WordPress has the "feeds" feature in its core, which allows our blogs to be read on feed readers like Google Reader. Although it's probably the best we can get from a "core" feature, it has missing parts that could come in handy for most blogs.
Let's think of an example: Have you ever wondered how many people are reading your blog through your feeds? Even if you did, you probably noticed that you can't track your feed's readers without using a plugin or a separate service like FeedBurner or FeedBlitz. Or if you ever wanted to offer an email subscription option to your readers, you most probably installed a plugin for that. In this article, we're going to learn to use Google's FeedBurner with WordPress to make up 5 missing features of WordPress feeds: analytics, email subscriptions, new feed redirection, publishing to Twitter and an HTML output of your latest posts.
One Analytics for Your Feed
It's important to know about your feed subscribers: how they read your posts, how often they come to your website for more content, or even where they are exactly. With FeedBurner, you can track these statistics:
- How many subscribers you have on FeedBurner (and the growth of your subscribers in the time span you specify)
- How do they subscribe (via Google Reader or Outlook or a desktop RSS reader)
- Which browsers do they use, if they're subscribed with a web service
- Which items do your subscribers view and which items do they click (to visit the original page)
- Where are your subscribers (actual statistics of countries)
Better yet, you can download these statistics anytime as Excel or CSV formats. You can use these statistics to analyze your subscribers. You can turn more visitors into subscribers using these stats - or you can earn money by reading these stats right and offering the right kind of service / product for your subscribers.
Two Offering Email Subscriptions
This is by far my favorite feature of FeedBurner. An average internet user may not know about RSS readers and feeds, but everybody on the internet has an email account, right? With FeedBurner, you can offer them a daily subscription via email, for free.
And the best part is, you can customize the emails any way you want:
- You can offer subscriptions in a variety of languages: English, Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, Russian or Chinese.
- You can embed the subscription form directly into your page with HTML (or get some widgets for TypePad or Blogger).
- You can set the title of the email and change the colors and fonts of the email (and brand your email with your logo).
- You can schedule the delivery time of your daily emails in any time of the day (with your time zone).
And of course, you can view your subscribers' email addresses and download them, if you plan on moving your deliveries to a different service (like Aweber or MailChimp). You can also see who subscribed, who unsubscribed, who "paused" their subscriptions etc. for reference.
Three Feed Redirection
Imagine that you have to move your blog to a different domain or just switch to a subdomain / subfolder instead of your root domain. You can only warn your feed subscribers before the migration and hope that they update their subscriptions. Or, if you know about .htaccess tricks, you can try to redirect your old feed URL to the new feed URL.
With FeedBurner, all you have to do is change your feed settings by clicking the "Edit Feed Details..." link and change the actual URL of your feed, then save it. No need to mess with .htaccess tricks or pray for your subscribers to update their subscription URLs - update the address and click save. Just look at the screenshot above: You don't even have a second step!
Four Publishing to Twitter and Facebook Without a Plugin
And this one is my second most favorite feature of FeedBurner :)
This feature allows you to connect your FeedBurner account with your Twitter account and send updates to Twitter. You can customize the updates any way you want: Send only the title, or title and body, including or not including the link to the post, adding hashtags and / or additional text, send multiple items per update, filter the updates with keywords... This feature has probably the highest number of customization options amongst other FeedBurner features.
And if you know how to connect between your Facebook account and your Twitter account, you can send updates to your Facebook profiles (or pages) too! Facebook can also get the thumbnail images of posts, so the Facebook updates won't look so dull.
Have you noticed that we can do all these things without a single WordPress plugin or touching your code at all?
Five An HTML Output for Your Latest Posts
This is always a possibility: You may need an HTML list of your latest posts. With the BuzzBoost feature of FeedBurner, you can embed the list into anywhere you can use HTML. Actually, the right term is "insert" since it creates the list inside your code, not embed an iFrame or something. This also allows you to style the list, along with its own customizations (number of items, displaying and customizing the title, displaying the favicon, customizing the content etc.). You can learn more about styling from FeedBurner Help.
By the laws of the internet, I'm obligated to inform you that web services could be shut down. But it's a service of Google and Google doesn't shut down a service, right? Just kidding, of course. But at least they warn you about it, like, months before they do it. I genuinely think that FeedBurner is far from being shut down - despite the horrifying fact that Google never bothered to redesign it like Gmail or Google Reader.
Anyways... :) Do you have anything to add or share about using FeedBurner with WordPress? If you do, your comments are always welcome!