There’s a lot of new stuff to learn and figure out when you’re new to blogging, and there’s some basic stuff out there that other people are taking for granted, but maybe you didn’t know about. Setting up FeedBurner for your blog might be one of those things. And it’s not that there’s no good FeedBurner advice online, but this one post is is all you need to get going.
Unless your blog is focused on a low-tech audience (yes, they exist), you want people to subscribe to your blog via its RSS feed. This article is aimed at novice bloggers who have recently began their blogs. All of my blog consulting clients get FeedBurner feeds and email subscriptions set up for their blogs as part of my Blog Launch and Blog Master packages, but if you’re setting up your blog yourself, then you gotta set up FeedBurner all by your lonesome. Except I’m going to help you with that. Get yourself a cup of tea (or a glass of wine) and settle in for a few minutes with me. You may want to print this one out so you can more easily follow instructions without having to flip back and forth between windows.
Why You Want FeedBurner
WordPress already comes with RSS feed capability built-in, so why do you need FeedBurner? Two words: options and tracking. FeedBurner has a ton of fantastic options to make your feed more useful to your readers (you know, those people you’re blogging for). For you, it has tracking capabilities. You can just log in to your account and look at your stats and charts. If you manage multiple blogs, you can create and track feeds for all of them with FeedBurner.
What FeedBurner Does and How it Works
FeedBurner receives your blog’s original feed data and then serves as a feed “front” for your readers by providing a new feed URL (uniform resource locater, or website address). FeedBurner adds in all this cool functionality for yourself and your readers via this replacement URL. The benefit of this for your readers is that it’s easier to subscribe and interact with your blog. The benefit for you is that you can view data about how many subscribers you have and how they’re interacting with your blog.
You will need to provide FeedBurner with the URL of your blog or your feed. For self-hosted WordPress bloggers, your blog’s feed URL probably is:
http://blogname.com/feed/. If your blog is not in the main directory of your website, then your blog’s URL will look like this:
http://sitename.com/wordpress/feed/ or perhaps
Head on over to FeedBurner and begin to create your free account by entering your feed URL into the field on the home page (you see how easy they make it to get started? They’re smart like that). Once you create your account, you can do several things, but you’ll want to get the code that allows your readers to use your blog’s new FeedBurner feed.
The next step is to check some options. You’ll want to track clickthroughs and have FeedBurner stats. Although it says “pro”, since Google acquired FeedBurner it has made all the paid stuff free. After you click Next, you’ll be taken to a page of options for various blog platforms.
What you want now depends on what kind of WordPress theme you have. If your theme has a nice feed link built in to the design, then all you might need to do is use the FeedBurner FeedSmith WordPress plugin to redirect your theme’s feed subscribe link to your FeedBurner URL. If your theme doesn’t have a nice RSS link built into it, follow the instruction in the next topic about getting codes.
Getting and Placing Codes
If your WordPress theme doesn’t have a nice big RSS link as part of its design, you can still get nice-looking, prominent feed links by using text widgets. Here’s what you do:
- In nearly any page of your FeedBurner account, there are navigation tabs at the top. Click Publicize.
- In the Publicize page, in the links going down the left side, click Chicklet Chooser (yeah, I know–not exactly the most obvious move, is it?).
- In the Chicklet Chooser page, the preselected option that shows the big feed icon is the best one to get (because it’s big), but you can choose others. You have to pick each one and get and paste code for each one separately, which is a huge pain in the ass. If I were you, I’d just do the preselected big one.
- Scroll down and you’ll see the code. Copy all the code in the little box.
- Go to your WordPress admin page, and click Presentation (Design in the next version of WordPress) > Widgets.
- Add an additional text widget if you have already used your existing text widgets.
- Paste the code inside the widget text box. You don’t need to give it a title unless you want to (like “Subscribe”).
- If you don’t want to add email subscriptions, too, close the widget editor and save changes, otherwise, continue with the next step.
- In the Publicize page, in the links on the left side, click Email Subscriptions.
- In the next page, leave it set to use FeedBurner as the email provider (better formatting and options) and click to activate.
- In the next page, copy the code in the little code box.
- Go back to WordPress and either edit the same widget you already made for RSS subscriptions or make a new one.
- Paste in the email subscription form code.
- Depending on how well you know HTML and/or CSS, tweak the code.
- Close the widget editor and save the changes.
Ta-da! Now you have an awesome FeedBurner subscription block in your WordPress sidebar!
Feedburner Plugins for WordPress
One step you will want to take is to get a WordPress plugin that redirects the default WordPress feed URL to your snazzy new FeedBurner URL. Feedburner suggests you use one called FeedSmith. Me, I use the Feed Locations plugin.
Stuff You Gotta Do to Your Feeds
Just getting FeedBurner going isn’t enough (Geez, isn’t anything ever enough, these days?). There are some rockin’ options that you’re gonna want. One of them makes your feed format better in multiple environments, the other creates convenient links at the bottom of your feeds so people can more easily interact with your blog by leaving comments or submitting to social bookmark/media sites. The first one is called SmartFeed and the second one is called FeedFlare.
- In the Optimize page in FeedBurner, in the left side links, click SmartFeed. This option makes your FeedBurner feed compatible with any feed reader application (I don’t understand why you actually have to turn this on–shouldn’t this be automatic?).
- In the next page, activate.
- In the Optimize page in Feedburner, in the left side links, click FeedFlare. This allows you to place links at the bottom of feed content in a reader.
- Check the boxes for the Flare items you want.
- Click the Add new flare button.
- At the bottom, rearrange Flare items by clicking and dragging.
- Click Activate when finished.
Checking Your FeedBurner Stats
If you want to see how many people are subscribed to your feed, just click the link for my feeds, which should be at the top left of the page. You can see all your feeds from different blogs, along with their subscriber counts. Clicking on any one will show you more specific information for that feed.
Happy Burning! If any of you more experienced bloggers want to add to this in the comments, please be my guest. If anyone has any other questions about feeds or FeedBurner, please ask them in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer them.