As part of building a better online presence (defining my brand and getting it noticed), I decided to look into more ways to grow my blog’s readership.
You can find out everything about the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop here.
That’s a mouthful! Though it’s the best I could do without actually naming the places that use RSS feeds.
It started out innocently enough: I was looking into Feedly because a couple of blogging friends had recommended it to solve my little dilemma of not being up to speed with all of the blogs I like to read because they’re on different platforms.
Let’s start with what in the blogosphere RSS feeds are.
What does “RSS” mean? According to an article in The National:
RSS stands for Rich Site Summary, although it has also been referred to by its architects as Really Simple Syndication. It’s essentially a way of structuring data on websites so that it can automatically be sent out to aggregators. Its decline is due to some companies cutting their RSS feeds to protect their content, and because of the rise of news-sharing via social media, but it still has many advantages over these platforms.
“RSS” is an acronym that doesn’t get much airtime these days – its appearance in worldwide online searches has been steadily declining since its peak in late 2005.
However, all the most plugged-in, productive people I know swear by Feedly, a news-gathering tool that lets you read all the content you rely on in one space.
It’s the leading app to have emerged from the ashes of old RSS aggregators such as Google Reader, which folded in 2013.
These aggregators allowed users to read content from all their favourite sites in one place, so they didn’t waste time clicking from page to page. This is the basic premise behind Feedly, which has been evolving for the best part of a decade, during which time it has maintained its minimalist design but added lots of functionality.
You can sign up at feedly.com with one click via a Facebook or Google account, and start typing your favourite publications or topics into its search bar to add them to your feed.
If you’re like me, you probably follow all of your blogging buddies on Google+. As long as they publicise their blogposts there, you’ll stay up to date with their blogs. And that’s an okay system to use.
I say “okay” because not everyone you want to keep up with have Google+. (And Google+ is shutting down at the start of April 2019.)
But there is the WordPress Reader.
And that’s great – IF your blogging buddy is on WordPress.com. The Reader doesn’t support self-hosted sites (as far as I can tell).
And even if the blog you follow is on WordPress, make sure the email notification option is on if you follow a ton of blogs and you want to make sure you never miss your friend’s post. (Go to the Reader, go to followed sites, go to manage sites and decide your options for the various blogs there.)
That’s a lot of work. And we all know how easily we can get distracted between clicking icons…
There’s also following people via email – but let’s be honest: we all have a ton of unread emails and sometimes we just scan the topic and sender without even reading. (Clicking open emails seem like so much work if you still have to click through to the site to read the email.)
That’s where Feedly comes in. Maybe.
In a nutshell, you can use Feedly to follow sources either via URL, title, topic or hashtags. Then you can sort them into categories (let’s say you want to keep blogging tips and writing tips separate). And you read what you want to when you want to (bookmark if you don’t have the time right now). You can catch up on your favourite blogs from anywhere: Feedly has various apps for you to use, from free to paid plans.
Lots of bloggers swear by this. You can add your blog to Feedly and have a follow button in your blog’s sidebar. The whole look was a bit too techie for my tastes, but I’m sure with enough how-tos I’d be able to navigate this program. Even if the only way to get help is to find it on other sites…
It seemed okay. And then I stumbled across something that caused me concern.
I looked at my blog traffic sources and noticed that a lot of my hits were coming from Feedly.com. I knew that Feedly was some sort of a reader like bloglovin or GFC but I had never used it.
To my dismay I plugged my blog name into Feedly’s search engine and my blog came up. Every post that I have was magically available as a feed for readers. This was news to me because I had never added my blog to Feedly’s user base. So why is my blog on Feedly?
Not only that, but I could see no discerning characteristics that the content on Feedly was from my blog besides my name. There was no sidebar, no blog design, nothing. This to me screams content stealing! Also, I noticed that there was no place to link back to my blog to leave a comment. And I had subscribers I didn’t even know about because they weren’t mine, they were Feedly’s.
