So you’ve got a blog. Whether it’s a personal site where you blog about your life, a niche blog where you talk about your passion projects, or you’re an entrepreneur blogging about your small business, there are a few things you need to do to help your readers connect with you.
You need to offer your readers several different ways to get your posts, so that no matter how they prefer to read blogs, you’ve got an option that works for them. So many bloggers are out there publishing great content, but they’ve spent zero time thinking about how to actually get that content in front of their readers.
Before we jump in, grab my free checklist! It’ll help you keep track of all the information you need.
SET UP THESE THREE THINGS TODAY.
You should have at least two subscription options available to your readers – an email list and an RSS feed. These aren’t complicated to set up, but so many people skip them. Depending on what you blog about, you probably also want to set up your blog on Bloglovin’.
Public Service Announcement: No one is going to load up your website every day to see if you’ve posted anything new! Not even your mom (Hi Mom, thanks for subscribing to my email list). You need to provide a simple way (actually two or three ways) for them to automatically receive your content when you publish.
I’m going to cover the three (Big! Important!) main ways people can subscribe to your blog.
- Your RSS feed
- Your email list
This stuff is a little dry to talk about, but it’s so important, so stick with me. You cannot afford to skip these things.
CONFIGURE YOUR RSS FEED
All blogging platforms come with an RSS feed, which stands for Really Simple Syndication. That’s a URL that contains a stream of data from your blog that gets automatically updated every time you publish a post. People can take that URL and drop it into their feed reader of choice (I use Feedly) and your posts will be available there for them to read.
Why is this gibberish so important? Not everyone uses feed readers (like, your Mom has probably never heard of one) but voracious blog readers like myself do, and your RSS feed allows us to add your blog to our personal collection of favorite blogs, and read all that content in one place, rather than trying to click through to a million bookmarked sites.
An RSS feed will allow you to do two important things:
- Offer people a way to subscribe in their RSS reader of choice.
- Allow you to use that feed to do different things, like set up your email list (we’ll get to that later).
But I want my readers to visit my site every day!
Oh honey, they just won’t. I know it’s a tempting thought – that if you only provide one option: visiting your blog on your actual website – you’ll get more traffic, but it just doesn’t work that way. You want your content in front of your readers even if that means they’re not actually reading it on your site. You can’t make them work for it. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to read what you have to say, and then provide valuable reasons for them to click through – say, a fantastic new product you’re offering or a free resource you’ve created that they can only download by visiting your website.
So that’s why you want to make your RSS feed easy to find. Let’s talk about how to do it.
You’re going to:
- Figure out your RSS feed’s URL
- Grab your feed URL and save it
- Configure it to publish the full feed
FIGURE OUT YOUR RSS FEED’S URL
If you’re on any of the major blogging platforms (WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr) you have an RSS feed whether you know it or not. It’s usually pretty simple to find – for example, I’m on a self-hosted WordPress blog with my own domain name. If you can’t locate it, just google “<your blogging platform> RSS feed” and you should be able to find something pointing you to the correct address.
GRAB YOUR FEED URL AND SAVE IT
Once you’ve sleuthed out the address of your RSS feed, copy it and save it. We’ll be using it later.
CONFIGURE THE FULL FEED
In your blogging platform (again, such as WordPress, Blogger or Tumblr) find any options they provide to adjust your feed. The main thing you want to look for is an option to post the FULL feed or just an excerpt (sometimes also called a “truncated” feed or a “snippet”). The full feed means that people will receive your ENTIRE post in their feed reader, while the excerpt means they’ll only see the first 400 words or so and then a link to read the full post on your website.
Again, I know it’s tempting to publish just the excerpt to force people to click through to your website, but seriously, that just pisses people off. If you’re a major blogger with a big audience you can maybe get away with that and not lose many readers. If you’re just getting started and your goal is to get and keep your readers I’m telling you don’t do it. People subscribe in a feed reader because they want to read posts there. If they wanted to read your posts on your website, they would just go do that because they know how to internet.
Publish the full feed. Make it easy for people to read what you write. A lot of times when I was “on the fence” about a blog – still deciding if I was into it or not – that truncated RSS feed was the thing that made me unsubscribe.
A note on RSS feed burners: There are services out there that let you create an account, “burn” your feed, and supply you a new address, sometimes with pretty features like your logo or social media links embedded in the feed. Feedburner and Feedblitz are the two most common ones and I used Feedburner for years.
I recommend you don’t use these services. Here’s why. They give you their branded URL to use for your feed – so for example, www.feedburner.com/yourblog. What happens if that service closes up shop? Feedburner was bought by Google years ago and has been completely abandoned ever since. Google is notorious for shutting down its less profitable services (R.I.P. Google Reader) so people have been nervously waiting for Feedburner to bite the dust. Feedblitz is a paid service, but they could likewise close up shop or raise their prices, and then you’re stuck with a bunch of readers subscribed to a defunct or very expensive feed with no way to move them elsewhere.
You want your RSS feed to be linked to your website’s URL.
Those services are tempting because they make it simple to see how many RSS subscribers you have, but there are other ways to do that.
