There are two sites that I always walk people through whenever I start to work with them on their Blogs: Technorati and Feedburner. Why? Because I believe that Technorati is the start point for anyone looking to find out more about what is out in the Blogosphere and because Feedburner provides some excellent easy to use tools that all bloggers can benefit from, right from the start.
Feedburner offers a number of paid services which you can progress on to as the need arises, but their free services are well worth taking the time to examine and incorporate in your Blog. There are ones which I particularly recommend because I feel that they help in utilising and developing your Blog’s RSS Feed in important ways.
The elements I would highlight are:
Subscriber information: by channeling your RSS Feed subscriptions through Feedburner, you can gain additional information about those subscribing. Specifically, it allows you to identify the number of people that are actively subscribed to your feed, as well as providing information on the type of reader they are using and the articles that have been visited directly from the feed itself.
User friendly RSS feed: there are some small touches you can make to enhance the experience for people receiving your feed such as including your logo, which in itself reinforces the branding aspect, and changing the description of the feed. Although these are changes you can make yourself directly to the feed with a little technical knowledge, this makes it simple for everyone to apply.
Feed Reader Chicklets: the code and images required to create the small RSS feed logos relating to each of the main RSS Readers are provided. While not strictly necessary, any method such as this which increases the visibility of your feed on your Blog can only be beneficial to your promotional activities.
RSS Feed via email: for those people who dont use RSS readers but still want to know when you have updated your blog, there is the option of an email subscription service. Feedburner provides you with the code to create a basic sign up form on your blog and then visitors can use to subscribe to receiving your blog updates automatically via email. A similar service is provided by Feedblitz.
Headline Animator: this is a small image using an animated gif file, which automatically displays the titles of the last 5 posts from your Blog and allows people to click through a sign up for the feed. It appears in the form of a box (2 formats available) which can be used either in emails or perhaps in online forums etc.
PingShot: this is an ideal companion to the concept of Post and Ping, where PingShot notifies a number of servers at once that you have published new content on your Blog . No real difference from the other services available at Pingomatic and Pingoat (indeed it works through Pingomatic) but a good extra service.
How do you do this? Well, just head along to the Feedburner site, sign up for an account and then “burn” a Feed using your current feed, follow the instructions and away you go! There are some useful services there and with RSS destined to become more widespread as the year progresses, set up in the best way you can in readiness.