A Blogger’s Guide to Setting Up FeedBurner Email Subscriptions

FeedBurner Logo in Envelope

Licensed under Creative Commons.

More often than not, the first time someone visits your blog is usually the last. To keep from losing these readers forever, bloggers should make it as easy as possible for readers to know when new content is available.

After setting up The Hobby Blogger’s RSS feed, the next task was to enable readers to get blog updates by email. Not everyone wants or knows how to use an RSS reader, so offering an easy way to get email updates helps maximize subscriptions to your blog’s RSS feed.

In this post, I’ll show you how to offer email subscriptions to your readers using Google’s FeedBurner service.

Why I chose FeedBurner

Originally, I intended to use MailChimp for email subscriptions. Among other features, I liked that it’s free (up to 2,000 subscribers), and that you could brand the emails to look more like your web site.

I also wanted to send an email out every time I published a new post.

Then I began thinking:

  • If I start racking up email subscribers, and begin posting more than a couple times a week, I’ll have to move up to the paid tier sooner.
  • What if some readers don’t want an email every time I post? Maybe they would only want a weekly email summarizing the posts for that week.
  • What if I want to send out special emails to my readers, like teasers for upcoming posts?

To cover my bases, I decided to offer my readers a choice between daily and weekly updates, and using a different service to manage each choice.

Giving readers a choice

With daily updates, readers will get an email on any day that I publish a new post. These emails will be powered by FeedBurner because it’s free and unlimited in the number of subscribers I can have.

I’ll use MailChimp to manage the weekly newsletter style emails that will contain synopses of the week’s posts as well as teasers for upcoming content. Since these emails will go out less frequently, I can go longer before bumping up against the free 12,000 email/2,000 subscriber limit that would force me to start paying for the service.

So today, I’ll walk you through setting up FeedBurner to manage your email subscriptions.

Setting up FeedBurner

After logging into your FeedBurner account, go to the Publicize tab of the FeedBurner Dashboard, and click on “Email Subscriptions” on the left. Then click the Activate button.

FeedBurner Email Subscriptions

After clicking the Activate button, links to four preferences panels will appear.

Feedburner Email Subscription Preferences

Let’s look at these settings in more detail.

Communications Preferences

Email “From” Address – This is the address from where your feed emails will appear to come.

If you’re using a Google account, go to your mail account settings and check out the “Send mail as” setting. By default, it’s set to your first and last name.

You might consider setting it to the name of your blog, especially if you have more than one. It will help your readers realize that the email is a blog update. However, if you consider your name to be your “brand,” then using your first and last name is probably best.

Confirmation Email Subject – I feel that FeedBurner’s default subject line your subscribers will receive to confirm their subscription is good enough. Of course, you could personalize it a bit more by using something like, “Welcome to yourblog.com.”

Confirmation Email Body – Again, FeedBurner’s default is pretty good, but I added a couple lines saying that readers can unsubscribe at any time. I also assure readers that their email addresses won’t be used for anything other than blog updates. It’s good to make your readers feel as comfortable as possible before they click on the confirm link.

Email Branding

This section will let you customize the look of your feed update emails to better reflect your website’s design.

Email Subject/Title – Follow the hot tip suggestion to use the title of your most recent post as the email subject by entering ${latestItemTitle} in the box. Since I already use my blog’s name in the “From” address, I don’t add it the email subject line to avoid being redundant and leave more room for the post title.

Even though I don’t anticipate posting more than once a day, I also checked the box next to “Change Subject when an email has 2 or more items” just in case. Paste the suggested “${latestItemTitle}” plus ${m} more in the adjacent box.

Always have the latest post title in the subject line, no matter how many times you post in one day. Readers are more likely to read the email if they actually see a title that attracts their attention.

Logo URL – Pasting a link to link to an image of your logo will help your blog’s brand recognition. Just remember that if you’re protecting your images from being hotlinked, make sure you allow Google access to your images so the logo will display in the email.

