What Causes Subscribers to Read Your Blog’s Feed?

By Steven Snell

As you’re flipping through your feed reader, reading some feeds and skipping others, have you ever stopped to think about what influences your decision on which feeds are worthy of your attention? More importantly, have you ever thought about what makes your feed appealing enough to your subscribers that it actually gets read?

Most of us subscribe to more blog feeds than we will ever read in a single day. The decision to read, scan, or skip is determined in an instant. To have an effective blog you’ll need to address the issues that will cause your subscribers to read, or at least scan, your feed before moving on to the next one.

I looked at my own habits as an RSS subscriber and I found these factors:

1. Title

The post title is important for a number of reasons. You probably read a lot about the post title affecting your search engine rankings and your success with social media, but it is equally important for helping to get your feed read by more of your subscribers. Compelling and captivating titles will generate interest and intrigue while boring titles will lead to less interest. Other common methods include using questions and numbers in the title.

2. Timing

Timing can impact the readership of your feed in a few different ways. Many subscribers will not check their RSS reader over the weekends and as a result their feed reader will be overflowing on Monday morning. In this case, feeds are unlikely to actually be read. Knowing specific times that are likely to be good or bad for your readers and timing your posts according can be a big help.

Other aspects of timing will influence the reader’s decision but will be out of your control. Your post may come right after a vacation or at another time that is bad for a subscriber. On the other hand, the timing could be perfect if you address an issue in your post that the subscriber has been interested in recently. In this case, of course, your post is very likely to be read.

3. Pictures

Some bloggers use pictures and images very effectively in their posts and feeds. While pictures help on the actual page of your blog, they can sometimes have an even bigger impact within the RSS feed, which is typically pretty bland. Pictures are one of the best ways to help your feed quickly stand out from the others.

4. Reputation

This is a big one. All of us have our favorite feeds that we read on a regular basis. These feeds are unlikely to get skipped over. Likewise, most of us have feeds that we hardly ever read. We’re basically in the habit of skipping over these feeds, so it’s unlikely that they’ll be read. We all need to be striving to build a reputation that makes our feed one that subscribers look for and read every time.

5. Recommendations

Have you ever subscribed to a blog that was recommended to you by a friend or by another blogger that you trust? In these situations we tend to value the recommendation, which influences the reputation that the other blogger has in our mind. Although we have no personal experience or reason to appreciate this feed, we take the word of someone else. Successful bloggers benefit from recommendations all the time. Make your blog worth recommending and your feeds will be read by more people.

6. Topic

So maybe a particular blog post’s title isn’t especially attention-grabbing, but it gives you enough information to see that the post is on a topic that is of particular interest to you. Chances are, you’ll read. As a blogger you can benefit by knowing what topics pique the interest of your readers and writing accordingly.

7. Consistency

If your blog posts come in a regular and predictable pattern, readers will grow to expect and anticipate your posts. Daily Blog Tips is a great example of this. I know that Daniel is going to post something every day, and when I go to my feed reader I’m looking for it. Because of this there is a much better chance that I’ll read the post. While you don’t necessarily need to publish a post every day, some type of consistency can help.

8. Frequency

In some cases frequency can cause posts to be ignored. Although many of the top blogs post numerous times each day, many subscribers don’t have time to read that many posts. Each post individually is not that likely to be read by most subscribers. This works ok for news services like TechCrunch, but if you’re publishing the type of content that you want to be read by a majority of subscribers, don’t flood their RSS readers with too many new posts.

9. Full Posts or Excerpts?

Just about everyone has an opinion of whether you should publish full posts or excerpts in your feeds. I strongly prefer full posts because that’s what readers tend to want. Personally, I hardly read any feeds in my feed reader that use partial posts. The point of using a feed reader is to save time and increase convenience. Partial posts in feeds do neither. If you publish full posts in your feed you are more likely to be read.

10. Readability

The formatting of your posts can impact how many subscribers pay attention to your feed. Most readers want to be able to scan feeds and then read those that really interest them. You can accommodate them by using white space, bold text, lists, headers and sub-headers, etc.

11. Curiosity

Some bloggers are very effective at creating curiosity with their post titles and introductory paragraphs. The human nature of readers is to keep reading to satisfy there curiosity.

12. Colors

While most RSS feeds are black and white, there are some options for sprucing up your feed by adding some color. We already mentioned that pictures can help to get your feed read by more people, and one of the reasons is because of the color that pictures can add. Another option is to use color in the text. The latest version of WordPress gives users the option to add colored text very easily, which I think may prove to be a valuable addition.

13. Their Own Interests

You may be able to increase the readership of your blog by catering to the desires of your subscribers. For example, contests have become increasingly popular recently. One of the reasons that contests are effective is that they get your readers involved and lead them to read your posts. In this case they are partially motivated by a potential prize to read, but they are still reading. Another example is removing the nofollow tags from links in your blog’s comments. Readers who are interested in getting real links to their own blog may be more likely to read your posts and comment since they have something added to gain.

These are just some examples that I find to be influential. What other factors cause you to read a post or skip over it? And how do you address this in your own feeds?



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45 Responses to “What Causes Subscribers to Read Your Blog’s Feed?”

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