Feedburner: pinging blog aggregators and more

You may be aware of the Google Feedburner service: a great tool to add significant power to your RSS feed. What you may not be aware of are some of the other features Feedburner offers. In this post I’ll explain some of the features we’ve been testing here on developerWorks and on other Lotus Connections blogs.

New clothes for an old feed

A standard RSS feed looks something like this:

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(Firefox display of RSS) 

Pass that same feed through Feedburner and this is what you’ll see:

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Nice, huh? Definitely more user friendly. It’s also more RSS Reader-friendly. IBM blogs serve up secure (https) RSS feeds which don’t play nicely with some RSS Readers, eg. Yahoo Pipes.

Detailed analytics

Now, I’ll be the first to urge you to concentrate on writing blog posts rather than fixating on how many readers you have. But still, there comes a time when it’s necessary to cast a backward glance at how many people are reading your beautifully crafted missives. Now, the display of the number of views per post is a great feature of these blogs, but that number (or any other web analytics you may have hooked up to your site) doesn’t take into account one group of users: those reading RSS feeds. This is where Feedburner comes into its own as it offers some great analytics:

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You can see how many people subscribe to your feed and some basic information on of those subscribers, and how many people are actually reading your posts through a reader. One word of caution: look carefully at your data as you could realize that some of those readers are not human, but bots sniffing out new content.

Ping service

Right, now we’re getting to the meat of the wonderful Feedburner service. If you don’t have a pinging service currently hooked up to your blog that’s notified every time you put out a new post, don’t despair: the Feedburner ping service could come to your aid. I recommend this if you are blogging on the Lotus Connections platform.

What exactly is the issue with not using a pinging service? One big factor is that Google may not figure out your posts are blog content. Whilst this won’t keep you out of their main index, it means your posts won’t show up in a blog search.

If you want to set up a ping service in Feedburner, go Optimize > PingShot. 

Other helpful features

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Feedburner offers a bunch of useful features under the hood but two that I find particularly useful are ‘Email Subscriptions’ (which helps you add ‘subscribe by email’ functionality to your blog) and ‘Socialize’ which allows you send your posts instantly in the direction of social media sites like Twitter.

Setting up Feedburner

This is pretty straightforward, as you’d probably expect. Just head over to Feedburner.com and either create a new account or sign in with an existing Google account. Once in, follow the wizard: all you should need is your blog URL or the URL of your RSS feed.

In Feedburner, the Google team really have created a consummate set of blogging/online publishing tools. So go ahead and give your content a boost with Feedburner.