When Jacob Share approached me to participate in his Building RSS Group Writing Project and share my tips, adding that I have a “proven track record”, I smiled. Sure, I managed to attract over thousand subscribers to Inspiration Bit in “just” 18 months, but this could hardly be qualified as a proud achievement. There are hundreds of other blogs that achieved the greater number of subscribed readers in only a few months of their existence.

rss numbers

On the other side I can’t deny and be ungrateful to the fact that there are thousands of other blogs that have a much smaller loyal following than mine. While as you can see from the Feedburner screenshot above, the rise of RSS subscribers to Inspiration Bit has been nice and steady, and with the exception of a couple of months this Spring, the numbers are continuously growing. This progress is far more significant than the actual feed count, especially given the fact that I spend much less time blogging this year than I did a year ago.

So how can bloggers increase their RSS subscription, what tips can I share with the readers? I think before finding the keys to the HOW question, it’s more important to answer the WHY and WHAT questions about RSS.

WHY

Unfortunately in a crazy race after more traffic, more subscribers, more comments many forget that bigger is not necessarily better. How many of the Top 100 blogs on Technorati list do you read on a regular basis? There are only a couple of them in my feed reader, only a dozen of them that I occasionally visit and read, another dozen that I’ve heard about but have no interest in reading, while the rest will remain unknown and unvisited for probably forever.

So why is it so pivotal to you to build your blog’s RSS feed count to thousands of subscribers, and is it that paramount to you at all? Is it the fame you are after, or the money making aspect of the blog is the one pushing you for more subscribers? Whatever it is don’t let the obsession over numbers take over the quality and the value of your posts and writing.

WHAT

What are the benefits of having a large number of subscribers, what impact does it have on a blog?

Obviously the high feed count is a great promotional tool for your blog. But with the larger audience your responsibility as a blogger grows as well. Are you ready to take on more roles and be that authority in your field of blogging? It’s very easy to fall into the trap of following the footsteps of other blogs in your quest to achieve the popularity and numbers that you crave, but is it the right path for you? Do you have what it takes (time, energy, commitment, big pool of ideas, knowledge) to stand out in the crowd, attracting new readers and keeping the existing ones happy?

HOW

By answering those questions you’ll be able to come up with your own strategies for building a solid readership around your blog. Study the tactics of your favourite blogs. Try them out on yours. See what works for you, what felt right for you?

One of the more popular and sure-fire methods to get more incoming links, comments, popularity with social networks and new readers nowadays is to publish ginormous lists of links on a certain topic. Certainly you can try that out yourself as well, but make sure you’ll follow it up with some quality original content. After all how many blogs can we handle that “smash” us with loads of links to follow and pictures to look at?

Another successful method that helps you to attract more business through your blog and gain authority in your niche is to share your business experience and knowledge with the readers, write about things you’ve learned, take them through your business processes.

The best strategy is to stop obsessing about the numbers and instead be committed to your blog’s success, be sincere and passionate what you write about. Be it the love of type or photography, the knowledge of graphic applications, the field of your study.

Ask yourself the question: “Would I subscribe to a blog like mine?”. If you’re brutally honest with yourself and your answer is yes, chances are other people would find it interesting enough to subscribe too. And so what if it takes you longer than for some other bloggers to build your loyal readership? The word of mouth, the link love and the loyalty of your readers will do the magic of spreading the word about your amazing blog. All you need to worry about is to keeping up the great work, being unique and genuine.

As for Inspiration Bit, while I do still check the feed count as soon as I turn on my computer, I’m not letting myself to be preoccupied with the numbers. I have big plans for this blog and when the time comes I’ll be ready to take it to the next level and be comfortable with the larger audience and increased responsibility.

What about you? How does your RSS saga look like?

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22 Insightful Bits in response to “RSS: Why, What and How”

  1. Hi Vivien,

    You make a good point about that crazy race for more subscribers. It’s best to concentrate on the subscribers you have, and offer them content they come to read. This can actually attract more readers in itself.

    Looking forward to those big plans for Inspiration Bit!

  2. It really is funny how many bloggers obsess about numbers and stats. This post actually reminded me that I haven’t checked my site stats for several months. I found that checking those stats took up quite a bit of time and they didn’t provide a lot of value to my site in comparison to writing content and interacting with readers. I don’t really check feed stats either — I just kinda keep an eye on the feed counter when I reply to comments on the blog.

    I hadn’t really thought about this before, but a growing subscriber base is sort of like having a child. Sure, life would be crazy if you had a 5 year old drop in your lap one day, but that’s not usually how it happens. As you know, raising kids isn’t as hard as you probably once thought it was. As your child develops and grows, so do your parenting skills. Same thing with a blog. If you were 2 months into it and your blog suddenly had 10K subscribers, you’d probably freak out and have a nervous breakdown. But if you slowly work up to that number over the months and years, it actually feels “normal”. I honestly feel like I’m running the same blog and talking to the same people as when I had 400 subscribers, or even 40 subscribers.