For example, you can subscribe to your own RSS feed in Feedly and see how many other people also subscribe there. I use the Simple Feed Stats plugin for WordPress to configure my feed and keep track of my subscribers.
SET UP YOUR EMAIL LIST
There are a million reasons why you should start building your email list from day one as a blogger – Social media networks come and go (remember MySpace?), people quit Facebook or Twitter, but very few people every abandon their email address. Putting your content directly into someone’s inbox is the best way to connect with them on personal level. You there, yes you! Here’s an email with my fresh new content, just for you!
An email list will allow you to do two important things:
- send new posts from your blog directly to those subscribers, automatically.
- send special, exclusive content just to those people who have been gracious enough to welcome you into their inboxes.
You’re going to:
- Sign up for a free Mailchimp account
- Create a List
- Create an RSS-driven Campaign
- Grab your signup page URL and save it
- Bonus: Make those emails pretty
FIRST, SIGN UP FOR A MAILCHIMP ACCOUNT.
There are plenty of other services out there for building an email list, but I recommend Mailchimp because it’s easy to use, creates attractive emails and it’s free if you send less than 12,000 emails a month and have less than 2,000 subscribers, which covers most of us.
There are two important terms you need to know to work with Mailchimp: Lists and Campaigns. Your List contains all the email addresses of the people who have subscribed. Your Campaign is what you’re sending those people – it can be automatically sending them your blog posts, or it can be sending standalone emails written just for that list. You can do either or both, but what I’m going to cover here is just sending out your blog posts.
CREATE A LIST
After you’ve created your free account, create a new list for your readers to subscribe to. If you have multiple blogs, you can have multiple lists and send different things to each list, but right now lets just worry about setting up one list for blog subscribers.
Mailchimp Tutorial – Create a New List
CREATE AN RSS-DRIVEN CAMPAIGN
Next, we’re going to set up an RSS Driven Campaign. This is going to take that RSS feed URL that we saved earlier, pull in your new posts automatically every time you publish, and send them out to your email list.
Mailchimp Tutorial – Create an RSS-Driven Campaign
If you want to send your posts out to readers as soon as possible after you publish it, I recommend setting it to send every day at about 8am. RSS feeds sometimes take a few hours to update, so your posts probably won’t fire out of Mailchimp the instant you publish them, but they’ll go out the next morning and hit that sweet spot when everyone is just getting to work and checking their inbox.
For example, I generally publish my blog posts Monday at 7am. It takes the RSS feed a little time to update and make its way through to Mailchimp, so if you’re an email subscriber, you’ll see them in your inbox Tuesday morning.
GRAB YOUR SIGNUP PAGE URL AND SAVE IT
In Mailchimp, you’ll find this under Lists. Click the dropdown next to your List, go to Signup Forms > General Forms. You should see a box that says “Signup form URL”. Copy that address and save it for later.
BONUS POINTS: MAKE THOSE EMAILS PRETTY.
You can choose one of Mailchimps predesigned templates, drop in your own logo, change the colors, fonts and layout, and personalize those emails to make them uniquely your style.
Mailchimp Tutorial – Design a Campaign in MailChimp
SET YOUR BLOG UP ON BLOGLOVIN’
Bloglovin’ has gained HUGE traction in the last few years. Lifestyle blogs, crafters, DIY blogs, fashion and food blogs all do great on Bloglovin’, and many readers who might not mess with RSS feed readers are using Bloglovin’ to collect posts from their favorite blogs in one place.
I know, yet another thing? But the good news is that Bloglovin’ is super simple.
You’re going to:
- Make a Bloglovin’ account
- Claim your blog
- Grab your Bloglovin’ URL and save it
MAKE A BLOGLOVIN’ ACCOUNT.
I’m not going to talk you through this one. Just go to bloglovin.com and do it.
CLAIM YOUR BLOG
This basically involves searching for your blog on Bloglovin, clicking a button to “claim” it, and then pasting a snippet of code they give you into a new blog post. If you don’t want your readers to see a new post with just this code it in, it’s always worked fine for me to just add the code to the end of my most recent post, update it, and then take it back out after you’ve finished setting up Bloglovin’.
Detailed instructions here: How do I claim my blog?
GRAB YOUR BLOGLOVIN’ URL AND SAVE IT
Navigate to your profile page. Under your name, you should now see “Blogs: Your Blog Name”. Click that link to go to your blog’s page on Bloglovin’, then copy the URL from your browser. Save it.
NOW, DO SOMETHING USEFUL WITH ALL THOSE URLS.
You should have URLs saved for:
- Your RSS feed
- Your email list signup page
- Your Bloglovin’ page
Put those links in a prominent location on your blog. You can see mine in my sidebar under my picture where it says SUBSCRIBE TO POSTS VIA: RSS / Email / Bloglovin.
However you decide to display those links make sure that they’re not just easy to find but impossible to miss.
DOWNLOAD THIS FREE CHECKLIST!
I’ve created a free PDF checklist that you can fill out on your computer and save, or print and fill out by hand. It includes all the steps above, plus spaces to save those URLs you created, so you can easily copy and paste them later.
Click to get your FREE blog subscription options checklist!