationship, trust and influence that you have with your subscriber. While this might not have an immediate pay off in terms of advertising revenue – it can have a long term ‘pay off’.
3. RSS subscribers are Influencers
RSS is used by a smallish percentage of the population (around 11% at latest reports).
While the percentage may be smallish – I have a suspicion that they are a reasonably tech savvy and influential bunch of people. I’m guessing here – but I suspect that those who use RSS are also likely to have blogs themselves, they’re more likely to be into social networking, messaging and bookmarking tools.
This makes RSS readers a potentially very influential audience – capable of spreading news of your posts and blog throughout the web very quickly.
4. Making the Mind shift from Traffic to Influence
When I started blogging one of the main indicators that I looked at when measuring the success of my blog was traffic. If I had a day with lots of visitors I was happier than if I did not have anyone visit my blog.
While traffic is still important to me – I’ve noticed lately that I’m checking my visitor stats less than I used to. These days I’m increasingly interested in ‘influence’.
I don’t mind so much if someone reads my content on my blog, in an RSS reader or in some other tool – what matters to me is that people are reading it, that in doing so they interact with me, that they are drawn into some sort of ‘relationship’ or ‘community’ around the content.
My reason for this is that I’m finding that while traffic can be monetized directly – influence is actually a more powerful (and potentially profitable) thing. Let me explain more in my next point.
5. Influence can Lead to Profits
More and more bloggers are discovering that while direct income earners like advertising are great – that there’s also incredible potential for bloggers to earn an income through other more indirect income sources. Making money ‘because’ of a blog rather than directly ‘from’ a blog is possible in may ways including consulting, writing books, running training and workshops, selling products, landing other paid writing gigs, speaking at conferences etc.
The more people that you have some kind of influence with the increased chances of being able to monetize that influence in one of these indirect methods.
A subscriber might not be visiting your blog each day but if you provide great content on a daily basis to them you can bet that the day they decide that they need to hire a consultant on your topic that they’ll come knocking on your door.
6. Other Monetization Models for RSS
Indirect income is not the only possibility for RSS. There is also RSS advertising – this industry is still in its infancy and while isn’t hugely profitable using tools like AdSense I’m hearing bloggers reporting that it’s a growing income source for them.
The other great opportunity for income from RSS subscribers is affiliate programs. This taps into point #5 above – when you have ‘influence’ or trust established with readers an affiliate program can be very profitable.
7. The challenge of drawing subscribers into your blog
Just because someone subscribes to your blog does not mean that they’ll never visit it. In fact RSS subscribers can be among your most regular visitors to your blog if you draw them into actually visiting it.
I won’t go into a lot of techniques for this in this post but using techniques like asking questions, running polls, interlinking posts, writing ‘best of’ lists and more techniques can draw subscribers into visiting your blog on a daily basis.
Read more detailed tips on getting RSS readers visiting your blog.