Feeds are a way for websites to distribute their content beyond having their users navigate directly to their website. Feeds also provide a consistent update of your content so long as your content is indeed updated regularly.
Integrating Feedburner, a popular service provided by Google, is rather easy. Today I will walk you through the steps on how to integrate Feedburner with WordPress and take control of your RSS feed.
You may have heard of or have seen links on your WordPress site that resemble RSS, XML, and Atom. All of these are types of feeds. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. RSS is based on XML, a widely used standard for textual information exchange between applications on the internet. RSS feeds can be viewed as plain text but they are really designed to for computer to computer communication.
Feeds like I explained earlier help your users have consistent access to your content. Feeds also make it possible for your site’s content to be packaged into “widgets”, “gadgets”, mobile devices, and other smaller technologies that make it possible to display blogs, podcasts, or other headlines just about anywhere.
The trend for most popular websites these days is to include a feed automatically. Some examples are websites you might already visit:
Apple, for example, offers thousands of audio and video podcasts for download which are all powered by a feed.
How do I read feeds?
Funny you should ask. In today’s world if you want to browse or subscribe to feeds, you have quite a few choices. With more than 2,000 different reading applications available you will likely find a viable option of your own even if you are on your phone. Some apps are downloadable while others live on the web or some do it all!
If you do a search for a Feed reader or Feed aggregator you will yield many results. Here’s a popular listing and some of my favorites:
A typical interface for a feed reader will be similar to how a blog is structured. Your feeds will display and be visible based on which articles you have read or those that are unread. A title and an excerpt which is linked to a full post is usually apparent. With most readers you can organize your feeds into categories and even save or bookmark sections depending on the application you use.
I personally use Feedly which I sign in with my google account for easy access.
Feedly overs a rich interface and categorized feeds. I am really into web design and development so you’ll see that my feed consisted of a category called web. Inside the web category I have a large number of blogs I subscribe to. They all display at once in order of date which saves me a lot of time trying to visit each and one of these sites on any given day. The power of a reader such as Feedly is huge and I’m happy newsreaders have become so popular.
Setting Up Feedburner
If you have a website or blog where you regularly publish content, chances are you already have a feed service installed. Publishing your own feed is then already taken care of. FeedBurner’s services allow publishers who already have a feed to improve their understanding of their target audience. Once you have your working feed in place, run it through FeedBurner and realize a whole new set of benefits which will benefit both you and your readers.
To add your blog to feed burner you can visit feedburner.google.com to input your site’s feed and get it set up with Feedburner.
Entering your sites blog URL will likely throw an error. With WordPress you need to provide a specific link so that Feedburner can recognize the content you provide.
Your link will likely look like:
Enter your credentials and your site should be optimized for Feedburner.
Feedburner supplies a dashboard for all your feeds and subscribers. My site was never setup for a Feedburner subscription so you’ll notice below that the data is so new there’s nothing to report yet. If you site is new it will likely show the same thing and take time to propagate.
At this point you could simply direct your users to your feed link to get them to subscribe but that’s not a very user friendly experience.
You want to provide a quick way for your users to signup for a subscription to your websites feed. Using WordPress with a plugin is undoubtedly the easiest solution. Below I’ll show you both that method and a method where we edit code to include a subscribe link right inside your theme.
There are a few plugins to choose from for easy Feedburner setup. Most offer a form or a link to subscribe to your sites feed.
Is a Feedburner plugin which generates a Feedburner subscription form into any widgetized area of your site. Adding this form to one of your sidebar widget areas is probably the most viable solution with this plugin. The form can show how many readers that have subscribed to your feed as well as provide a nice interface to allow your users to submit their email for the subscription.
Extremely similar to Feedburner Form, is Feedburner Optin Form. This plugins lets users subscribe to your Feedburner RSS feed via email using a simple optin form. You can add it to the end of posts to increase your subscriber count. You can also include the form directly in your theme or use a shortcode around areas of your site that allow for it.
This is another plugin that lets you create email optin forms so that visitors can subscribe to your Feedburner RSS feed. Simply input your Feedburner site name and you are ready to launch. Your email content gets sent automatically by Feedburner.
Integrating with Feedburner is easy. All you need to do is add your email address in most cases and define some other parameters within the plugin widget pane.
Here’s an example of the Feedburner Email Subscription plugin I mentioned above.
I provided my feed url which I created earlier via the form on http://feedburner.google.com/ as well as input some titles and custom options provided by the plugin.