And though this was happening in 2014 (way before I started blogging), I’m wondering if this is still going on? In the comment section a lot of people were upset (check out the comments for how they were trying to solve this issue). Maybe it was resolved? Anyone with answers, please provide them in the comment section (it would be nice to know if we can all safely use this app).
*An update from the comments when this was first published:
Some info on Feedly, RSS feeds and copyright:
RSSs are collected by webcrawlers, programs that “crawl” (go from link to link) through the internet and gather unformatted content (namely XML content). (God I hated writing the program to create one. Don’t miss that at all as a writer.) The feed then takes the XML file from your site and displays it, formatting all of the information identically. Sites like Feedly are just aggregators, and as such they will display your content as long as there are links to it. (which in some sense is a good thing)
I was curious so I looked a bit into the controversy that happened with Feedly around the time of the article you linked to. The main issue in 2013 was regarding links in Feedly not linking back to the original site and instead only linking back to their own Feedly-version of the content. However, that issue was resolved.
Just to be sure, I checked your content (& mine) and the title of the article links back to your site and the share buttons provide the direct links to your site.
However, I understand your concerns about missing out on followers.
People can follow you on Feedly and not your site. However, the upside of Feedly is that you may get exposure that you wouldn’t have otherwise. If a follower likes your content enough they may sign up for email if you create a newsletter etc. It isn’t the best situation, I admit, but the law is murky. Here is a good article on the legal gray areas regarding RSS and copyright.
There are some commercial service that can supposedly to help you manage your outgoing RSS content and collect some of the followers. One I came across is called Feedblitz. But I have no idea if it is worth it or not.
Gar… less than 5 minutes and I have a retraction already…
I was mistaken about the webcrawler although that is how I was taught to implement it in school. RSS feeds do not use webcrawlers but do collect the XML files that your site is configured to share.
Your blog service (and technically you) provide the content of the XML file that is used in the RSS feeds, so you do have control over how much content is provided. Since you are providing the content, it is not considered content stealing.
There may be plugins that make it simple to edit how much of your article your XML file contains. (For instance, only displaying the title or the title and a couple paragraphs.) However, I didn’t find any on a quick search. Found an article with more info on customizing it in WordPress.
*Thanks to EMA Timar for her insights!
Anyhow, I read in the comments to that post about Bloglovin’ and decided to check it out too.
Bloglovin’ is the leading destination for readers to discover and consume fashion & lifestyle content by their favorite bloggers on web, mobile and via email.
How can Bloglovin’ benefit me as a blogger?
1) Keeps your readers coming back.
Unlike some social networks, every post you make appears in a member’s feed when they follow you.
2) Daily email to all your followers.
We send a daily email to our members with all the posts their followed blogs have made over the past 24 hours. These posts link to your article in our frame, which counts in your analytics and shows your ads. Some members also select to get notified every time their favorite blog updates.
3) Traffic counts to your site metrics.
Every time a member reads an article on Bloglovin.com or clicks on an email, it counts in your analytics and shows your ads.
4) No separate social media site to update.
Since we pull content directly from your blog’s RSS Feed, you don’t need to do anything to get your full content out there to all your followers.
5) Get new followers and more traffic.
Be discovered through recommendations, our popular pages or through the community on Bloglovin. The more followers you have, the more likely you are to get discovered.
Unlike Feedly where I have to search outside the site for information, Bloglovin’ is upfront with what they’re doing.
Again, transparency is a great asset. I’m naturally suspicious of everything so if I have to trawl the internet to find things that should be on your home page, then I get this awful feeling that you’re up to no good. But then, I also think you’re up to no good when you’re making a bonfire every night…
According to Wikipedia:
Bloglovin’ is a platform that allows users to read, organize, and discover their favorite blogs on mobile and desktop. It is a design-focused platform that aggregates feeds from sources with RSS feeds, allowing users to discover and organize content. As of April 2014, Bloglovin’ reaches over 16 million global users monthly. Bloglovin’ caters primarily to the “lifestyle” crowd. 90% of Bloglovin’s users are female.
