One of the great things about WordPress is the ability it gives us to connect with our audience and provide them the information they want with a few simple clicks. People want the information they need quickly and easily and the less time they have to spend looking for it, the more they will like it.
So, why not just send it right to their email box instead of making them wade through your site to find it? A simple way to do this is by utilizing RSS feeds; once people are subscribed, they will receive all your posts right in their inbox and have quick access to all they great information you are providing them.
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. Simply put, it’s a subscription to the content of a particular site or blog. It enables the subscriber to get all the information they want delivered right to their inbox for them to read at their leisure. They do not have to bother with bookmarking a page and remembering to go back to it, or what it was even called, so they can find it in their bookmarks.
For this tutorial we’ll be setting up a feed with Feedburner, a free RSS feed service from Google. To begin, if you don’t already have a Google account, head one over there now and get yourself one. It’s almost impossible to do much without a Google account these days, because Google offers so many free services that business owners and bloggers can take advantage of.
The first thing you will need to have on hand is your feed address. For most WordPress sites, whether you’re on WordPress.com, or using a self-hosted WordPress installation, the feed address will simply be http://www.yoursite.com/feed. You can test this by typing this URL into your browser and hitting enter. If your Outlook opens asking you if you want to subscribe, or if you see a page showing your latest posts, you’ve used the correct address.
Once you have your Google account created and confirmed, log in and go to http://feedburner.google.com. Type in the URL of your site and click Next, to see if Feedburner can locate your feed. If not, type in your feed address and click Next.
Select whether you are setting up the feed for your posts, or for comments (for this tutorial we are setting up a posts feed), and click Next.
After the following Welcome screen, where you can edit the title of the feed if you wish, click the Next button to go through the next couple of screens until you are at the final screen, which will walk you through the steps of customizing the look of your feed, how you wish to publicize it and more. Here you can edit things such as how the titles will display, insert social media sharing tools, add Google Adsense ads, etc. Click through the tabs and try activating various services to see if they will benefit your or your readers.
Under the “Publicize” tab, you can select to offer subscriptions via email, rather than RSS feeds, which will sometimes make it more convenient for your reader. To select this method, click Publicize > Email Subscriptions, then click the Activate button. Here you can grab the HTML code for a small email signup form and insert it into your sidebar or other location. **Note, if you already have an email newsletter sign up form on your site, you might want to use a normal RSS feed subscription, to avoid confusion for your readers.
There are various ways to insert the RSS feed icon on your site and link to your Feedburner feed. Some themes offer it the same way you elect to put a search bar on your site. My choice is to often include the icon with other social media icons at the top of the sidebar, so it’s quickly visible to visitors. If you know HTML, you can insert the images and the hyperlinks in a text widget in your sidebar, but there are numerous plugins available that will allow you to select from a variety of social media icons and insert your links and then drag the complete widget directly into your sidebar.