Here’s how the widget appears on the front end using our Divi 2.0 theme.
Feedburner Tips and Tricks
There is a size limit on feeds Feedburner can “feed”. Feedburner will not accept files larger than 512K. It’s pretty rare for a feed to be larger than this limit but some publishing tools generate their source feeds with no limit to how far back in time they will reach to include content. This type of scenario is more vulnerable to size increases.
If your feed happens to exceed the limit Feedburner will not continue to publish until the size limited is reduced. Most feeds will never have this issue but if you start to notice your feed not propagating this could be why.
Your Feedburner dashboard is a great way to watch your limits as well. You can use this to track changes and plan for future releases.
Your Site Must Produce a Feed to Succeed
Feedburner needs a feed to work properly. Virtually all blogs create their own feed which can optimized to include Feedburner to achieve better results.
Types of Feeds Feedburner Supports
Feedburner can apply services to source feeds of the following formats:
RSS 0.90 , 0.91, 0.92, 0.93, 0.94, 1.0, 2.0 and Atom
You can apply different services to a new feed. There’s no limit to how many you have. You can, for example, apply a feed to your blog posts on one part of your site, and a specific categories of posts on the other which offers more filterable content to your users in the long run.
Optimizing Your Feed
Besides implementing a form like I have explained above you can actually optimize the way your feed gets presented to your subscribers.
To do this head to your profile back at feedburner.google.com
and click on the Optimize tab. Inside this part of your dashboard you can activate services and customize the look and feel of your feed. If you podcast or provide screencasts you can also optimize your feed because the content you are providing is different than just text.
- Browser Friendly – makes subscribing easier for your users
- SmartCast – specifically for podcasts, video casts, and iTunes related settings
- SmartFeed – ensures maximum capability for all feed types and feed aggregators
- FeedFlare – offers interactivity within each post, the ability to share or email the post is embedded among other features
- Link Splicer – allows you to deliver your links through a service to gain analytics and other data on what your users are doing with the content you are sharing
- Photo Splicer – allows you to merge your blog with photo sharing services like Flickr, Buzznet, or Webshots
- Geotag Your Feed – lets everyone know your location at the time of the post, could be useful for travelers or blogs of that nature
- Feed Image Burner – allows you to add a custom image to your feed to provide some branding and identity to your users as they read your content
- Title/Description Burner – alter your
<description>to optimize your feed
- Covert Format Burner – easily convert the format of your feed to RSS, Atom, and back again
- Summary Burner – sometimes to entice your readers you want to only provide a sneak peak of your content. You can offer a summary with a link to the full content which ultimately draws more real visits to your website.
Publicize Your Feed
Again, besides integrating the form plugin I did earlier there are advanced ways to get the public to know of your blog by using the publicize tab and it’s included services within your Feedburner dashboard.
Publicize your feed with these services:
- Headline Animator – Create and customize an animated banner that cycles through your feed’s five most recent items. It’s an easy way to promote your content anywhere you can place a snippet of HTML.
- Email Subscriptions – Give your biggest fans another way to keep up with your blog or podcast feed by placing an email subscription form on your site.
- PingShot – Most web-based feed reading services will check for updates on their own time. PingShot pushes them to act sooner.
- FeedCount – If you have a high amount of subscribers that sometimes persuades other people to subscribe to your content. FeedCount provides a customizable dynamic graphic to promote your feed.
- Socialize – Connect your feed to the real-time social web. With Socialize, FeedBurner will automatically post updates from your feed to your social media account.
- Chicklet Chooser – Promote your Feedburner feed directly on your website with a chicklet that links to your feed and offers any visitor an easy way to subscribe to your feed.
- Creative Commons – Creative Commons is a non-profit that offers an alternative to full copyright. With a Creative Commons license, you keep your copyright but allow people to copy and distribute your work provided they give you credit — and only on the conditions you specify here. This service attaches the appropriate Creative Commons license in your feed’s XML.
- Password Protector – Basic security to keep an unwanted intruder out of your feed.
- No Index – State your preference that your feed not be indexed by search engines by activating this service.
Feedburner and WordPress combined can be a huge leap forward for your blog or website by offering your users another outlet to access and digest your content with little effort. Feedburner takes a little optimization as does WordPress, but with the right plugin and settings and maybe an hour of your time you will build your website to be the most user friendly experience it has ever been before.
Do you use Feedburner currently on your blog? After reading this do you plan on using it? Let us know in the comments.
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