FeedBurner can be used to track the number of RSS feed subscribers you have and how many of those subscribers are actively engaged with your feed. Setting up FeedBurner is quite simple, although you will need to register for an account at http://feedburner.google.com. If you already have an account at the old Feedburner.com site, you can move the feeds to your Google account when you sign in.
Time for action – let's burn some feeds
- Download the Feedburner FeedSmith plugin from http://feedburner.google.com/fb/static/feedburner_feedsmith_plugin_2.3.zip .
- Upload the plugin's PHP file to /wp-content/plugins.
- Activate the plugin for yourself, then for all other users.
- Log in to Feedburner.google.com and add your site's feed to your FeedBurner account by entering the URL into the Burn a feed right this instant box.
- In most cases the default title and address should be fine; you may want to change the address if yours is too cumbersome. For Slayercafe.com, FeedBurner picked http://feeds2.feedburner.com/TheSlayerCafe, which is nice and easy to remember.
- On the next screen, tick the box to allow FeedBurner to track Clickthroughs and Reach.
- Go to the Publicize tab and activate the FeedCount feature.
- On your main blog, go to the Settings | FeedBurner screen and paste the URL you created in step 5 into the FeedBurner box.
- Install the FeedBurner Widget available at http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/feedburner-widget/.
- On the Appearance | Widgets page, add the widget just above the normal RSS feed, and set it up like shown in the following screenshot. You should now have two subscription options on your front page.
- Once your site starts getting subscribers, you should see some useful statistics on the FeedBurner Analyze page.
What's my feed URL?
If you aren't sure what your feed's URL is, check out the following list:
- RSS 2.0: http://www.mydomain.tld/feed/
- RSS 2.0: http://www.mydomain.tld/feed/rss2/
- RSS 0.92: http://www.mydomain.tld/feed/rss
- RDF/RSS 1.0: http://www.mydomain.tld/feed/rdf
- Atom: http://www.mydomain.tld/feed/atom
All of the above feed types are offered by WordPress MU. The RSS 2.0 feed will be the one that is most frequently asked for by directories and aggregators; however, it is useful to know the address of the other feeds in case a site requests them.
What just happened?
We have just set up two different ways for people to subscribe to the main blog, and we have offered our blog network's users the chance to do the same with their blogs. Our users will need to create their own FeedBurner accounts, but the rest of the work has been done for them—they just need to add the right widgets to their page.
Offering two different ways to subscribe may seem strange, especially when you consider that the count shown by FeedBurner is inaccurate because it doesn't track people who subscribed using the direct link.
The reason I have chosen to do it this way is because FeedBurner offers some useful statistics, such as how many people clicked through and which readers they are using, about the users that have subscribed via its feeds. If you find that you have a huge number of subscribers but they are never clicking on articles, then perhaps your headlines aren't enticing enough. FeedBurner also tracks Uncommon Uses—for example, someone scraping your feed to use as free content for a spam blog.
If FeedBurner is so useful, then why offer an alternative? Well, not all RSS readers can understand FeedBurner feeds. This is especially true if your site expects a lot of visitors from people using older mobile devices. Offering a plain old RSS feed option is a good idea; otherwise, you will lose those subscribers entirely.
Remember that if FeedBurner ever goes down, your FeedBurner subscribers will not be able to read your RSS feed. In my experience as a subscriber, FeedBurner is a reliable service; as you would expect because the service is now owned by Google, and I feel that the usefulness of the statistics it offers outweighs the risk of downtime. You may feel differently about using a third-party service to manage your feeds. If you cannot afford any downtime, then perhaps serving your feeds directly is a better option.
Have a go hero – offering more RSS options
If you think that the Add to Any butt on is too intrusive, or if you want to offer subscribe links in more than one place (for example, as a widget in the sidebar and also as a link at the bottom of a post), then you can use the following text link code to add the different kinds of feed links.
<?php bloginfo('rss2_url'); ?>
<?php bloginfo('rss_url'); ?>
<?php bloginfo('rdf_url'); ?>
<?php bloginfo('atom_url'); ?>
<?php bloginfo('comments_rss2_url'); ?>
RSS Feed For Comments
You can use the code presented in this table anywhere you would like to have the RSS icons appear. Personally, I like to display the RSS icons in a prominent position in the right sidebar by editing r_sidebar.php.
