First, I’d like to thank everyone who subscribes to my insurance marketing blog. I really appreciate it! Besides emailing my two weekly posts to subscribers each week, I also make the blog available via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and in other ways. Every blogger’s goal is to increase traffic and convert as many people as possible into subscribers. So, when a reader (not a subscriber) recently asked why I don’t have an RSS feed link on my blog alongside the Twitter and Facebook “follow me” links, I asked Steve Wolfson, our master web developer, to add one.
Even if you don’t use it, you’ve probably heard of it. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. It’s simply a way for a publisher — that means you if you’re blogger— to distribute or “syndicate” your content as widely as possible. From a reader’s standpoint, it’s a way to view content from many sources in one place.
Steve’s reply when I asked him to add an RSS Subscribe icon to our website surprised me. “I used to include these on most of the websites I created. I stopped as I gradually realized a couple of things. First, outside of tech and academic circles, perhaps 10% of visitors use RSS feeds.” But more importantly, Steve said, people who add your blog feed to their Feedblitz, Google Reader, My Yahoo!, Bitty Browser, Pluck, Technorati, Dapper, etc. account, are not as likely to engage with your content afterward as someone who subscribes directly.
“I am subscribed to probably 150 RSS feeds on Google Reader,” he says. “I look at most of them once a year.” He says he does look at his Feedblitz account daily, which sends him one email that lists posts from a smaller number of blogs that he follows more closely. But even then, Steve generally gives that content only a quick glance unless an item really captures his interest.
The larger point that Steve went on to make though was this: Now that SmartsPro Marketing has started to build websites for our insurance agency clients, many of them will want to see that orange RSS icon right there next to the Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn icons. Given the choice — or more accurately the lack of choice — agencies will likely benefit more if people opt to follow them on Facebook or Twitter or, best of all, subscribe to their blog.
RSS or even social media followers may increase your web traffic, but your impact will be greater with subscribers because of the personal attention you get. In addition, with subscribers you can reach out to them individually with special offers; you can track and analyze your readership more accurately; and you won’t lose any subscribers if Google Reader or another syndicator has a glitch and deletes them.
In the long run, we decided to add an RSS button to the blog because we want people to have choices. After all, not that many people are hardcore RSS feed readers, as Steve pointed out. But if you have a blog, keep in mind that your relationships will most likely be stronger with people who sign up for your blog. Focus on your sign-up area. Give people a reason to subscribe, if you can. Offer them a premium, like a free report, and let them know that you may have special offers them from time to time.