Typeset – Help give your readers an experience that’s similar to reading your website by adjusting the look of the email text. You can preview it in the box below.

Delivery Options

When’s the best time to send out your email updates? It depends on your target audience. Do they work 9-5? Are they stay-at-home moms with kids in school? KISSmetrics has a great infographic to help you figure out the best time to send updates.

Select Timezone – If you don’t yet know where your readers are, just select your timezone. That way, at least you’ll know when your emails will go out relative to when you publish your post.

Schedule Email Delivery – FeedBurner will send out the email updates within a two-hour window of your choosing. It’s not very precise, but it probably helps Google balance the load on their email servers.

Subscription Management

These options control the form and/or links that your visitors will use to subscribe to email updates.

Subscription Form Code – Here you’re given an HTML code snippet that you can paste into any web page to create an email subscription form. The default form looks like this:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

If you want to see the confirmation popup window that appears after clicking the Subscribe button, try submitting your email address in the form. Did you notice the not-so-subtle attempt to get you to subscribe to my updates?

Subscription Link Code – This HTML code snippet lets create a simple subscription link that would look something like Subscribe to The Hobby Blogger by Email (another shameless attempt). Go ahead. Click it.

Subscriber Management – Here you can view a list of your subscriber email addresses by clicking on the “View Subscriber Details” link.

Make sure to click the “CSV” link regularly to back up your list to a comma-separated file.

Also, if there are any subscriber addresses with an “Unverified” status, this means that a subscriber never clicked on the link in the confirmation email send from FeedBurner. It might have gone to their spam folder, so consider sending a personal email to introduce yourself and remind them to look for the email and confirm their subscription.

Feedburner Email Subscriber List

Where to put the form on your blog

If you’re focused on converting first-time visitors into subscribers, there are two vitally important places to put your subscription form:

  • Above the fold – Place the form somewhere at the top of your homepage so it can be seen without having to scroll down. The top of your sidebar is a good spot—it’s where I put mine. On some blogs, the form is the only thing above the fold.
  • About page – This is usually your blog’s second-most popular page. Hopefully you’ve hooked the reader’s attention, so this is the perfect time to ask them to subscribe to your feed.

Inserting the form in the sidebar

Remember the subscription form code snippet from the “Subscription Management” section? Go back and copy that code, then follow these steps:

  1. Go to Appearance > Widgets in your Dashboard.
  2. Expand the “Primary Sidebar” box at the top right of the page. Your theme might have some other name for the sidebar like “Main Sidebar.”
  3. Find the Text widget at the bottom of the “Available Widgets” box on the left of the page.
  4. Click and drag the Text widget to the “Primary Sidebar.”
  5. Enter “Get Free Email Updates” or something to that effect for the “Title” of the widget. The “Free” hopefully lowers the reader’s barrier to subscribing.
  6. Now paste the code snippet into the main box of the Text widget you just created, and click the Save button.

Email Text Widget Box

If you want to put the form in the content area of a static page—your About page for example—just switch to the page’s HTML editor and paste in the code. Voila.

To make the form more compact and save space, I deleted the “Delivered by FeedBurner” text and link by removing this code from the text widget box:

<p>Delivered by <a href="http://feedburner.google.com" target="_blank">FeedBurner</a></p>

 

Wrapping it up

Now readers can get your blog posts by email, but this might not satisfy all of your readers. A little farther down the road we’ll offer a newsletter email option using MailChimp.

Having an email list of subscribers can be very powerful asset for your blog. It provides you a captive audience to whom you can offer products (e.g. ebooks) that you might develop in the future.

What about you? Do you have an email list? How do you manage it?

Related Posts

How to Setup an RSS Feed Using Feedburner and the Genesis Framework
How to Own Your RSS Feed

Article by Bryan Kerr

I love breaking down the techie side of blogging into easy-to-understand tutorials. That's mostly what you'll find here on The Hobby Blogger.

