Business Blog Design Series[This is part of a series following on from a post called “Business Blog Design“]

RSS is a key element of blogs and for their successful use in business it is also one of the 5 Rs that I consider to be key to business blogging. This is primarily because of the enormous benefits of what is effectively an instant and very efficient method of distributing information, as well as a great marketing tool.

For publishers, RSS should really have a similar importance as an newsletter sign up box because it gives you the same opportunity to communicate with people who have expressed an interest in what you have to offer. The added benefit is of course that you have an assured method of delivery which is not hampered by email filters and the like.

If gaining loyal readers (and hence subscribers) to your blog is important – and let’s face it, it is to 95% of business bloggers – then it’s important to consider where it appears on your blog design. Higher up the screen and certainly above the fold is clearly going to be better, though this needs to be balanced with the other elements that you wish to promote – however, if RSS subscriptions is a key aim, then get that up at the top, big and bold.

Remember that there is also no need to restrict yourself to a single feed – if you are writing material which is has very distinct areas, then use the capability to set up an RSS feed for each category and promote them individually. Let your readers decide which parts they want to receive, they’ll appreciate that more than having to filter out the elements they want, particularly if you are a prolific writer.

Other things that you should consider to encourage signups from your blog are:

  • Use Feedburner to optimise your RSS usage: I’m a great fan of Feedburner because they offer a number of services which allow you to increase the usability and marketing potential of your RSS Feed – I outline some of those in this post about Feedburner.Give yourself the best chance of using RSS - sign up to Feedburner.

  • Use a Giveaway to encourage Subscriptions: Taking a leaf out of email subscription good practice, use a giveaway to encourage sign ups to your RSS feed. Its sensible and it works! How to do it though? Well, using Feedburner, you can create a custom FeedFlare which links back to a download page on your site. Still unsure? contact me here!
  • Email subscription to RSS: even for readers who are not familiar with RSS, you can make sure that they can still benefit from the instant access that RSS offers by offering them a subscription via email. There are 3rd party services which allow you to do this such as Feedblitz or the email subscription service from Feedburner.
  • Link from each post: to cater for readers who arrive at your posts directly, encourage readers at the bottom of each post to sign up for the RSS feed. This can be done directly, or if you are a WordPress user, this can be done through a plugin such as Subscribe Remind.
  • Highlight Feed Readers: you may like to consider using the little chicklets highlighting the different Feed readers that people could be using to receive your feed. Don’t go overboard (there are more important things you can have in your sidebar) but you could benefit from using some.

One final thing to reiterate is that promoting your RSS in your blog design is no good without the content behind it – it is easy to unsubscribe so that puts the onus on you, the writer, to make sure you give content that they’ll want to come back to read. The inimitable Hugh McLeod summed this up beautifully in one of his cartoons, which is what I leave you with.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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