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Are RSS Subscribers Worthwhile if they Don’t Visit Your Blog?

Posted By Darren Rowse 14th of November 2008 Blog Promotion, Featured Posts, RSS 0 Comments

“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:

RSS-Readers-frustrated.pngImage 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.

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. The traffic/influence distinction you raise implies that RSS subscribers are better for gaining the latter.

    I’ll never sneeze at subscribers. In fact, I really would like a ton more. But if you want “buzz” even of a small scale sort, well, it looks like “buzz” is a traffic-driven phenomenon, unless some high profile bloggers subscribe to your feed.

    For a blogger starting out, it seems “buzz” is more than useful – it’s pretty much necessary. You need a knockout post or two that everyone reads. “Influence” in this case mainly means getting lots of diverse traffic to that post.

    I guess what I’m saying is that the game changes at different stages in a blog’s life cycle. One thing worth addressing is whether a blog produces content more suitable for social media or RSS – those list posts, for me, get pretty annoying to have in one’s reader over and over again, even though they do generate buzz.

  2. Excellent post. Even thought I’m a newbie, this question crosses my mind since day one. Thank you for taking the time to clarify and provide your insight on this topic.

    I totally agree that influence is way much better.

  3. RSS subscriptions are indicative of the quality of your blog. If a person likes your blog enough to take the extra step to subscribe, it means they enjoy what you have to say, and they want more of it. RSS does help to build your brand. In addition, it is possible to run campaigns on your RSS as well. Thanks for sharing your views on this topic.

  4. Well, it seems to be that the ultimate point is conversion and whether they visit my blog or not doesn’t really matter but the percentage of converting these visitors into sale really matters.

  5. Really interesting article. My RSS subscriber has been slowly growing and I get really excited to think my fan base is growing. I am trying to build traffic and I thought a contest would do the trick but I’ve just gotten a trickle of responders. Is it better to have people email me to win or leave comments? I thought comments but maybe its better to leave readers wondering how many people are entering….

  6. I have more direct influence over my Twitter Followers and email subscribers than RSS readers, but it is through RSS that most linking takes place: RSS readers decide to post on their own blog and link back to me.

    RSS subscribers are very, very worthwhile. They are the lifeblood of blog traffic and activity!

  7. Rosemary Slosek says: 11/14/2008 at 7:57 am

    I read hundreds of feeds. I also disseminate hundreds of posts to a wide range of people. If I can’t read the full feed in my feed reader, then I don’t read your blog. Your loss, not mine. It’s not practical to read each feed in the blog.

  8. Excellent post, I definitely agree that RSS is what i look for in a blog now rather than alexa or pagerank or anything else.

  9. I switched from using a “blogroll” to make visits to blogs to subscribing in Google Reader. I can tell you, I read and visit more blogs more often because RSS is a much more efficient use of my time. I click through to leave comments and for blogs with Entrecard (I know, totally different topic).

    So, the best way to turn RSS readers into visits is to write content that makes me NEED to comment.

  10. i know with my main blog i have a really nice subscriber count, and it does keep growing… my traffic… has doubled in the last few months, but it’s not as steady as the rss.

    that said, i know personally, if you don’t have an rss, i won’t read your blog. nothing personal, i’m just too lazy to remember where you were.

  11. I’m an RSS reader and I’ve just clicked on the title of the post to comment here. So yeah, RSS does lead to me to come back to the actual website.

    Also, Darren here has mentioned the use of mailing lists, and the idea of keeping that audience and build trust before you actually try to sell anything. I think this is the same idea.

  12. Wow, lots of comments on this post. I’m a reader via e-mail and I don’t come over often. BUT, I do read each and every article of yours, and I have your book which I read twice. I don’t leave comments on your blog because I’m all about rubberstamping and don’t feel I fit in your league, but please know you have taught me a lot, and my numbers keep rising from the tips and tricks I learn from you. Thanks for all your hard work. I really appreciate all your posts.

  13. Spot on Darren! I use to concern with the way AdSense giving me cents and focusing on how to get more search engine traffic.

    The focus has been shifted a bit now towards my readers and my “influence”.

    I guess another good point to make, is that having a good number of RSS readers (and show it on your blog) attract private advertisers

  14. RSS Subscribers are far from useless. If someone is subscribed to your RSS feed it means that they really enjoy your content and do not want to miss it. Furthermore, someone subscribed to RSS will still visit the blog in order to participate in comments, look at design changes, or participate in polls. A visitor is anyone on the internet who happens to find your site. A subscriber is a truly engaged reader.

  15. I believe your friend should have enabled a post summary only RSS feed. You can yourself enable it for your readers to check out any valuable posts by coming to your blog, now that your brand is sufficiently established.

  16. I hardly ever read an actual post in my rss reader 1) because I don’t like the formatting of my rss reader. I prefer to visit the blog and have a change of design and 2) because you can’t leave a comment from within an rss reader.

    It’s seems strange to me that most people don’t click through but since that is the case. Great post I must say.

