One of the most important things you need to do early on for any blog is sign up for an RSS tracking system to not only track your RSS subscribers, but also to analyze and take action based on the information they gather you. There are more than a few of these services to choose from, but most people, myself included, choose FeedBurner without giving others a second thought.

A lot of blogs are using FeedBurner, but few use it to its full potential. In this guide, I’m going to detail the steps of configuring your FeedBurner feed to get the most out of it.

Let’s get started.

Signing Up

1) Sign In with Your Google Account

Start by heading to FeedBurner’s homepage here and signing up or signing in. FeedBurner is owned by Google, so you’ll need to sign in to your Google account, or create one if you haven’t already.

2) Burn Your Feed

Pretty self explanatory—just enter the URL of your blog or RSS feed.

If you’re using WordPress, your feed URL will most likely be http://xxxxxx.com/feed/.

Follow the steps to set up your feed until you arrive at your Feed Stats Dashboard.

This is where the real work begins: you’ll need to spend some time here optimizing your FeedBurner system.

Optimizing Your FeedBurner Feed

Head on over to FeedBurner’s “Optimize” tab. In this portion, I’m going to share with you the actual settings we use for VentureBreak’s FeedBurner feed.

1) BrowserFriendly

BrowserFriendly makes it easy for readers to preview and subscribe to your feed in their web browser. You have the option of adding a personal message and using your original feed URL for your FeedBurner feed.

With BrowserFriendly enabled, your feed will look like this:

2) SmartFeed

SmartFeed converts your feed on-the-fly to a format compatible with your visitors’ feed reader, ensuring maximum compatibility. It’s easy—just enable the service.

3) FeedFlare

FeedFlare adds sharing functionality to your feed. I’d say it’s worth it to have it enabled, but I would use it sparingly. By that I mean you shouldn’t enable every single service—I’ve seen a better return when I minimize the choices I give my audience (otherwise it’s a big mess). I only use Email This, Share on Facebook, and Stumble It.

You can add more to your liking but be sure to think about how it’ll appear in someone’s RSS reader.

4) Feed Image Burner

Feed Image Burner can give your feed some personality. It adds a logo or some other custom image to your feed to make it a little more unique.

Here’s how it appears in Chrome:

Some browsers and readers won’t display the image, but it can’t hurt to add it anyway. Add some personal flavor!

5) Title/Description Burner

This feature is pretty self-explanatory, and it only takes a second. Just a little more customization.

6) Summary Burner

One of the last options in this section is Summary Burner. I don’t use this feature, and I don’t think you should either. Some people think it’s better to tease your audience and literally force them to visit your blog to increase your pageviews.

If your loyal visitors have taken the time to subscribe to your blog, then you should be doing everything you can to serve them your content in its entirety. If they want your content delivered to their RSS reader, it’s a safe bet that they want to read it in their RSS reader.

Sure, you might “miss” a few pageviews, but in the long run you’ll find yourself with more subscribers who will share you content as they consume it they way they want to consume it.

Publicizing Your FeedBurner Feed

That brings us to the “Publicize” tab. Follow me as I guide you through my preferred settings.

1) BuzzBoost

This feature is great if you need it, but not everyone does. It provides you with a snippet of JavaScript that you can paste into any web page to display recent posts from your blog. This is useful if you want to promote your blog on another website you manage, or if you’re looking to create a mobile version of your blog (although there are easier ways to do that).

2) Email Subscriptions

FeedBurner makes it easy to offer your readers the ability to read your blog posts via email. Just activate this service and make sure you put the link or form somewhere prominent.

Head over to the Communication Preferences section and customize your subscription email notice. Make it unique!

For an example, here’s what ours says:

Hey there,

You recently requested an email subscription to VentureBreak Daily. To activate the subscription, please click the following link.

${confirmlink}

(If the link above does not appear clickable or does not open a browser window when you click it, copy it and paste it into your web browser’s address bar.)

Thanks for subscribing to VentureBreak, your source for the latest in tech news and startups! Once you activate your subscription, you will receive a daily digest email containing all the latest stories from that day.

If you have any questions, you can email our editor at editor@venturebreak.com. You’re also welcome to unsubscribe at any time.

Cheers!

Stray from the crowd and add some character!

Now take a look at the Email Branding section.

In this section, you have a great deal of control over how your daily emails appear to your subscribers. Add a logo image, and play around with the settings until you get something you like.

Ours looks like this:

Finally, it’s time to customize your Delivery Options.

In this section, you can choose when your daily emails will be delivered. I’ve found that the best timeslots are very early in the morning. That way, when your early-rising subscribers are drinking their morning coffee and checking their email, your content is already in their inbox.

3) PingShot

PingShot helps you reach as broad of an audience as possible. I recommend it.

4) FeedCount

FeedCount allows you to publicly show how many readers are subscribed to your blog. There’s no shame in your numbers—everyone starts at zero. By sharing these numbers publicly you are earning some authenticity to your blog and your community. It also shows healthy competitive spirit, both internally and externally.

Even if you don’t use the FeedCount chicklet, you’ll want to have it turned on because a few other services require it so that they can access those figures.

5) Socialize

Some FeedBurner users use Socialize to automatically tweet blog posts. We use other WordPress-based solutions for this, but you may prefer to use FeedBurner. It’s about personal preference.

6) NoIndex

I’ve indicated that my RSS feed should not be indexed by search engines. There is one very important reason behind this: Google.com and FeedBurner.com have a much more powerful ranking than your blog, so search engines will index your feeds before your actual content. You don’t want your RSS feed to show up before your blog in search results.

I use Yahoo! Pipes sometimes for custom widgets, so I leave this option open.

Monetize Your FeedBurner Feed

The final tab is the monetization area where you can insert AdSense banners and links to make a few dollars (or, more likely, cents) from your feed. Most people, especially new bloggers, shouldn’t spend too much time here. You have more important things to do (like creating good content) before you worry about monetizing.

I can’t say I’ve actually experimented with this feature because VentureBreak, like many other sites, is banned from Google AdSense for reasons unknown (you can read that story here).

Further Customization

If you’re really interested in keeping branding as clear and focused as possible, you can check out MyBrand to use a CNAME to serve the feed via your own domain. This process is pretty straightforward if you know what you’re doing. It’s also totally optional.

Also, I encourage you to subscribe to your own FeedBulletin alert feed:

FeedBulletin will update you on what changes or updates are being made to your feed, and it’ll notify you of any errors they’re experiencing.

I hope this guide has helped you out in some way! Let me know if you have any questions or comments, or if you do anything differently.