Do not send your subscribers directly to Feedburner

By Daniel Scocco

Feedburner does provide a very useful service, but sending subscribers directly to the Feedburner feed is a mistake that many bloggers (including myself until recently) commit. By sending subscribers directly to the Feedburner feed I mean placing an RSS link on your website that points to “http://feeds.feedburner.com/yourfeed”.

Why is this a mistake? Because on this way the readers will not be subscribing to your feed but rather to the Feedburber burned feed of your blog. This means that a third party is in control of the subscribers. Should Feedburner break down or decide to charge money for the service on the future you will lose the subscribers.

A simple solution for this problem is to make readers subscribe to your feed (i.e. http://www.domain.com/feed/) and redirect them to Feedburner. There are several ways to create the redirect.

If you already have a .htaccess file on your server you can simply add this code (it works with /feed/, if you use /rss/ you will need to edit it):

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} !feedburner [NC]
RewriteRule ^feed/?$ http://feeds.feedburner.com/yourfeed [R=302,L]
RewriteEngine Off

Alternatively you can use the Feedburner Replacement plugin that will redirect all your incoming feed requests from readers to the Feedburner feed.

Finally, if you do not want to redirect your readers but still want to access the Feedburner detailed statistics you can add this code to your feed file (i.e. rss.php or similar):

$feedburnerfeed="http://feeds.feedburner.com/yourfeed";
$ch = curl_init();
$useragent=$_SERVER[’HTTP_USER_AGENT’];
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_USERAGENT, $useragent);
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, 1);
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_URL, $feedburnerfeed);
$data = curl_exec($ch);
curl_close($ch);

Thanks Leo Paiva for the .htaccess tip and Mark Wielgus for the PHP code.

Update: The two redirect methods work only for people copying your feed address directly into their readers. If they click on the link, they will get redirected to Feedburner and they will end up subscribing to that feed. The PHP code method so far is the only way to retain 100% control of your subscribers.

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64 Responses to “Do not send your subscribers directly to Feedburner”

  • Matt

    Hey Daniel – nice quick response. And an excellent concise post.

  • Daniel

    Matt, thanks. I had been thinking about this problem for some time already and remembered to fix it for good yesterday when you posted the comment.

    It is crazy how even popular blogs are doing this. If I am not wrong Techcrunch’s 350k subscribers are all subscribed via Feedburber. If Feedburner decided to ask money from those big players I wonder what would happen.

  • David Andrew Taylor

    Just curious… Would putting that “in-between” link take away from your stats as well? Meaning, if subscribers were visiting via Feedburner, do they show up in your statistics?

  • Daniel

    David, you are asking about how feedburner affects your site statistics like page views and visitors right?

    I am not sure but I think they cache your feed and serve it to the readers, so those hits should not be counted on your statistics.

  • Matt

    Cheers Daniel.

    I’m planning to do the same, but I need to dig into feedburner a bit first to understand just what they can do – so I’m currently serving my own feeds.

    I’ve been doing a bunch of changes after the conversation on here the other day.

    I currently grappling with the code to move dates and categories below the body of a post – do you take reader questions 😕

    David – yes your stats would probably change somewhat, but web stats are quite crude anyway, especially for RSS. RSS stats are mainly only good for trends anyway.

    e.g., I am subscribed to the DBT feed at home, at work, on Bloglines and on Newsgator – which lets Feeddemon sync the different computers.

  • Amanda

    I like feedburner because of the count is has. is there a way to track for your own feed does anyone know *shakes you*

  • Ashish Mohta

    Daneil what difference does it make if i offer direct link or do a redirect ? They ultimately landup to feed which is burnt by feedburner…..

  • Daniel

    Ashish, think about those 2 scenarios.

    1. you place a link directly to feedburner

    2. you place a link to your own Rss feed and redirect it

    While Feedburner is working both methods will present the same results. If one day Feedburner closes down, however, the first method will make you lose all your subscribers (their feed will just stop working).

    If you were using the second method, however, all you need to do is to remove the redirect and your subscribers will automatically start receiving your own feed instead of the feedburner one, so you retain them.

  • Daniel

    Amanda, if you use your own feed and place the redirects I mentioned or the PHP code you will still get access to the Feedburner stats and the feed count.

  • Ashish Mohta

    Daniel, But the source of feed which the subscribers have subscribed to is still feedburner. IF feedburner stops the source will not change…Its a redirect which means readers never got the feed from the blog but from feedburner….