Feedly (stylized as feedly) is a news aggregator application for various web browsers and mobile devices running iOS and Android, also available as a cloud-based service. It compiles news feeds from a variety of online sources for the user to customize and share with others. Feedly was first released by DevHD in 2008.
Okay, so some people don’t like Wikipedia, but it’s still a great source of information (which you can verify via the references section and through searching for it on the internet).
I like the look of Bloglovin’ a lot more than Feedly’s.
Okay, so I love the shoes in the picture – but that’s just because they’ll be perfect for my MC in my current WIP.
But the layout makes it a lot easier for me to follow – the one from feedly was a bit busy and made my head spin. I like how you can click on one of the images and it takes you to the actual blog – where you can comment, like, whatever.
All your favorite blogs in one place
Add the blogs you want to follow and you’ll get all of their new posts in a feed on Bloglovin! And yes, you can add any blog.
Check out this screenshot of popular tags. A lot easier to find things if tags already exist – a lot like Twitter!
The categories are reminiscent of Pinterest – which makes it easier to find things that you’re actually looking for (because you already know how…).
Still, why use this site? Well, according to Ava on Bookishness and Tea, there are 5 great reasons to use Bloglovin’.
1) It’s an easy way to follow blogs.
Bloglovin’ is legitimately the easiest way I’ve discovered to follow and read blogs. Your feed is updated whenever a blog you follow posts, so you can quickly scroll through to find posts that catch your eye. For me, it’s easier than following through email or WordPress, and I think most people would agree!
2) You can save posts to different collections.
When you read a post you want to save for any reason, you can add it to a collection that you create. Just a few ideas I see often: for future use and inspiration, so you don’t forget to comment on or read the post, different categories of posts (such as blogging tips, recipes, reviews, etc).
3) It’s an easy way for other people to find and follow your blog.
Who doesn’t want more blog followers? If you’re saying you don’t…Well, we are very different people. Bloglovin’ makes it simple for you to gain followers on your blog.
4) It’s an app for your phone as well as a website.
Bloglovin’ is an easy-to-use app that you can download in the app store, and when you’re on the train, standing in line, or waiting for class, you can read blog posts!
5) You can create groups of blogs.
I have a group on Bloglovin’ of my favorite blogs, and when I don’t have time to read every post of all the blogs I follow, I just scroll through that! You could also use this feature to set up groups of different types of bloggers: book bloggers, food bloggers, blogging tips bloggers…
How to follow a blog on Bloglovin’
If the blog has a “follow me on Bloglovin’” icon in the sidebar, simply click on that (remember to be logged into your Bloglovin’ account first)
Or follow these directions:
Find the blog that you want to follow and add the blog’s name into the search bar on Bloglovin’. Follow the blog (it should show up in your search results). You can see the blog’s most recent posts if you scroll down and you can even get results of similar blogs – follow everyone you want!
One caveat, though: the blog has to have an active RSS feed for you to be able to follow it.
I’ll recommend that whether you’re going to use Bloglovin’ or not, claim your blog. I did. Everything that happens on Bloglovin’ with your blog and profile is sent to your email account so you know who’s following you, liking your posts, etc. You never know when or where your blog could be found by your next biggest fan.
Though I’m still using Google+, email and WordPress Reader to keep up with certain blogs, Bloglovin’ has made it a lot easier to keep up with all the other blogs I love to read.
*Update: I now exclusively use Bloglovin’ to follow blogs. In the eighteen months I’ve been using this site, I’ve gathered quite a few followers — not just for the blog, but for my personal profile, too. You don’t need to click through to different sites anymore to comment — you can stay in the Bloglovin’ window (as long as you are logged in with your various social sites). It is a convenient way to stay in touch with friends across the blogosphere.
What are your thoughts about places your blog can be read other than on your blog? Any other “reader apps” you’d recommend?
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