Monday, November 8, 2010

Adding a subscribe-by-email option, using Feedburner

This article is about using Feedburner to give your blog a "subscribe by email" option.  It is targeted to Blogger users, but most of the information applies to any type of website.

Email icon crystal
Previously I've described how to make a Feedburner feed, and how to put a subscribe to my feed tool on to your blog, as well as explaining why it's important for your blog to offer RSS feeds in general.

An advantage of Feedburner over some feed-management tools is that it includes an email subscription option for people who don't actually want to use feed-reader software but do want to be told about changes to your site.

Services provided by Feedburner's email subscription tool include:
  • Giving you the code for a "subscribe by email" link to put into your blog
  • Receive the email addresses that people enter after clicking on the subscribe link.
  • Checking that the email-address owner really did sign up (ie that it wasn't just someone else signing up for them), by sending a validation email and checking the response
  • Putting validated subscriber addresses into a database
  • Sending a message to the addresses in the database when you post to your blog
  • Dealing with requests to un-subscribe from your blog, and with undelivered messages (eg because the address has been deleted).
Once you have burned a feed using Feedburner, all you need to do to access these services is to activate the email service, and give people viewing your blog a way to subscribe to the email messages.

Setting up a "Subscribe by email" option for your blog:

The Easy option:

Blogger now provide a Follow-by-email gadget.   You can add this to your blog in the same way as you add any gadget.   Adding the gadget sets up a feed, starts the email service, and puts a place on your blog where visitors can leave their email addresses.

This is the easiest way to get started - but if you use it, you cannot customise the sign-up form, and won't be shown where to set up your email message content.   And it only works if you're using Blogger.

The Manual option:

Follow these steps to add an email subscription option yourself.

Burn a feed for you blog

2  Go to the Publicize tab in Feedburner

3  Go to the email subscriptions tab (on the left side)

4  Choose Activate to start the service.

5  The Subscription management tab has two options. 
  • The top one gives you a subscription form to put into your blog, which includes a field where your viewer can enter their mail address.   To use it:
    a)  Choose the language that you want the subscription-tool to use
    b)  Copy the code from the box under "Subscription Form Code", or use the "Use as a widget" option
  • The bottom one gives you a link to put into your site:  when someone clicks on the link a new window opens, and the viewer can enter their email address in the window.  
    To use it, copy the code from the box under "Subscription Link Code", or use the "Use as a widget" option
No matter which option you choose, you can either:
  • Insert the code manually: 
    If you have copied the HTML code, you need to put it into your blog:  it can go into a gadget or into a Post or Page - most people use gadgets.

  • Insert the code using the auto-insert tool (the "use as a widget" option): 
    If you want to use the auto-inert tool,choose Blogger from the correct (ie top or bottom) drop-down list, and press Go beside it.  This opens a window where you can select which blog to add it to (if you have more than one), and also the title to give it.

When you press Add Widget, you are taken to the Design > Page Elements screen, where you can drag-and-drop the new widget into the place where you want it.

What your visitors see:

Web-browsers visitors:

After you have added the gadget, it simply looks like another option on your sidebar (or wherever you put it).   When a visitor enters their email address, they are sent a confirmation message and provided they respond to this they also get a message every day that you have posted to your blog - see customising the messages that your email subscribers receive for more information about controlling the content and timing of these messages.

RSS-reader and email visitors

Any people who have already subscribed to your blog using using these tools will not see the subscribe-by-email option if you have installed it into a gadget, but will see if if you put it into a post.   This is not a concern though:  people who knew how to subscribe before you offered the option won't be surprised when they see you offering the option.

Related Articles: 

Putting HTML from an external source into your Blog

How to make feed using Feedburner

Adding a gadget to your blog

The follow-by-email gadget:  the easy way to add email subscription to your blog

Getting a list of people who have subscribed to your blog

Putting a subscribe-to-my-feed option on to your blog

RSS feeds and your blog - why they matter

Making a gadget that looks like a Post

Posting by email - knowing who sent what with mail2Post.

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