  3. I honestly feel like I’m running the same blog and talking to the same people as when I had 400 subscribers, or even 40 subscribers.

    Me too, Brian. I think that’s a good thing.

  4. David, Brian, I’ve also noticed that my vocal readers seem to have been with me all along. Of course, they’re always reminding me that they’re there.

    Vivien, thanks for this thoughtful post.

    Stumbled it for you

  5. Thanks for the mention Vivien. I leave Lee in charge of checking our stats. It’s too overwhelming for me. I generally write as if I am the only audience. It works well because I am both very critical and the perfect, polite audience… for myself. Otherwise, if I thought about the audience, I would probably get stage fright. :D

  6. Vivian, I wholeheartedly agree with you. Passion about your topic goes a long way. It may take you longer to build up readership relying on content, but in the end, you will have a loyal community and remarkable conversation. (Thank you so much for your vote, too!)

  7. I never managed to get caught in this race for subscribers. Like Brian, I haven’t checked this figure since a couple of months ago. However, I think the RSS subscribers number can show the quality of a blog in the eyes of its loyal readers.

  8. I like the interaction with other people in the comments. Sometimes I don’t even feel like writing posts, but do because I want to talk to people!

    For me, the subscriber count is encouraging, but I haven’t seen a growth in the number of comments paralleling the number of subscribers :( I think I need to adjust what and how much I write to encourage comments and people sharing their opinions and ideas.

    I can’t wait to see what you have planned for iBit! How exciting!

  9. Read this post a few days ago, and now I finally get to comment.
    You make a good point about the “value” of the numbers. I read a number of blogs that have very few subscribers (sometimes I just don’t understand why). Oftentimes, it’s simply down to luck: one’s blog gets noticed by a larger one which brings in a whole new audience…. There are, I’m sure numerous other factors, which I am completely ignorant of.

    You’re also right about the added responsibility that comes with a larger audience. Readers come to expect certain things of one’s blog, and that can be pretty daunting sometimes. I must admit to getting excited when I see the feed count jump, but I try not to think about it. Above all, we need to enjoy writing our blogs. I think it’s good to ask ourselves, “would I continue to write my blog, if I had just a handful of subscribers?” If the answer is “yes”, then it’s most likely our passion for the topic that is motivating us to write, and that’s what counts.

    Keep up the great work, Vivien. I’m really looking forward to seeing those changes you have planned.

  10. First of all, apologies to everyone for the late reply. It’s been a crazy week, at times sleeping only for two hours. Last night I finally caught up with my sleep, and got solid 8 hours of it. Can hardly wait for the next weekend when I’ll be heading to a remote island for two weeks with my family and friends for two weeks. I’ll be taking my laptop with me there though, and hopefully will finish iBit’s re-design and will be able to move forward with all my plans for this site.

    David, you’re absolutely right about concentrating on the current subscribers. If one can keep the current audience’s interest, it will eventually lead to more subscribers and a larger audience.

    Brian, I really liked your comparison of growing a blog’s subscribers base to raising a child. It has to happen naturally, organically. I would freak out if my daughter spoke to me when she was only a few months old, but now I really enjoy having conversations with my little person ;)
    Though I do often get shocked at how fast she develops her vocabulary, just like I got a bit surprised at seeing iBit’s RSS numbers today, the highest ever: 1075. I wonder how far would it drop to tomorrow? :)

    Jacob, thanks for the stumble and once again, congrats with a successful outcome of your first GWP on GWP ;)

    You’re welcome, Rhett. “Stage fright” you say, in front of an invisible audience? That’s funny ;) Well, I’m glad you’ve figured out ways to overcome that, I really enjoy reading your insightful posts.
    hmm… I think your comment has inspired me for a new post on iBit. I better jot down my thoughts now before they slip away ;)

    Welcome to iBit, Brad. I agree, building a community of loyal friends and conversations is a much more rewarding experience than just having an insanely large number of subscribers, but no sparks, no interesting conversations on the blog.

    Simonne, you’ve got too many races to keep up with than checking your RSS stats ;) In my case, since I kept that feed chicklet on iBit since the beginning, I always glance
    at them out of curiousity.

    Lauren, I feel the same — it’s encouraging to see the RSS numbers growing, but you’re right, it’s more enjoyable to have comments grow as well. I’m surprised you can keep up with posting three times a week. I think I’ll have to stick to posting once a week only for some time, but I do hope to increase it to twice a week in future.

    Thanks, Johno. That’s a really good question to ask ourselves:

    “would I continue to write my blog, if I had just a handful of subscribers?”

