Nov 26 2007

You may have More Subscribers than you Think

Published by at 10:04 pm under Feedburner

I received an email from Carole at The Healthy Living Lounge yesterday with the following question:

I do have another question – feedburner only tells me the number of people who are subscribing via email by not via feeds. I spent hours going through everything at feedburner but am obviously missing something. I know there are many people subscribed as I get lots of feedback and emails but I just can’t see where the stats are.

All I can access is the daily reach and daily email subscribers and what the popular feed items were.

I think this is a common problem on self hosted WordPress blogs (and blogs). Often I see people inadvertently burning two feeds (or more); one that is the default for the domain, such as and a FeedBurner one: –

While you might have an RSS icon which has your FeedBurner URL, often people will subscribe from the address bar in Firefox or the toolbar in Internet Explorer which is designed to automatically discover your feed. In the absence of any instructions from you, browsers will invariably discover the and not the FeedBurner one.

Are you with me? Just because you are using FeedBurner, it doesn’t automatically mean that people are subscribed to that feed. So in reality, if you are not redirecting your feed, you might have more subscribers than you think.

No Plugin

The first thing to do is test your RSS links. Navigate to your blog and click on the RSS icon in the address bar. Take notice of the URL that comes up for your feed. Back up (hit the back button) and try the other icons (some themes also include an RSS icon in the header). Do they all display the same feed address?

If not, what can you do about it? Well there’s two choices available to you; the “wary solution” or the “trusting solution” (which I’ve inadvertently opted for). Of course if you really don’t care how many subscribers you have then you don’t have to worry about doing anything 😉 .

1. The Wary Solution

This is appropriate for people who don’t want to put their trust completely in one particular service (ie FeedBurner). Say, for example, one day you decide that you don’t want to use FeedBurner anymore. If you only offer the option of your Feedburner URL subscription, it makes it very difficult to ever stop using FeedBurner.

Sure you could do it, but you run the risk of people not moving with you – they might miss an announcement post, or not realise for some time that they are not receiving your new posts. So in a way by only using FeedBurner, you are losing a certain amount of control over your subscribers.

In this scenario, you would only ever offer a subscription to your In order to track your subscribers, you would use a plugin called FeedBurner Feedsmith to redirect your subscribers to your FeedBurner feed so that they can be counted. The instructions on this page are pretty comprehensive, so I don’t think they need further clarification.

The trade off is that there seems to be a bit of a delay in delivering new posts.

You would need to ensure that all your “subscribe” RSS icons are offering the and not the FeedBurner feed. Andy Beard is an example of a blogger who does this.

2. The Trusting Solution (or “all roads lead to FeedBurner”)

In this scenario, you ensure that all your feed URLs (including the one in the address bar) have your FeedBurner URL. If this is the case, and it has always been the case (i.e. since you started your blog), then you don’t need to worry about the plugin.

If, however, you discover that you do have multiple feeds, then you will need to download and add the FeedBurner FeedSmith Plugin mentioned above, make sure that you have the SmartFeed option activated in your FeedBurner control panel (under “optimize”) and make a couple of little changes to your blog so that all your feed URLs display the FeedBurner one. You can find the instructions here (but don’t worry about tip #3 as the plugin does this for you).

Afterward you should have something like this:

With Plugin or Blogger Blog?

There are specific instructions for blogs (just ensure you select blogs in the grey bar at the top of the page, as the instructions toggle between self-hosted WordPress and and also Blogger blogs.

A final word on FeedBurner

I find it very frustrating to find answers on the FeedBurner site. I think their help needs some help! If they had a better organised “help” and “FAQ” (Frequently Asked Questions), they would serve their customers a lot better, and probably reduce the load on the forum moderators. Much of the information is old and superseded, and the same questions seem to be asked in the forums. I like to be able to find the answers myself, but end up going around and around.

Bottom Line: Hopefully, I’ve represented an accurate picture of what could be going on with your subscribers. If not, let me know in the comments.

What features of FeedBurner do you find confusing?

9 responses so far

9 Responses to “You may have More Subscribers than you Think”

  1. Stephen Croninon 26 Nov 2007 at 10:54 pm

    Hi Meg,

    Great article. People need to be aware of this issue and I find that they generally aren’t.

    You might want to check out my Feed Autodiscovery Guide which covers how to change the feed autodiscovery link that the web browser picks up. People who consolidate their feed URLs after reading your post may need to change the feed autodiscovery link (if it’s pointing to the wrong URL).

    By the way, I’m a wary blogger myself. Just because FeedBurner is the clear number one service provider in this field, right now (and owned by Google), doesn’t mean they will always be so.

  2. Megon 26 Nov 2007 at 11:25 pm

    Hi Stephen

    Thanks for your feedback. I linked your post in (again)!

  3. Andy Beardon 27 Nov 2007 at 4:24 am

    My buttons aren’t currently visible due to a problem with Conflagration on my new server.

  4. Karen (Misc Mum)on 27 Nov 2007 at 6:54 am

    Ah, yes. My dilemma. I have no idea (still) about it all. My other problem is I’ve gotten a few more wordpress plugins, but apart from installing/activating them, I can’t get them to work – it seems – because I fail to do some other little job along the way!

    This whole thing is so confusing sometimes….

  5. jenon 27 Nov 2007 at 9:34 am

    Ever since I moved my blog to my feed subscribers have dropped even though I was using feedburner prior to that. I can only assume that some people were subscribed using my old Typepad feed link and haven’t found my new feed, or they’ve gotten bored. I’m using the feedsmith plugin and hope I’ve done the right thing.

  6. Megan over at Imaginifon 27 Nov 2007 at 1:10 pm

    Ke? Speaka de Einglish

    I have the split feed problem but didn’t know how to rectify it. Thanks so much for that. I’ll play tonight.

    Meg you need the “Print This” plugin so I don’t have to guess how many pages to print out. I have more recycled paper with your side bar on it than I do psychosocial reports – lol

  7. Gregon 27 Nov 2007 at 2:19 pm

    Another thing that bloggers can do is also include the feedburner chicklets and if they want, the email subscription on their blog pagers which will naturally direct people towards their feedburner feed most of the time

  8. Megan over at Imaginifon 27 Nov 2007 at 2:31 pm

    Meg you are simply wonderful. LOVE that you have installed “Print This.” Thanks for all your help – I really appreciate the customer service you effortlessly display.

  9. Megon 27 Nov 2007 at 2:58 pm

    Hey Andy – I noticed that (though they could kind of be accessed in IE, if you know they’re there). Hope you get it sorted.

    Karen – you’ve got my email address, USE it!

    Jen – that’s a bit odd. I doubt anyone’s getting bored though.

    Greg – it doesn’t always happen that way though!

    Megan – happy to oblige 😀 Thanks for the prod though – it was something I’d been meaning to do