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Out of many of the free RSS and blogging services that I have tried one of the most useful has been Feedburner. Feedburner allows you to publish your RSS feed and provides circulation statistics about your RSS feed. It also allows you to make your feed more friendly by using Feedburners Smartfeed system and can also make your feed browser friendly.
The most useful service provided by Feedburner are it's circulation statistics. These statistics are not only useful for yourself to see how popular your feed is but also to provide circulation statistics to potential advertisers. Feedburner can tell you which RSS readers are being used to read your feed, how many readers you have and which posts readers are clicking through back to your website.
Feedburners Smartfeed system can supply the most valid feed by detecting which RSS reader the user is using. This irons out any potential compatibility problems there may be between your feed and the readers feed reading software. If your visitor click on your RSS feed subscription link Feedburner will provide your visitor with a web friendly version of the feed rather than an unformatted XML file. This is great for educating the reader about RSS feeds.
To use Feedburners services first you need to go to Feedburner and enter your feed link. Your feed link is the address you give your readers to add your feed to their feed readers. Take a look at my RSS sign up page at Newsniche to get a better idea of how this works.
Once you have your feed address enter it into text box on the Feedburner page. Clicking on ok will bring up a page with all of the options for your feed, you will need to decide for yourself which services you need. At the bottom of the page will be your new feed address which you will now offer to your readers instead of your original feed address. Follow the rest of the instructions to complete the process and then you will have an improved feed with statistics.
There is one final point before we finish and it is something optional you may wish to choose. You may wish to keep your existing feed address if you have existing subscribers and to future proof your feed. To do this you will need to use an HTTP redirect in your htaccess file. If this means nothing to you I would suggest further research before doing this.
You will need to add a new line to your htaccess file.
redirect temp /rssfeed.xml http://feeds.feedburner.com/feedburnerFeed
You will need to change /rssfeed.xml to the name of your current feed and the Feedburner path to the new feed address you will be given by Feedburner. You will need to point Feedburner to a copy of your feed that only Feedburner will see. You will then offer the /rssfeed.xml feed address you created in your htaccess file to you visitors to subscribe to your feed.
This is how it should work. Feedburner will periodically check your address you gave to Feedburner for new posts. Your visitors will subscribe using the address you used in your htaccess file and get redirected to the feed that Feedburner has created for you. This will mean that in the future if you wish to stop using the Feedburner service all you need to do is remove the line from your htaccess file and your readers will not notice any difference.
Allan is the webmaster at Newsniche an RSS resource for webmasters. Learn how to use RSS to attract and retain visitors to your site.