I generally subscribe to 3-5 new blogs per month. Maybe they’re not new, but they’re new to me, because I’ve never heard of them or read them before. But trying to quantify the features of the blogs I subscribe to is hard to do. Why do I subscribe? Is it the content? The design?
Because I’m a curious guy, I decided to take some inventory of the blogs in my reader. It was actually a pretty fun experiment. I was surprised to actually see the design of some of the blogs. Since I read exclusively from my reader, I didn’t even remember what the design looked like 🙂
Here are 5 features I’ve found to be effective to convincing me to subscribe.
1. Would it be cliche to say that content matters?
I don’t really care if it’s cliche or not, content matters! If you don’t have regular decent articles, or at the very least articles that encourage lively discussion, then don’t even bother starting a blog. I’m dead serious. Blog content, to a person who reads 80+ feeds, is of paramount importance. Don’t even think about softball articles.
2. A clean, simple, aesthetically pleasing design
If you can’t design a site for your blog software, pay someone to do it. We are professionals. This is what we do. You can’t ignore the fact that if your design sucks, you won’t get as many readers. I’m partial to sites with the content on the left and two well used right hand sidebars, but that’s just me.
3. Readable Text
If your readers are like me, then they will bookmark your site before subscribing to it. Normally, I will bookmark the blog in del.icio.us and come back once or twice a week and check the content. I use this time to see if the site is worth a spot in my reader. So…. that means for at least a week, I will be reading your content directly on your site … which means you need readable text. For me, that means either Arial or Trebuchet MS fonts. If you use Lucida Grande, I’m gonna be pissed. I just thing that font is unreadable. If you use a Georgia or Times New Roman font, you might be pushing the line. It better be a big font with lots of space. Serif fonts, without good spacing, can be unreadable as well.
4. Prominent Link to Your RSS Feed
I like to reward good bloggers by subscribing directly to their feedburner feed … if they have one. The joy of seeing new readers in your stats is a good encouragement … something you don’t get if I subscribe to your blog’s feed address. So, don’t make me hunt for your link. If it takes me too long to find the link, I’ll just click the RSS button in the address bar of FireFox. Normally, that will give me your blog’s feed, not your feedburner feed. Worse still, if I’m in a bad mood and I can’t find your link, I might not even subscribe at all, out of spite for the time you made me waste. Think about it.
5. Comment on My Blog
OK, OK, this has nothing to do with your design, but it will get me to read your blog. My personal blog is religious in nature. I like to find good bloggers in my niche. The way I do that is by checking who my favorite bloggers link to, and by checking the sites of the people who comment on my blog (also, linking to me gets you lots of love). If you can contribute to the conversation in my comments, I will probably assume that you can contribute to the conversation on your own blog. Nearly every single one of my regular commenters holds a place in my feed reader. That’s not a coincidence.
What about you? What makes you subscribe to a blog’s feed? Be honest and asses the blogs that hold a place in your reader and ask yourself why you subscribed. Was it the cool design? The great content? The ease of process? Did they comment on your blog? What was it? Let everyone know in the comments!
Actually I do not want you to subscribe to my FeedBurner feed/url. I redirect the feed to feedburner, in that way maintaining every possibility to use another platform without losing any subscribers. I want you to subscribe to the main feed! 😉
Content is the key element, to be sure, but as much as what is written is important, just as important to me is how articles are written. If the text is riddled with typographical or grammatical errors, I’m much less likely to subscribe or remain faithful to a feed. As I become more and more mindful of the quality of my own writing, I find that I’m a bit more demanding of others as well.
But that said, the writing style and content certainly can compensate for less-than-optimal writing skill. If it makes me smile – or scratch my noggin – I’ll be back.
The better the content on then site the better chance that I’ll take the time to register.
As I wrote a few months back:
Stop wasting time; dump 90% of the feeds you read
I think you should a) think twice before subscribing, b) prune your feed list regularly and c) subscribe to aggregated feeds (such as SEL’s daily recap) instead of full blogs.
On that note, more blogs should offer daily (or weekly, if they don’t post 3+ items a day) recaps plus a separate feed for the recaps.
My subscribe list is very small, and fairly recent (I only got into RSS within the last few months, because I like visiting the actual website so much!)
The common thread for my subscribed list is unique information and tips that I can use. So I subscribe to Chris Pearson and Copyblogger for example.
However, if you’re looking to amass a large subscriber list, you’ve got to look at the average person. The average person needs to be reminded to subscribe, so I think the best 2 step solution is 1) give them content they’d want to subscribe to and 2) remind them to subscribe (big RSS button, or What Would Seth Godin Do? plugin)