  17. I haven’t begun to work on my RSS feeds. This is a good kick in the butt to get moving on this.

  18. Want to get more visits from your RSS subscribers? Easy, compel or entice them to comment! Either write comment-worthy material, or use comments as incentive for something else (eg competitions, the chance to be included in a list in a later post, etc).

  19. Great article Darren.. But the thing I dont like about rss subscriptions is that in terms of blog contests. Most people do subscribe and unsubscribe right after the contest which I find very silly…

  20. Lenin, I understand the concept behind summary only RSS feeds, but I really do not like them. They seem to completely erase the point of RSS feeds. I subscribe to a blog because I really enjoy the content there, don’t ruin a great technology and make me click a link just to read your work. Does it really matter if the reader readers in in NNW, NF, or Google Reader as opposed to on your page? They are still engaging in your content

  21. This is a very nice post Darren.. I am one of your thousand subscribers.. I just visit your site once a month.. and just read your post via feeds.. but when I read this great post from my yahoo rss feed account.. I cant stop my self to read your post directly from your site and to place my comment too.

  22. I must admit that this same question has crossed my mind, but I knew that having both would be beneficial so I never questioned it.

    As far as the type of customer I am – I prefer email hands down. Even though I am swamped with them, I HAVE to read them for personal, business, shopping etc. I don’t have to go through my RSS subscriptions. That is something I must remember to do.

    I think it’s important to offer both options, and hopefully the reader picks the option that they really use.

  23. The more you can spread your influence the better as far as I’m concerned. It’s just another part of the jigsaw of blogging, for me it fits in with the rest of my strategy. I agree over the long term RSS subscribers will bring benefit in many ways by spreading the word. I don’t use Google, but I do put the occasional affiliate link in.

    I think another great benefit of RSS is the open syndication where other blog or website owners can use feeds for their visitors.

  24. Hello! Sir, this is sony, I have a blog on blogspot which have a Page Rank 2 and 1800 back links. I have recently build a site on wordpress and exported all my blogspot posts to wordpress installed site and I have submitted my wp site to google and got indexed.

    But my problem is that my blogspot blog hits 1500 to 2000 views every day and most of the traffic to this blogspot blog is from search engine. Now I have no traffic from search engine to my blogspot. This is my problem. I don’t what are the reasons for this. I think google thinking that I have copied all the content from wp to my blogspot. If it is the case what should I do to rectify my problem sir.

    Please help me.

    Yours Truly

    Thank you.

  25. I think it’s important to realise that RSS subscribers are the real followers of a blog. A person who just flits in and out of a blog may never come back. If I see something interesting in my feed reader I’ll go to the blog to have a look and see what else is on there – I like to read older posts and look at comments, and do that quite regularly with all of the blogs I subscribe to.

    I tend to read RSS feed items more thoroughly than I do email newsletters, which I just skim and delete. I also find myself commenting more on posts from feeds than I have ever done when I’ve actually been visiting sites (I think that might just be me being strange, though). I also agree that RSS subscribers can be key to growing your blog readership. I certainly promote those I subscribe to on my own blog, in comments, etc.

    I would be more than happy to have people subscribing to my blog via RSS and stopping by now and again, rather than high, one-off traffic.

  26. Sony this is the problem with having a blog hosted with sources you don’t have control on. If it was a blog where you had control of servers you could have used *permanent redirect* and got rid of the problem.

    However the best advice now is that you continue to concentrate on the blog that’s giving you most traffic.

    Dilip Shaw

  27. i can’t get u. Sir i have deleted all the exported posts and submitted sitemap for the both blogs now, is it ok? Or is there any other solution?

  28. Chris F says: 11/14/2008 at 8:33 pm

    I might be some kind of RSS mutant, but whenever I see an interesting-looking article in my reader, I click through to the website to read it.

  29. I run a commenting competition on my blog where you can win $150 just by commenting on my blog. This way my RSS subscribers need to actually visit my blog and comment so they can have a chance of winning the grande prize.
    But I like the fact that even though they may never read your blog directly you can still sell to them through affiliate links and you can make money from people who never ever visit your website. My subscriber count just hit the 300 mark and I am super excited to continue to increase it even if some of them don’t come back to my blog all the time

  30. Christian Menniss says: 11/15/2008 at 12:09 am


    Does the number of RSS subscribers have any impact on SEO? I’m sure as Google owns Feedburner they know how many people have subscribed to your blog perhaps giving you extra ‘points’ in the SERPS.

  31. I subscribe to over 100 different feeds and use feedreaders to montior what content my favourite sites are publishing. However if I do see a post I’d like to read in full I always click though to view the hosts website. Giving people the option to view your content in as many ways as possible and ‘reminding them you exist’ through feed readers will always lead to visits in my experience.

  32. to me, subscriber is the support tools to encourage me to post more, blog without subscriber will be meaningless even though you have lots of good post inside

  33. Comment also posted on Social Median, which brings up a whole other section of this sort of argument on types of readers.

