Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Thing 3: RSS Feeds - helping people subscribe to your blog

What is it?

RSS Feeds are a way of getting regularly updated content from a website. Blogs use them, news websites use them, weather apps use them. This is the RSS icon - wherever you see it, there's a feed to subscribe to:

Why is it worth doing?

Subscribing to a feed means the articles on the website come to you whenever they are published, rather than you having to go and check the website to see if there's anything new. Plus, you have everything in once place - whether it's news headlines or blog posts about whatever you're interested in. You can use feeds to subscribe by email like most of you are already doing with this 23 Things blog, or you can use a Feed-reader - basically a place online to organise, and access, the feeds of your choice.

For any blog, it's essential to make it incredibly straight-forward for people to subscribe via an RSS feed. If they want to hear more from you in the future, this is the easiest way. The more subscribers you have, the greater your captive audience!

Activity: make it easy for people to subscribe to your blog 

So the first activity for RSS feeds, which should take around 10 minutes, is to make sure people can subscribe to your own blog really easily. To do this, first you need to go to a site called http://feedburner.google.com. Like Blogger itself, Feedburner is a Google-owned product so once again you already have an account for it - just make sure you're signed into Google with your York account before you start.

Once you get to Feedburner you should see a screen much like this (except it'll have the name of your blog displayed, and there'll only be one blog listed):

Click the title of your blog to be taken into the Feedburner dashboard for that blog. The screen next will have four tabs across the top: Analyze, Optimize, Publicize, and Troubleshootize. Click Publicize. On the screen which then appears, the phrase friendly graphic is hyperlinked - click this link.

The screen that follows helps you create a button for people to press to subscribe to your blog. You don't need to edit any of the settings, just leave everything on its default setting. The only thing you need to do is choose Blogger from the Use as a widget in drop-down menu right at the bottom of the screen.

Click Go! and you'll be taken to the Add page element screen. Edit the Title so it just says 'Subscribe' (rather than the more fussy 'Subscribe Now: Feed Icon' which appears by default). Cick Add Widget and you'll be taken into the Layout page of your Blogger dahsboard; you should see a screen a little bit like this:

(This is what the 23 Things blog looks like in Layout view, so it probably has a few more 'Gadgets' on show than yours will at this stage.) It's essential now to click Save Arrangement near the top-right-hand corner of the screen, or all your hard work will be for nothing! Once it has saved click View blog (top left hand corner of the screen) to see what your blog looks like with the new subscription options. You can always subscribe to it yourself to make sure it works...

You now have a shiny new subscribe button on your blog, so everyone can get regular updates. In Thing 4 later in the week, we'll look at how to subscribe to each others' 23 Things blogs...

Optional extra activity 

If you have time and you want to, go back to the Publicize tab on http://feedburner.google.com, and repeat the process above for Email subscriptions from the Services menu down the left-hand side.


  1. This doesn't work for me - no feeds appear on the My Feeds page although I am signed in.

    1. Hey Ruth, that's odd, sorry about that - but no worries, just copy and paste your blog's URL into the Burn a feed this instant! box, press Next >> and then follow the steps...