The vast majority of blogging software generates some sort of subscribable feed, whether it is one of the versions of RSS or Atom. Even though these feeds are generated, bloggers don’t always make it easy for readers to subscribe. The result is that bloggers may be missing an opportunity to capture additional readers and/or subscribers.
Your readers who are familiar with RSS already probably know what to do when they see the little orange XML square. They know how to use that button to get the address to the feed, and then add it to their newsreader. However, there are still quite a few users who aren’t familiar with syndication. How do you get people who don’t know about syndication to subscribe to your feed? With chicklets.
Those little buttons you see sprouting up on more and more sites are chicklets. While a reader may not be very familiar with RSS, they do konw that if they click the button they can add your site to their “My Yahoo” page. Even as someone who is quite familiar with RSS, I’m more likely to subscribe to a site if it is as easy as clicking a button. And I’m very likely to subscribe if that button is easy to find. Don’t bury the chicklet on your page. Give it a logical location, like a special section of a sidebar.
As for creating the chicklets there are a couple ways to do this. There are scripts, which you add to your template and that will create the chicklets for the most popular services.
The tool I prefer to use is Feedburner. Feedburner will also help generate chicklets for you, but it also does quite a bit more. By “burning a feed” with Feedburner, you take your feed in any format and feedburner will repackage it so that it can be universally accepted. Feedburner also offers Feedblitz where users can subscribe via email to your feed. Finally, you can view statistics on the distribution of your feed. You can see how many subscribers you have and how often they check your feed. I’ve used Feedburner on this site to create everything under “Syndication” on the main page sidebar.
Yet another way to make your feed easy to find is to make sure that it can be autodiscovered. The Firefox browser offers live bookmarks, where there is a little box in the lower right hand corner of the browser. If Firefox can detect a feed for your site, users can bookmark the feed. To allow for autodiscovery, make sure that your feed is listed in the HEAD section of your template.
A few simple steps will make it easy for your readers to subscribe to your site, which should encourage repeat visits.