  • Ashish Mohta

    Ah ok…lol got it..Agreed to your point

  • Matt

    Ashish

    No it isn’t – if you look at the DBT subscribe icon it links to here:

    http://www.dailyblogtips.com/feed/

    This goes in the RSS reader. When someone tries to access it, they come the Daniel’s server first then get pushed to feedburner.

    If Daniel needs to use someone else to burn his feed (or in fact to point it somewhere else in the site) all he has to do is change the Rewrite rule above.

    Hope that helps.

  • Ashish Mohta

    Matt: I got the idea now. I was discussin g this with him lol…Thanks for the explanation

  • Ashish Mohta

    If somebody can program to check if burner service is alive or not and then redirect ..it will be cool. Because if its a redirect When service is down…people will landup on 404 page if we dont disable the plugin or change the htaccess file

  • Brian

    How much additional bandwidth do you think this causes? (I’m assuming the redirect doesn’t cause much.) That was my main reason for using feedburner, I didn’t want to have to deal with constant downloads of a RSS feed by a runaway feed reader.

  • engtech

    @brian: it should be something low like 500 bytes per request, so even a runaway feed reader can’t do damage.

  • Patrix

    I have one problem with Feedburner. I administer a blog where we publish [different] content in six languages.

    The overall site feed contains content from all six languages although individual language content can be obtained from /category//feed but somehow I am unable to remove non-English content from the main feed.

    If I use Feedburner Replacement Plugin, I can’t even use the individual language feeds. But either way does anyone know how to remove certain categories from the main feed yet retain their individual category feeds?

  • Patrix

    Oops…the site mentioned in my comment above is http://www.desipundit.com

  • matwilko

    This is a great solution to a not-so great problem, but wouldn’t the second solution using curl use your servers bandwidth instead of Feedburners, which is usually the idea in the first place?

  • Daniel

    matwilko, as Engtech explained we are not talking about huge bandwidth here, RSS feeds are usually very light (they carry the text, not the format or design).

  • egon

    But what if the person just right-click, “copy link location” then adds to their RSS reader? That’s what I do, so wouldn’t that not be redirecting?

  • Ashish Mohta

    @Egon : you have a point there, I think daniel is going to test this thing.I am waiting for his answer too

  • Daniel

    Here is a comment from Rick, a VP on Feedburner (I will publish it cause Akismet was eating the comment).
    _______________________________

    Hi all – Wanted to jump in and offer up some additional info. While we encourage people to do exactly what’s been documented here – redirect *your* URL instead of exposing ours – that’s not always possible. (If you use a
    blog platform like Blogger or WordPress.com, for instance, you can’t implement redirects.)

    We take this issue seriously, though – and want users to be completely comfortable trusting us with their subscribers. We’ve documented how to “reclaim” your subscribers should you ever decide to leave us: we’ll just redirect the subscribers back to you. Details are here:

    http://blogs.feedburner.com/feedburner/archives/2005/06/ciao_feedburner.php

    As far as bandwidth, it actually can be a rather significant issue for more popular sites. Whether it’s a poorly-configured aggregator (if it doesn’t respect if-modified-since headers, or support compression), or just one that polls the feed several times per minute – the number of requests * the size of the feed (we host some feeds that are several hundred kilobytes) can
    result in a fair amount of bandwidth each month. Depending on your hosting provider, this could be an issue. (We don’t really promote FeedBurner as a bandwidth saver, but some publishers rely on us in part for that specific benefit.)

    Regarding the “if FeedBurner starts charging” – rest assured, we will never charge for services that are free today. Never. We may add services at some point that augment the core service, but what’s free today will remain free. We are growing quickly, generating revenue and are quite comfortable with our ability to operate for a long time to come.

    Regards,

    Rick Klau

  • Matt Wardman

    Egon:

    If they do that on the feed icon here, they will get the feed address here.

    If they do that once they are in Feedburner – i.e., copy the link from the address bar – they will get the feedburner address.

    You can’t win them all!

    brian:
    “it should be something low like 500 bytes per request, so even a runaway feed reader can’t do damage.”

    Can I clarify that the extra bandwidth on the server at Daily Blog Tips will not be the feed itself – that will come from Feedburner.

    The extra bandwidth here will be for the redirect request itself – which will be something like 500 bytes per time.

