Feed Stats: Do Your Subscribers Really Read Your Blog? Increase Item Use


Item Use of the SEO 2.0 Blog Feed: Varying from 28 to 326.

Most bloggers and online publishers lately concentrate on the number of subscribers as the key metric of blog success. This is not wrong but not entirely right either. You can have lots of subscribers but almost none who really read your blog. Not to mention the altogether fake subscribers which stem from bots, prefetching (Browsers and RSS readers subscribing in advance trying to anticipate your interest) and the likes.

Luckily there is a metric which tells us whether people who subscribe to a blog really read it, it’s called Item Use and is provided by Feedburner.

I have a love to hate relationship with Feedburner.

It is owned by Google and thus part of the all encompassing data collection behemoth by the “Microsoft of the Web”. It’s subscriber metrics seem wrong most of the time, especially on the weekends. Or do you really think that roughly 5 – 10% of subscribers unsubscribe for the weekend? As far as I know it still provides the best stats available though.

To be honest my Item Use just a few weeks ago was catastrophic, on some days as low as 25 per day which would mean only 1 in 40 subscribers reading my posts.

I wouldn’t mention this if I haven’t dealt with this issue. I increased the Item Use more or less tenfold. This means that I convinced ten times more of my subscribers to read my posts. It’s still rough just 1/4 of them but a completely different number.

What did I do to make my subscribers read my blog posts?

  1. Concentrated on my preferred audience and their needs
  2. gave advice they can make use of for their daily tasks
  3. Followed up on matters I covered earlier
  4. Created additional value where the news were already known
  5. Tackled controversial and most pressing current topics

As expected most posts that attracted my subscriber base to click on them were not the ones that performed well on social media and the other way around. Social media burners did not perform well with my subscribers:


SEO 2.0 virus spreading? Who cares! Only the subcribers

Of course you can argue that more people click your RSS items when you write more but it’s not the most important factor, even after I stopped publishing the higher reader engagement was still visible. It does not suffice to write and publish more, it depends on how and for whom you write. Subscribers want

  • information they haven’t read everywhere else
  • resources they can put in use for their own projects
  • articles that deepen their understanding of the topic you write about usually

RSS readers often show just a headline or a short sentence, a paragraph at most. So you should be keen on conveying the message of what the value of a post is up there and not in the last paragraph.

You may skip most of the superlatives and numbers, an advanced blog post does not deal with the “higher and faster” it deals with “deeper” aspects of your trade or topic. You may also skip the images, as you don’t want to attract the quick to run away social users.