Do People Use Feed Counters to Show Off? Top 10 Ways to A Massive Subscriber List

Feedburner for as long as I remember have provided a daily updated feed counter that you can display on your blog. The way the feed count is updated is actually fairly complex as they mentioned in an announcement yesterday that some publishers might notice an increase due to algorithm change.

Maki decided to pose a number of tough questions to a number of bloggers about why they choose to use a feed counter or not.

Dosh Dosh’s Feed Count Meme

Here is the main question for the meme:

“Why do you display (or not display) the Feed Count for your blog?“.

Short Answer: Social Proof

Long answer: Social proof – but in a multitude of ways, not just to gain additional subscribers

  • Subscribers – Here is what I wrote on my Bumpzee profile and in a few other places – “90% of the world’s human population are herd animals, not far removed from sheep and cattle” – just think about the effect branding has on people’s perception of quality. I chose not to display my feed count until I readed what I determined to be a reasonable number – 300 subscribers
  • Advertisers – The ratings systems at many monetization services are a little crude, often relying on Bloglines subscriber counts. It is my belief that new users of RSS tend to choose Google Reader or Email subscriptions over Bloglines. Growth in Bloglines subscribers is an uphill struggle.
    When an advertiser comes to look at a blog, it is good to show that a blog has “reach”.
  • Links – whilst it could be stated that the number of links a blog receives is at least partially related to the number of subscribers who might be inclined to link through, it is my belief that many people in a situation where they have to choose which site they should link to from multiple sources, would partially determine their choice based upon visible popularity. Often links come from people researching a subject on Technorati or Google Blog Search – in many cases they would want to link to authorities.
  • Authority – Does this guy know what he is talking about? This affects both subscribers and links, but possibly also might affect other metrics.
    • Time on page (did they actually read the content)
    • Page views per visit
    • Return visits (without subscribing, such as following links on other sites)
    • Votes on Social Media Sites

    Social Media Marketing is all the rage currently, but visitors from social media sites are extremely fickle thus any indication of trust or authority you can display may have positive results. I don’t write my content specifically for social media sites, and there are certainly aspects of my site design I plan to change for 2.0 to possibly improve conversion.

  • Sex – If you want chicklets to say how big yours is, it is easy to copy and paste the HTML

Further Questions

How long did it take you to reach the current feed count? Was the growth gradual? Any notable external factors that had a positive or negative effect?

This domain was launched October 17th 2006, though 80% of my subscribers have been gained in the past 2 months.

For me it has been gradual growth, but the more popular your blog becomes, the more people reference what you write with links, the more direct and organic search traffic you receive, and your subscription rate tends to increase. For me it is typically 1% to 2% new subscribers per day. With a number of algorithm changes making stats jump around, plus the fact you can subscribe to a feed using autodiscovery without even clicking something on a site that can be tracked, it is very hard to determine precise growth numbers.

MyBlogLog has a very positive effect on this blogs growth, as do the occasional mentions on a popular blogs. I haven’t had any massive amount of social media traffic above a few 500 visitor Stumbles.
I should really delete half this post and make it more palatable for a mainstream audience.

Apart from displaying subscription buttons, what other ways (if any) do you use to encourage your readers to subscribe to your blog feed?

It is possible that visitors to my blog notice the subscription options at the top of the page, in the primary position normally reserved for advertising.
That section is going to be tweaked soon, but it will still be highly prominent.

In your opinion, what is the most effective way to increase your feed subscription?

Top 10 Ways to A Massive Subscriber List

  • Take your existing mailing list of 1000s and import it into Feedburner as I discussed previously.
  • Create a squeeze page that is primarily for email subscriptions to your blog, and use pay per click advertising to gain traffic.
  • Create content aimed at being popular with users of specific social media sites (linkbait), and get involved on the sites to create peer groups, or find someone to help you.
  • Write about newsworthy topics with your own spin / angle – Jason Calacanis has suggested that all you have to do is write about the top posts on Techmeme for a month and you could become an A-list blogger
  • Networking – get friendly with A-list bloggers in your niche so they are more inclined to read your content and link to you.
  • Get listed as a default feed option in a major RSS Reader or Ajax Desktop
  • Optimize your site to maximise the percentage of visitors who subscribe
  • Have content or services (maybe WordPress Plugins), that are continually updated with great features, such that users wait for updates with anticipation
  • Become the external PR or Support Blog for a major corporation
  • Target a popular niche with high adoption of RSS Readers

Size Isn’t Everything

Email marketers would much prefer a small list of highly targeted proven buyers than a massive list of tire kickers.