    Feeds themselves can be heavy – the current Problogger Feed (at feedburner), for example, is 40k. You can be swamped if you are hosting your own feed and someone sets their reader badly. Caching is one solution in this case. Feedburner redirect is another.

    Having said that, if you have a decent webhost that should not be a problem – my host for http://www.mattwardman.com gives me something like 2700Gb per month. I have used 2Gb in the last 30 days.

    Rgds

    Matt

  • Matt Wardman

    Rick, if you are picking this up – could I ask you a question:

    What do I do to redirect more than one feed to Feedburner.

    I have a specialised (politics) feed which is driven off one category.

    How do I direct that to a different Feedburner Feed from my main feed? When I find that out I can take this approach.

    Rgds

    Matt

  • XmasB

    I don’t get this. I have redirected my feed to feedburner for a long time. When someone tries to get my feed from http://xmasb.com/feed, they should get the feed from feedburner. And most people I know uses a webbased feedreader, like google, bloglines og netvibes. They all get the feed the from feedburner, since it has been redirected already.

    When I tried this to test, the feed was from feedburner. If feedburner is down, the feedreader don’t get the feed.

    Nice idea, but it doesn’t work?

  • XmasB

    Argh. Stupid ‘,’…

  • XmasB

    And just to make a point…
    This is the url firefox ends up with when I press you rss icon: http://feeds.feedburner.com/DailyBlogTips

    Redirected or not. The end ersult is the same. If feedburner stops working now, I don’t get your feed, do I?

  • Daniel

    Xmas, yeah the redirect method needs a tweak. It works if someone copies the feed address (http://www.dailyblogtips.com/feed/) and paste it into the reader.

    If someone clicks on the link he will get the Feedburner feed. I am doing some tests now, but it looks like only the third method works 100% of the times.

    That is, not redirecting the feed to feedburner but rather changing the PHP code to get the stats.

  • Rishi

    Hey Daniel,

    How about using services like AddThis instead of a feed link??

  • XmasB

    The biggest problem is that many readers also get the redirect. Then they end up with feedburner either way.

    And, lets face it, the (human) readers won’t do the extra “work” of copying the url into the feedreader. They click on a link, or an rss-icon, and ends up with the feedburner in the end.

    It’s a good idea, but it needs a better implementation. For now, I’m counting on feedburner to be somewhat stable and free. 🙂

  • Sahil Gupta

    I am not getting this..
    the post is based on “WHAT IF” one day feedburner goes down….
    This “what if” can do whatever you want it to do.. what if one day google search goes down.. “Shouldn’t we make our own seperate search engine to save us from that day”

    ya i know that was sheer exaggeration .. but anyone getting my point…??

  • lunakizz

    Great! It’s look like a way to get traffic.

  • Ashish Mohta

    @Sahil: Yes we all get your poin but its called as “Prevention is better than cure”. Feedburner is a service which is MAJORLY used by everyone. In Search engines we have options, there are many search engines not all will go down and they never wil.There is chance of getting hits again from search engines if they go down, people will stil use it and come back.
    But if once reader gets a 404 for your feed rad its bad for your blog .Feedburner is kind of service
    which we are depending on too much. They will also not go down chances are 1 out of 10. But you dont loose your readers when they go for temporory shutdown. Its always good to have a backup than having nothing at all….

    No offences but thats what is being explained here.

  • Andy Beard

    You probably forgot to read all the comments on Marks post, especially from the feedburner guys who said it wouldn’t work.

    After that, the guys at Weblogs Tools Collection put together some much better code, if you really really insist that you want to have total control of your feed.

    From what I have seen, Feedburner have extremely good uptime, better than most servers, and even when the site is down, the feeds still work.

  • Dan

    That is definately one tip worth putting into practice, I imagine if they decided to charge and you decided not to pay it would mean a significant reader loss.

  • Daniel

    Dan, notice that the redirect methods will not work 100%, I am still looking for something more solid, since I still want to use Feedburner services.

    I will post updates.

  • George S., Blogvasion.com

    So…FeedBurner.com is down and guess what? Yes yes, I found this post. The point of view expressed is correct. Even though FeedBurner.com is a part of Google Inc. it may still get out of business one day. Even if this never happens, such downtime can and most likely will have negative effects on the bloggers.

    Well, I’m seriously considering implementing the ideas expressed in this post. Thank you for the insight.

  • Ray Fowler

    Daniel,

    Here is what I am doing, but I am not sure if it solves the problem or not.

