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Burn your feed and distribute it widely

by on March 9, 2010
Last updated on
Lets be honest; when we write blog articles we do so because we want people to read them. And not just a few people, we want as many readers as possible. The challenge in today's online content realm is that you can't rely on your audience always coming to you, there are simply too many other things fighting for your viewers' attention. So instead of being reliant on your visitors coming to you, you need to incorporate strategies that push your content to your audience and, if they're interested, deliver your content to them whenever you publish.



Feedburner to the rescue!

FeedBurner is another one of those incredible services provided by Google (ok, they bought the original company, but they've made great improvements). FeedBurner does more than just clean up your RSS feed* and give you statistics on your readers; FeedBurner enables you to easily distribute your content via affiliate sites, email, Web 2.0 services, twitter... and in combination with other services such as Ping.fm, you can also announce new articles to Facebook, MySpace, and many more. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. In this article we'll be helping you to get started in FeedBurner, configuring your account, and using FeedBurner to drive new traffic to your site while capitalizing on the traffic that reaches your site.

Getting started

Getting started with Feedburner is easy; simply head over to http://feedburner.google.com and login using your established Google/Gmail account. The piece of information that you'll need to move forward with Feedburner is the URL of your current feed. By default your Blogger feed URL will look like http://YOURWEBSITEURL/feeds/posts/default or you can grab the URL by looking for a symbol in your layout and grabbing the URL that it links to.


Once you've "burned" your blog's feed you'll be asked to give it a title (to be used for display purposes so give it a proper and complete name), as well as the ability to customize the new feed URL address. Try to keep it short and relevant.


Once your new address has been created you need to go back into your Blogger dashboard; under the "Settings" tab is a navigation item for "Site Feed". In the field entitled "Post Feed Redirect URL" you want to enter the new feed address that you've been assigned by Feedburner. Keep in mind that you want to hit "Next" in Feedburner before changing your feed address in Blogger!

Common configurations for your account

The next screen that Feedburner will present you with is an "unpacking" screen where you can customize the results you want tracked; there is no reason to not check all of the boxes and hit save.

Heading over the the "Optimize" tab, there are three options that you need to focus on: BrowserFriendly, SmartFeed, and FeedFlare.

BrowserFriendly, as the sub-title aptly states, makes subscribing simpler. When a visitor clicks on your feed's icon on your site, they will be taken to a webpage that now displays your RSS feed in a more readable format while providing them with a selection of reader buttons. The idea here is to make it as easy as possible for a visitor to add your feed into whatever feed reader service they are using. 
SmartFeed is a simple service that only requires that you activate it; activating it will enable your feed to be automatically configured and compatible with any feed reader application. We're not sure why they don't do this by default, but it's worth activating if it does what it purports to do. The third option, FeedFlare, gives you the ability to add social media bookmarklets to your feed items, giving your feed subscribers the easy ability to share an item by email, del.icio.us, digg, facebook, etc. You can go as crazy or as conservative as you'd like with these, but we recommend "email this", del.icio.us, digg, facebook, and stumble.

Start spreading the news!

Head over to the "Publicize" tab. The first thing you want to do is click on the PingShot service. While lots of news services and aggregators will automatically check your blog for updates, sometimes it's hard to initially get your blog onto those services. Enable PingShot and don't let those news services miss any of your posts.

Next, go to the Email Subscriptions service. Click on the bottom to "Active" the service. There are four parts to this section: subscription management, communication preferences, email branding, and delivery options. On subscription management will be two methods for incorporating the email subscription functionality into your blog; you can either add subscription into your blog as a form via a widget, or you can add it as a link that will take up less space within your site. If you're using TypePad or Blogger, adding the functionality of either the form or the link to your blog is as simple as selecting the blog software you're using from the dropdown menu and hitting "Go". FeedBurner will then walk you through automatically adding the code to your blog as a widget.

After you've added the email widget to your site, you can customize how the email system will work by going to the sub-navigation items under the Email Subscription item. You can then customize when the emails are sent out, the look-and-feel of the email including adding your logo, and other options regarding your emails.

Recently FeedBurner added the ability to connect your Twitter account to your RSS feed through their service using Socialize. In the past we'd used Twitterfeed and Ping.fm to accomplish similar functionalities, but being able to do this through FeedBurner makes life easier.

Once you've hooked up your Twitter account to FeedBurner, using the "Add a Twitter account" button, FeedBurner will start auto-tweeting new articles that are added to your RSS feed. The system will automatically shorten the URLs to your articles, and using the Socialize page, you can customize the formatting of the tweets. You can set the titles/description format, include hashtags or additional text, and other formatting options.

Lots more to customize

In this article we've only covered the basics and options that we believe you need to configure in order to get started, but FeedBurner has many more features and options that you should definitely explore including Monetizing and more. But in addition to the functionalities that it provides, having a service that cleans up and manages your RSS feed will come in very handy in the future...

Previous article: Blog tip #4: Gain insights into your visitors using Analytics

 

* RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and is a format for easily sharing content that is frequently published and read using a Feed Reader.

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