    I would still do, because I know I’ll still have a small but loyal number of readers and friends coming here to read what I have to say and talk about it. I would still do, because I like meeting new people and make new friends, and if someone finds Inspiration Bit interesting than we already have something in common ;)

  11. I tend to agree with Lauren, blogging for me isn’t necessarily about getting subscribers it’s about communicating with others and sharing thoughts, ideas and absorbing as much knowledge as possible. I sometimes feel as though I’m in a little creative bubble and it’s great to interact with others and have a peek inside their bubble!

  12. Yes, yes, I have been muse to many. I suppose I can take you on as a client ;)

  13. MP

    I agree with Lucinda, I just started my design focused blog earlier this month. I have a few friends that check and comment on it, some on the site, some via email. I’m not too concerned about the traffic I get. I really like the fact that posting forces you to refine and clarify your reasons for writing an entry. “Is it because I like the color scheme of this illustration?” “Do I think this approach to design is closer to what I want to do?” It twists your arm to write about the Who, What, Where, When and Why of a subject. Anytime I’m in that type of mode, I find it beneficial. Thanks again Vivien for looking over the site! Cheers.

    -MP

  14. Hehe, yeah sometimes 3x/week is a little daunting, but I find if I plan far enough ahead (like at least the topics for two weeks out) then it’s not as intimidating. And if you’ve noticed, Jerrol has been pitching in a bit lately, too. Work has been a little crazy and taking my full hour-long lunch (when I write!) has been difficult.

    My reading and interacting with other blogs has dropped off significantly since January, though. I miss talking with everyone! I want to get back into the groove. I get so overwhelmed with 400+ unread posts, though, and I don’t want to just check them all as read and not at least skim through the titles to see if anything grabs me. But then the number of unread posts just grows because I never even get around to the skimming!! I need to go through and trim down some more excess feeds I think.

    Your vacation sounds wonderful! I hope it is refreshing for you. Has your freelancing business been going well? How are you liking it so far?

  15. I’m in a similar position to Lauren. Uni work is insane, I don’t have much time to read feeds. I’ve had this article sitting open meaning to comment, but now I don’t really know what I wanted to say!
    I don’t check my feed stats too often. I’m happy when it goes up, but I’d much rather have some comments and discussion, or even just help one person by passing on my experiences.

  16. When you have your subscriber count displayed for everyone to see, it is easy to become obsessed with that number and trying to make it grow. Perhaps it is better to remove the counter so that you will forget about it on a day to day basis.

  17. huh, it sure took me much longer than usual to finally respond to the comments here. I came back from vacation last week, already tired ;) It was raining most of the time there on the island, and everyone in my family managed to get sick. Now we’re back to the regular routine, and enjoying the sunny weather in Vancouver.

    @Lucinda I like how you called it—”creative bubble”. I’m very much the same here, get excited about something and eager to share and find out what others think about it.

    @MP You’re right, in that sense blogging to me is similar to teaching, it drives me to delve deeper into a subject matter I’m writing/talking about. And just like I myself am learning from my students’ questions, I learn from my readers’ comments here.

    @Lauren I too used to have hundreds of unread RSS posts, I solved that problem by drastically cutting down on my RSS subscriptions and left only the ones whose articles I read from the title to the last dot and even the comments, so now I’m subscribed to only about 30 blogs that don’t post daily. I still have weeks when I have no time to read all RSS posts, but afterwards it’s not as scary to catch up with them anymore. Though I still need to catch up with commenting on those posts. As for my freelancing, it has its ups and downs, I’ll be writing about it in upcoming weeks, so stay tuned ;)

    Kristarella, thanks for finding time and commenting here, my apologies for the late reply. I agree, an increase in feed stats is nice, but getting more comments and having conversations is much more rewarding.
    How much longer will you be studying at the University, are you getting any breaks there?

  18. I’ve only got a couple of months left of uni. Yay!

    I don’t really have any breaks. I took one week off, but no more… I did take this week a bit easy though because I was exhausted and supposed to be writing an assignment.

  19. Kristarella, Wishing you lots of strength and energy to survive the next couple of months of your Uni. Then we should all celebrate your freedom, and the start of a new chapter in your life ;)

  20. @Basement Ideas I’m sorry, somehow your comment was flagged as a spam, and I got to my spam page only now. It’s an interesting suggestion. I think I’ll try not displaying the feed count in the new design. I’m curious to see how it will affect the subscriber numbers and my behaviour.

  21. many blogger need more subscribers in order to promote their products..thats my opinion..

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Hi, I'm Vivien. Thanks for visiting my Inspiration Bit. I often find myself scouring the internet looking for either answers to many questions I have or websites that inspire me, sites that I can learn from. On what topics you might ask — any topics that interest me, anything from web design to typography and art, from blogging to entrepreneurship, from programming to open source.
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When I'm not blogging, I design web sites, teach, play with my daughter and try to balance family, work, friends and a somewhat active social life on