    I am using FeedBurner, but under Optimize | BrowserFriendly at the very bottom I selected the “Redirecting Your Feed Traffic” link. Then I put my original feed (http://www.rayfowler.org/feed/) in the “Redirected Feed URL” box.

    Now when people subscribe from my web page they go to my FeedBurner landing page as usual, but when they click one of the subscription buttons it subscribes them under my original feed link instead of the feedburner feed link.

    Does this take care of the problem you are addressing in this post?

    Thanks,
    Ray

  • Ray Fowler

    Hi Daniel,

    Any thoughts on my comment/question above? (July 23, 2007) Does anyone know if this is an effective way to use feedburner without losing control of your feed?

    Thanks,
    Ray

  • Maksimil

    Hi ! …
    Mobile phone is not a luxury but a tool…. To help you with this!…
    You look at Mobile telephone!

  • Maeve

    Daniel,
    I just installed Feedburner for my website http://www.AmericanEnglishDoctor.

    The RSS feed link in my footer brings up the URL:
    http://feeds.feedburner.com/%20Americanenglishdoctor
    This gives a Feedburner error page
    which does not work because of the inserted %20.

    The RSS feed link in the URL line of my browser brings this up:
    feed://americanenglishdoctor.com/wordpress/?feed=rss2
    This produces a Safari error page

    What must I do to correct these faulty addresses?

  • Earth & Economy

    There is another FeedBurner option. Earth & Economy chose to use the MyBrand Pro option which is a free service. MyBrand lets you use your own domain name to host your feed instead of feeds.feedburner.com. So instead of doing a redirect, you can control your subdomain via a CNAME entry. That way if you wish to change where the subdomain points to in the future you can. Keep int mind that changes to a CNAME take time to propogate where a change to a redirect is almost instantaneous. Good Luck with your configuration.

  • Ray Fowler

    Daniel and others,

    I have been using the method I described in comment #39 for six months now and it seems to be working fine. Here is the link to an article I wrote about it if you are interested in following up:

    http://www.rayfowler.org/2008/02/06/feedburner-hack-maintain-control-of-feed-and-subscribers/

  • Neil

    I just started using feedburner for myself and a client but we are both not receiving emails when we update our blog. I’m not to worried about inserting code to redirect visitors to original feed. I can download the subscribers from feedburner to an excel spreadsheet. My question is why my emails are coming through? I’ve checked the feedburner forums and this problem seems to have occurred hundreds of times before…

    I’m worried I’m going to lose credibility here because of this problem.. but it has such a good backend system… Daniel, your help would be much appreciated..

  • Neil

    sorry..

    why my emails ‘are not’ coming through?

  • Daniel Scocco

    Neil, I can’t understand the problem, you need to give more information.

    Did you activate email subscriptions? Are you sure they are not going to the spam folder? Did you subscribe via email yourself to test?

  • Neil

    Hi Daniel

    I think I may found the problem, my client’s blog is now working, tomorrow I shall see if my own blog is operating correctly (the feeds that is).

    The problem seems to be that I was requesting emails to come through between 7am and 9am, for some reason feedburner doesn’t always deliver during this time…

    Thanks

  • Poker Guru

    Wow awesome post. I didn’t realize that I’ve been doing the same mistake too. I though using Feedburner gives all advantages and takes away nothing. I would implement this in my blog.

    Cheers

  • Bob

    Hi Daniel,
    I have about 1800 subscribers now through the direct feed of Feedburner, Is there a way to redirect them to my own feed so that I don’t lose them If feedburner closes up someday…. ?
    Or it just works with new subscribers?

  • Maeve

    Daniel,
    I don’t know if being off line had anything to do with it, but the other day my Server shut down my site because of a billing error. It went right back up again, but when I looked at Feedburner, ALL my email subscriptions were GONE.

    When I tried to re-subscribe one, I got the message that that person was already subscribed. I phoned a subscriber today and found out that she had not received my latest post.

    Is there anything I can do to retrieve my subscribers?

  • Bang Kritikus

    Add rss feed url into yahoo rss feed directory

  • Robin Alley

    Thanks for sharing, but is this still relevant today?

  • Steve

    I have just included a RSS on my blog. It is using Twentyten theme.
    The icon seems to be linled to the feed, but the feed title is linked to the home page.
    Does anyone know how to fix that?
    Also how do I get rid of the item display below the RSS?

    Thanks

Comments are closed.