Comments

  1. This was very helpful, thanks! It’s a shame, but I didn’t use Feedburner before and find it extremely useful now. But I am using it in quite unusual way.

    A few days ago I was on the road and decided to check my blog from a mobile phone. Actually, I wanted to see if my blog looks as awful as yours in Opera Mini (it looks good on default Android’s WebKit though). It turned out that my blog CRASHED when accessed from mobile device. At that moment I thought it crashes for everyone, and not until I got to a computer (I didn’t bother to unfold the notebook at the road) I realized that it’s only my android that causes server to crash on that particular request.

    You know what crash means, don’t you? HTTP 500 – “R.I.P.”. That was embarrassing. Embarrassing, because that was definitely my fault – I am not using the out-of-the-box version of BlogEngine, I made more than 3000 (!) changes into the engine to make it “better”, and during one of such enhancements I didn’t update the mobile theme, that’s why it crashed.

    However, at the time of my trip I thought that nobody could reach the blog – what a terrible loss for the world! And when I realized what caused that behavior, the problem didn’t disappear – it’s only a question of time when it will happen again. Either because you have some external service which fails, or your blog depends from the database which crashes or the hard drive is full – whatever!

    I wanted my blog to be available even when it’s not.

    So after about 2 minutes in Microsoft Expression Web, I gave birth to wonderful little page called 500.html, which is showed to users when my blog experiences deep trip. It briefly explains the situation and in 10 seconds automatically redirects you to the Feedburner page, which looks only a bit worse than original blog, but contains all the information.

    Basically, I had to add meta refresh into that page, like that:

    (don’t forget to change the url) so it would redirect users without loosing focus but with warning that what they will see is only a temporary solution and not redesign of the original website.
    Also, the design of that website is intentionally very simple, so any mobile device would easily read it.

    I will do similar to error 403 , which redirects spammers out of the main blog, as Feedburner doesn’t allow leaving comments :) Excerpt that there is no page behind the 403, it’s just an HTTP directive to get out, so no traffic is lost on that.
    The morale of the story – Feedburner is a must and it can be used as the backup of your blog in case if you are changing hosting or whatever.

  2. Bryan Kerr says:

    That’s an awesome way to have a backup and deal with a site outage. That would be really useful if, say, someone’s shared hosting site gets shutdown for a while because of a huge traffic spike because it went viral.

    I’m curious about what you mean about THB looking “awful” in Opera Mini. I installed it on my iPhone, and aside from no drop shadows on my images, and ill-aligned list bullets, it doesn’t look too different from mobile Safari.

  3. This post was incredibly helpful! Once I know I set up my Feedburner correctly, I am going to write a blog post about RSS feeds … and link to this post. Thank you.

  4. Thanks for this post! It was very helpful. Is there any way that I can customise feedburner, so that people only get the first four lines of the blog, and then they have to click the page link to go to the blogger page itself?

    • Happy to help. And yes, you can customize FeedBurner to give summaries followed by a link. In FeedBurner go to the Optimize tab and click on “Summary Burner” at the bottom of the left sidebar. There you can specify a maximum number of characters of the post you want to be shown.

  5. You are my new favorite blog writer! Great advice on Feedburner! Hey – If you can, check out my new blog (first ever) and let me know your thoughts. myjourneywithlea.blogspot.com

    • Bryan Kerr says:

      Thanks Alexandria. Good job of setting up a intriguing blog to build an audience for your book. Are you thinking of moving over to WordPress soon? If so make sure you check out StudioPress for your theme.

  6. Hi Bryan,
    Is there any way by which I can send email to my subscribers weekly instead of Daily using Feedburner?
    Thanks in Advance.

  7. Great post…Is their a way to change sender address in confirmation mail also. “FeedBurner Email Subscriptions” does not look very professional.

  8. This was a very helpful post. I think I’ve got it on my blog now: BloggerTipsTricks

  9. Hi! It’s there any way to dosificate the mails, like just one weekly mail with all the posts?

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