Twitter and social bookmarking
People love to share information about cool sites they have found and interesting posts they have read. Taking advantage of this is a great way to bring in extra traffic. If you make it easy for visitors to your blog network to share the things they see and easy for your bloggers to promote the things they are doing, then you should get a decent amount of "free" promotion—assuming the content on your site is worthwhile, of course.
Twitter is a microblogging service that is enjoying a huge amount of success at the moment. It allows you to share the answer to the question "what are you doing?", as long as your answer is 140 characters or less! If you aren't already a member of Twitter, why not join? It's free to make an account on www.twitter.com, and even the busiest people in the world should have time to share the occasional 140 character message!
One common answer to that question is "posting a new blog entry" with a convenient link so that others can read it.
The Twitter Tools plugin allows you to send Tweets (the name for a message on Twitter) from your blog and will also post a Tweet every time you make a new blog post. The plugin will be very popular with users of your blog network who have a Twitter account. The plugin is available at http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/twitter-tools/.
Getting your readers to share posts
Social bookmarking sites such as Digg, Reddit, Furl, and Del.icio.us, can be good sources of traffic if your bloggers write about topics within the niches covered by those sites.
Submitting to those sites can be time consuming, but you can make it easier for readers to submit posts they like by showing them a simple "Submit" butt on at the bottom of each post.
Time for action – social bookmarking links
- Download the social bookmarking script from http://lesleyharrison.wordpress.org.
- Upload the /images/ folder to the root of your web site.
- Upload the social-bookmarking.js file to the root of your site.
- Open the index.php file of the theme you are using on the main blog and look for the line that says:
<p><?php _e('Sorry, no posts matched your criteria.');?></p><?php endif; ?><br />
- Add the following code after this line:
<style="text-align: center;"><script src="http://www.slayercafe.
- Do the same for any themes that are likely to be used by your users.
- When you view a post, you should see some bookmarking buttons at the bottom.
What just happened?
If you don't like the services that are listed, you can remove them by looking for the line that references them—for example, to remove Segnalo just delete the line that says the following:
add_tool('segnalo', 'Segnalo', 'http://segnalo.com/post.html.php?url='
+ url + '&title=' + title);
To add a new bookmarking tool, you will need to find out the URL format that it uses for submissions and then add a line to the script that reads as follows:
add_tool('SITENAME', 'SITENAME', 'http://SITEURL/SUBMISSIONURL.
php?url=' + url + '&title=' + title);
Then, create an image in the /images/folder called SITENAME.png.
Have a go hero – Digg this
If you are running a site such as a technology, gaming, or programming-related blog network that would attract Digg readers, then you could add a Digg button to each new post that shows the number of "Diggs" the post has had and allows the reader to submit the post to Digg.com if it has not already been submitted.
Here is the code for such a button:
<script src="http://digg.com/tools/diggthis.js" type="text/
You don't have to limit yourself to Digg; there is a huge range of social bookmarking sites to choose from. Not all of those sites will suit your niche, but the ones that do could be a great source of traffic
For some inspiration, refer to the list of popular social bookmarking web sites available at http://www.searchenginejournal.com/125-social-bookmarking-sitesimportance-of-user-generated-tags-votes-and-links/6066/.
More about traffic building
The above are just a few useful traffic-building tools. There are many other ways you can increase your traffic and track your visitors' statistics. One thing you should look at is Google Analytics, (http://analytics.google.com), which is a free and very detailed traffic statistics application that lets you see where visitors are coming from, how long they stay on your site, and what they do while they are there.Google also offers a number of other helpful webmaster tools, including ones that will flag errors on your site and help you diagnose problems that may be affecting your search engine ranking.
This article touched on some ways you can increase traffic to your blog
We learned how to use pings to send updates to blog aggregators so that they know that there is new content on your site. We also learned how to use the trackback feature so that bloggers can have a dialogue with each other and can carry out a discussion via blog posts and comments.
We learned about tagging—allowing users to tag their posts, making it easier to find posts about a certain topic at a later date. We looked at the benefits of RSS feeds, both for allowing content syndication and for letting users subscribe to individual blogs so that they know when new posts have been made.
Social bookmarking sites were discussed as well. We learned how to add a Bookmark This button to our blog posts, which should encourage our readers to share the post with their friends and fellow social bookmarking site users.
We also looked tracking statistics about the usage your RSS feeds, along with sending updates to Twitter by offering a sitewide tags page so that visitors can get an overview of what the community as a whole is talking about.
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