RSS has become an increasingly important way of engaging with blog readers over the last couple of years – but in more recent times with its integration into web browsers and operating systems it’s potential power for bloggers to engage readers has increased.
However – if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably not put a lot of thought into thinking strategically about how to engage with readers through feeds. Most of us simply know we have a feed, ensure we have a link or button to let readers know we’ve got one and hope that people subscribe.
But is there a way to engage readers more effectively through RSS?
While many tips have been written on how to write blog posts, I’ve not seen any that focus upon feed readers.
The Problem of Clutter
I have around 700 feeds that I attempt to follow each week. Some of them only post once or twice a week but some can have up to 100 posts. You can imagine the massive quantities of information that many heavy RSS readers are confronted with in their news aggregators.
How can bloggers break through this clutter and make their RSS feeds get noticed? How do you make your feed ‘Pop’?
How to Make Your RSS Feeds POP!
This week I’ll be presenting a series of short posts on writing for RSS readers. As always – my invitation to you is to join in with the tips. Like everyone – I’m still making sense of new technologies and how to use them most effectively – I’m looking forward to learning from you also.
Stay tuned for the next post in this series.
PS: it should be said up front that some of the tips for improving RSS feeds that I’ll share in the coming days also have the potential to improve the blog posts that actually appear on your blog. Consider that a double bonus for the series!
The Series so Far
- Using Images and Video
- Scannable Content
- Titles with Bling
- Opening Lines
- Avoid Clutter
- How to Get More Subscribers to Your RSS Feed
- 10 Sure-Fire Ways to Get RSS Readers Visiting Your Blog
Bonus Post: 34 Reasons why Readers Unsubscribe from Your Blog
Is the first tip to make a post about upcoming posts without any real information in it?
I am looking forward to this. I admit I do not understand much about what can be done with feeds or even how to make sure they are working right.
As a voracious consumer of RSS feeds, I’ll say that anything with a full text feed goes right to the top of the list. I often queue up my feeds and read them when offline (on the train ride) so if I can’t get the whole story, you’re going onto the “check back later” pile which I might not get to for days. This applies to multi-page articles as well. Does anybody like those? I want the whole story in one shot. If it’s too big to read in one sitting I’ll print it.
Show me the comments people are making on your article, and give me an easy way to comment (which implies clicking back to your main site). I want to chime in as well – but I want to see what people are saying, first. I don’t want to click back just to discover 200 comments (mine will be lost in the flood), or comments saying the exact same thing I was going to say (why bother saying it again).
Have a link to your original post! It’s amazing to me how many pages forget this. If all I get is the content of your story and no link back to your site, there’s no way that I can bookmark you, or email you to my friends, or any of those other cool things I want to do. It is not a guarantee that the feed reader provides a link back to the site (and if it does, it might only link back to the main site and not to the exact article I’m reading).
Yes, those “Headlines that work” stories….well, work. I’m a sucker for lists, for “top tips”, “biggest mistakes”…all that sort of thing. What can I say?
Two things that I can’t stand — too many exclamation points (“Greatest video ever! Must click here now!!”) and headlines that seem like they’re hiding the content in an effort to force me to click (“Wait’ll you see! Click here! It’s the greatest thing ever!!”) If you have to trick me into clicking, I don’t want to play. Give me enough compelling content so that I’ll read it all and then click through in the hope that there is more.
Duane, great observations. The RSS feedr I use (esprsso.net) offers a great community aspect that allows for commenting, etc.
Looking forward to seeing the thoughts re: popping RSS feeds. I’m still trying to fix my feeds in my wordpress template, to be honest … oh, the to do list!!
you gotta have pictures in your feed!
As a long time reader (and 2 week blogger – earned 14c already ;) I firstly wanted to say thanks for the never ending brilliant advice, it is very much appreciated. (Now to wipe the lipstick off)
I started a blog a couple of weeks ago on my area of expertise, geo-referenced panoramic virtual tours. What I thought would be a days work to set up the blog etc has taken weeks on and off as I’m doing stuff I’ve not seen anyone else do. Anyways to the point…
I have flash virtual tours, and google maps in the actual posts which of course the RSS readers generally strip out (which is a shame) so I spent quite a while trying to work out how to get the interesting parts of my posts into the RSS feeds, and keep the blog looking OK at the same time.
Upshot is I included an image at the bottom of the post which appears in the RSS and doesn’t hurt the look of the post too much. The images contain the text links to the FullScreen virtual tours, which is what the site is all about.
So the RSS feeds now look ok (still a bit clunky), and give the reader a reason to either click the FullScreen virtual tour links, or goto the blog.
Only a few more problems to solve and then I’ll be happy with it.
Brian – LOL – actually I think this post was more about setting the scene for what is to come and showing some of the need to think about your RSS feed rather than just let it take care of itself (ie the problem of clutter).
Sorry if you didn’t find it useful but perhaps you’re ahead of the rest of us and don’t quite need the the intro :-)
Duane – some great points there. Thanks for your thoughts. Looking forward to hearing more of them as we go.
[…] This is the second post in a series on How to make your RSS Feeds POP […]
[…] Use Images to Engage Readers Via RSS Posted on February 5th, 2007 by admin blog publishing Blogging Tips rssDarren Rowse writes a great article entitled How to Make Your RSS Feeds POP!. In the article he talks about the increasing number of people that use RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, to keep up with their favorite reads. He talks about why images in your feeds can be a benefit: Images draw the eye, they pique interested, they grab attention and they have the potential to make what can otherwise be a dry and text filled environment (news readers) a more visually pleasing and sensual space. […]
I’ve got about 2 dozen feeds in my google homepage (google.com/ig) and don’t have a need to move to a dedicated feed reader yet (google reader, thunderbird, etc.). That said, I don’t have more then 3 articles from each feed displayed. I do check the page often, it’s my homepage at home and work), but the links I’m most likely to click have catchy titles.
There is something to be said for the lost art of writing a good title for a blog post or article. One can “church up” just about anything with fancy graphics, pretty icons and neat web 2.0 crap, but if the headline doesn’t catch my eye, I’m probably not reading it.
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In my opinion, I think that putting the image as the very first item that you see on the post would get the most bang for your buck.
I noticed that when I am reading posts, I prefer to read ones that show the image on the top left side. This engages me to see what this post is about.
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We can all do with some help in getting more exposure with RSS, at least me anyway.