FeedBurner Offers Rich RSS Features for Developers

By Michael Rohde

If your web site is currently up and running, chances are you already have some type of RSS feed running, especially if you have a content site with daily updates. It's probably also a good bet that you're using FeedBurner to generate your feed. After all, FeedBurner is owned by Google and is the current juggernaut of RSS. If you're anything like me, you probably set up your FeedBurner account and let it go to work. And then you forgot about it. And you stopped visiting your account. Why would you stop visiting your account?

Because if something isn't broken, then there's no need to fix it, and FeedBurner works so well you never have to maintain it. If this scenario describes you, then it's time to revisit FeedBurner and discover a brand new set of resources.

For the beginners, RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication. It's a method of letting potential visitors know when your site is updated. If you're using Blogger or Word Press, RSS is all part of the package. If you're rolling your own site, then you'll need to set up an XML file to allow a feed service to gather and distribute your updates. I personally learned how to do this through an HTMLGoodies.com article (I not only write articles but I read and learn from them as well)!

What does FeedBurner have to offer? The question should almost read, "What doesn't FeedBurner have to offer?" They tell you how many people have a subscription to your feed, it tells you how many times a link was clicked from within your feeds and it can also tie that information into your Google Analytics account.

In FeedBurner's words, "It's pretty freakin' sweet." Additional features include a map overlay to show where your subscribers are and it has a SmartFeed that allows you to, "Reach the widest possible audience while publishing a single feed on your blog or site. [SmartFeed] translates your feed on-the-fly into a format (RSS or Atom) compatible with your visitors' feed reader application."

You can also place Google AdSense advertisements into your RSS feed in the hopes of making some money off the feed. I personally don't do this. If I subscribed to a feed and it was junked up with ads, I'd immediately turn it off. I feel there are enough ads on the web sites themselves that to endure them in the feed is insufferable.

You can also spice up your feed with several networking and interactive features, including:

  • Email This
  • Email the Author
  • Google Buzz
  • Comments Count (works with Blogger and WordPress)
  • Technorati Cosmos Links
  • Subscribe to the feed (best for feeds that are widely syndicated as opposed to feeds with heavy subscriptions)
  • Save to del.icio.us
  • Digg This
  • Share on Facebook
  • Outside.in geotag
  • Discuss on Newsvine
  • Stumble It
  • Add to Mixx
While this looks like a super powerful tool, you can easily see how you could overdo it with too much flare. Luckily, FeedBurner provides a preview so you can see how your newly optimized feed will look on your site and in the feed itself. There are click boxes that allow you to choose which flares appear in the feed and which appear on the site. You can mix and match as you please. As for me, I like a clean and simple look and feel. For my Feed flare, I simply choose "Email This."

For the Site Feed, I again chose "Email This" along with "Subscribe to this Feed." The other options look tempting, but I'm already using "Share This" on each article, which basically covers all of the bases.

The features go on with many different means to publicize and optimize your feed. You could spend a good amount of time looking at all of your options.

Speaking of options, there is more out there than just FeedBurner. You might want to consider dlvr.it. They are currently in Beta but are a promising new contender in the RSS game. The dlvr.it feed will send your updates directly to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIN. They also provide real-time, comprehensive stats for your links, followers, friends and retweets. The whole thing is effortless and requires a minimum amount of time to set up. This has the potential to become a viable option to FeedBurner and should be checked into, especially if you like staying current with the latest and greatest.

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