    This article does a good job of pointing out why RSS subscribers are good. Especially in point 4. There are a couple of types of bloggers at work here. Bloggers who hope to make money from their blog 9generally through advertising) and those who just want to push conetnet and influence).

    You can actually be bot of these at the same time.

    Anyway, I prefer to push people to subscribe to my blogs on RSS. I have a few ads I’ve never made money off of but I’m also not interested in making money off of my blog. I’d rather have every visitor continue to receive my content through my RSS feeds than try to coax them into returning for a later visit.

  34. I really enjoyed reading the sections about “influence” in relation to blogs. It really made some of my problems much clearer now, thanks for posting Darren.

  35. I believe you’re right: anyway RSS sbubscribers, “silent”or not, are the best way to promeote your blog. Also if I have a personal (photo)blog from few time, I discovered that RSS is one of the main sources of traffic. Maybe that who subscribe is really intrigued by my images that they won’t loose anything, and RSS is the best way to stay informed.

  36. It’s interesting.

    Quantcast.com tell me that some about 150,000 folks visit me monthly and that about 10% are “regulars” – that’s 15,000 people if their figures can be trusted (and maybe not – I’ve only had them measuring about a week now).

    But RSS subscribers? It varies, but it’s never hit 1,000.

    So even if Quantcast is off a bit – say the regulars are only 5%, not 10% – a LOT of people don’t use RSS.

  37. Darren, what more can I say than what each of these fine people have said. This is a great post, and thank you very much for sharing your thoughts.

    Warmest Regards,
    Ken Stewart | ChangeForge.com

  38. Rss just a bait for them to read and commented at our blog. We may lose reader,if it’s interesting,reader still visit our blog and response with it.

  39. Great post, Darren. I, for one, am always excited to log on and find my subscriber count has grown. I find that most people not only read my feeds, but it’s a reminder for them to visit also.

  40. I don’t have this problem. I’ve got visitors but no RSS readers.

  41. I’ve subscribed to your blog by email for quite some time. Most times I at least open the email I receive to see what you have to say. If I feel my own two cents needs to be added I’ll pop on over and leave a comment.

    In my point of view, the way to get readers to your blog is write something they’ll want to comment on.

    Traffic and readers are equally important in my eyes. People don’t discover you without traffic and most of the time they probably won’t come back without subscribing to your feed.

  42. Wow – what an interesting topic which brought some terrific comments and points of view.

    From my perspective, I am more concerned about readers accessing my blog content for any useful information they may find, regardless of the venue they choose. I tend to place less emphasis on traffic and more on influence because I am looking at the long-term goal of my blog (establishing credibility in my field and gaining loyal followers) versus short term – direct results.

    I am a RSS subscriber to many feeds. It is here, that I often get content ideas for my own blog and stay on top of what other bloggers are writing about in my areas of interest. Rarely do I just read the feeds without visiting some of the blogs that post really interesting articles.

    I believe RSS feeds can lead to ultimate traffic. I became aware of your blog via RSS feed and now I am hooked. Your site is on my blogroll and I visit regularly because you consistently provide valuable content.

    Thanks so much for all that you share with us fellow bloggers!!

  43. Good Blog Post, and it’s very good to get Hits aswell as readers, but its a 50/50 opinion to be fair.

  44. We consider our blog as promoting the brand or solution.
    Whatever channel is used by the reader:
    – the blog itself
    – reading on rss
    – reading on a blog aggregation website
    – a micro blog site
    The display of our content linked with the brandname of the solution works like advertising.

    Search engines show the link to the blog post on specific matters.

    Thus whatever channel we can use to distribute our blog content, the more we can brand our solution.

    If a blog post gets bookmarked, the number of visitors gets multiplied by 10 during one day.

  45. Darren, as usual thanks for the great tips!

  46. great post. Thanks for sharing. But most my visitors are frm social book marking,

  47. Honestly I thought it would be common sense.
    Many people don’t want to visit 247 sites a day, so they take RSS feeds. Unless you are one of their top few favorite blogs, they wouldn’t be reading your content at all without a feed. That feed provides an (almost) permanent connection with that reader – ensuring that at one point they may return.
    Besides, if you ever, even once in a while do a product review or something of the sort, and include affiliate links in your blog, that link will transfer to the RSS feed, which could turn into profit. I don’t understand why anybody would devalue the use of a subscriber enough to remove the ability to do so, lol.

  48. There is a option in many blog service providers where only a certain portion is available via feeds like only first 50 characters. If post looks good, visitors click on titles to land on actual post.

  49. I think the reason I subscribe to blogs both by e-mail and RSS is to be able to find them again. Before Twitter, I just ran into blogs from other blogs. If I liked them, I wanted to know that I could find them again.

    Whether it comes in by e-mail or RSS, I am likely to go to the actual blog page, either to leave a comment or to read other people’s comments.

    Thank you problogger for all you do to educate us, not only in this blog but in Twitips!

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