The same is true of blog subscribers.

  • You are more likely to get links from top bloggers in your niche if they subscribe to your blog
  • If angel investors and VCs subscribe to your blog, you might have a higher chance of raising capital for a new startup.
  • You are more likely to be offered contract work by people who read your blog.
  • For a company blog, the ideal subscriber is someone looking for your solution, who has a fat wallet.

I have always aimed my content specifically at very targeted groups.

The Meme

Rather than nudging people to take part in this meme, feel free to pick it up and answer the questions on your own blog. I believe Maki is linking through to everyone who links through to the meme, and anyone who pings me gets a followable link by default due to using dofollow, but I will add links manually to the post as well.

Chris Garret has already given his answers.
Daniel responded and pointed out that a low count might discourage people to subscribe.
Engtech puts a different perspective on things because he is hosting on – His feeds are split due to the lack of support by of adding a different autodiscovery feed.

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  1. says

    Much like its not a good idea to enable blog comments if no one uses them, its not good to show how few people subscribe to your feed.

    I agree with Calicanis – writing about the top posts on Techmeme is a good way to ride on the coattails of popular news items and gain exposure.

  2. says

    Andy, Thanks for participating. Your answers were insightful as always.

    I think interactive memes like this are a great way to have a joint discussion on a specific topic. Hopefully readers from each of the blogs I tagged will intermingle among all of the blogs participating in the meme and some of them might decide to subscribe after reading the specific points stated by each blogger.

    Yet another way to a massive subscriber list :)

  3. says

    Yo Andy,

    Your short answer was exactly what popped into my head when I first read Maki’s question. Comments, flare like Liz Strauss’ SOB badge, the MyBlogLog widget – all similar in that aspect. Which is one reason I don’t display my feed count, as whatever it might “prove”, it wouldn’t be that people should subscribe. :D

    At the same time, I’ve noticed that many bloggers who surely must have high a high feed count, don’t display it. I can see their reasoning, because while feed count might denote popularity/authority, it doesn’t necessarily imply community – maybe even the opposite.

  4. says

    Maintaining community for a popular blog is a problem.

    As my readership grows, it becomes much more time consuming to keep an eye on everything that my readers are interested in and it is one of my hopes for MyBlogLog that it will prove to be more useful than my RSS Reader.
    If I can access a list of the blogs belonging to members of my community using an API, or just the blogs I have joined the community of, I could create 2 memes using Megite to see both what I am interested in specifically, and what my readers are interested in which can be different.

    I try to respond to every comment – if I had Darren Rouse’s readership and number of comments, I am not sure that would be possible.

    Slower growth by not gaining subscribers from social media can actually be a benefit.
    Newbies to blogging can benefit from my content, because while they might not understand everything I write about immediately, they can always ask a question, or come back to it at a later date.

    I could easily have grown my subscribers faster by writing different content, but then I would be writing the same content as everyone else.

    I need to improve the longevity of my content from a reader’s perspective.

  5. says

    Andy, I completely with your reasoning about social proof. In fact you mentioned about how social proof affects sex, and albeit you doing doing it in a humorous way, its 100% true!

    If you go around with lots of women, other women will notice it and they will wonder what is the buzz all about, and they will want to check it out. Same for blogs and feed subscribers!

  6. says

    Andy, I’m grappling with the question of why have feeds at all?

    I’m not new to blogging, but have been a closet blogger for long and never thought about blogging for money – the whole feed things puzzles me, as how do you as a blogger benefit from people reading your content away from your site?

    For instance, I look at the post above, and, as do many, they don’t include all the advertising that surrounds it on your actual site when it comes down an RSS reader. And through Feedburner, for instance, they say “use this content on your site”.

    How would advertisers be enticed if you had a huge subscriber list through RSS – would those who advertise on your site ever gain exposure from those subscriptions?

    I apologise if my comment is a bit off the mark of the article, but it got me thinking.


  1. […] thing I pull out of Google is’s take on why people do or don’t use feed counters. Insightful, especially the comments, with other tips about subscriptions and readership, but not […]