How Do You Convert Your Feed‑readers?

March 22, 2006

I really pushed FeedBurner (and more specifically, John Z in Customer Care) to the wall on what feeds looked like. I read my feeds in Thunderbird, and when I finally started sending John screenshots of

how his own feed came through in Thunderbird (and why couldn’t mine look like that?), he wrote me this note:

Fascinating! Turns out that Thunderbird ignores the convention set by all other feed readers and shows you the *web page* that corresponds to a feed item rather than the item content.

After John showed me the light, I realized that most people weren’t seeing beautiful webpages like I was — in general, feeds aren’t overly pretty. Sure, you can include graphics, but the individual who is reading isn’t going to see your blogroll or your profile or see your $10,000 logo. And they get to see it in the typeface they’ve chosen. This becomes a major conversion issue – whether it’s your site or your blog, you’ve (hopefully) optimized it for visitors to take action, and now, how do you get them to take action when they never visit?

You could just show a snippet and thereby mandate that they go to the permalink to see the whole thing. I’d love to see the analytics on that one – how many people actually click through to finish reading, how many just read the snippet and how many delete the feed? (In general, when someone does that, I write the blogger and ask them to please turn it on.) So how do you convert them into an action-taker?

Of course, it depends on what action you want them to take. Maybe you are a blogger who needs viewership to increase ad revenues, or maybe you publish an email marketing newsletter that you hope will maintain relationships with customers and potential customers.

A few thoughts:

  • Always have great content. If you don’t have anything to say, don’t say it. This is true not just for bloggers but for companies that are “PR machines.”
  • Always stay on topic.

  • Link to other posts you’ve written, or pages on your site. That way, the viewer has the chance to read more, and you take them to exactly where you want them to be (although, I for once I don’t have anything I want to link to. Sorry.)
  • Link to your site. For example, I link to my site after my name in every post – it’s a natural place and doesn’t seem obnoxious. I hope.


ps on the other hand, you could convince everyone you know to read their feeds in Thunderbird…