Every business owner knows that returning customers are the best. They know you and trust you, they buy more from you, and they recommend you to others.

The same principle applies even more in online marketing. That’s why you should go out of your way to make your visitors subscribe to your blog.

Getting subscribers and tracking them

There are multiple ways for your readers to follow you. The most popular ones are RSS, email, Twitter and Facebook. I strongly recommend you to add these to your blog.

Most of these subscription methods allow you to track the number of your followers. One notable exception is RSS. In a usual WordPress install, for example, there is no way for you to know how many RSS subscribers you have.

A good solution to this problem is FeedBurner service, currently provided by Google. It shows you the total number of your subscribers, as well as some more useful details about them:

item views
item link clicks
subscribers time line

That allows you to analyze your feed performance and try to tweak it for best results.

Displaying follower statistics

Some social networks and WordPress widgets allow you to display your number of followers. Do you need to do that?

I believe the answer is yes, with a small caveat. You should only display subscriber numbers when they are reasonably high. For most people, the most important threshold value is near 1,000 subscribers. Once you hit that number, you get the following benefits from displayinfg it:

social proof that your blog is interesting
attracting guest authors
attracting advertisers
Maximizing your subscription rate

My number one suggestion is to increase the visibility of your subscription buttons. Make sure they are easy to find and click on the first screen of your page, and possibly somewhere under the post body, as well.

Try different widgets to attract your subscribers. They come in all colors, shapes and sizes. Some may work better for your audience and page layout than others.

Split test your email subscription forms if possible. Good email services offer tools and instructions for that purpose. Unfortunately, for RSS, Facebook and Twitter this may not be an option.

So what I propose is to track your subscription rate over a period of time with one widget and then with another one. Try to exclude other variables. Run each case for one full week, preferably at unremarkable time when there are no holidays or special promotions.

Widgets and WordPress plugins for subscribing and showing statistics

There are dozens of plugins to attract subscribers and show readership numbers. Here are a few of them which I noticed and found useful:
1. Feedburner FeedSmith plugin from Google
2. Feedburner mail – blog updates by email
3. Feedburner subscriber counter
4. WP Greet Box plugin
5. Share and Follow plugin
6. Facebook Like box
7. Twitter Fans plugin
8. Twitter counter widget
9. Twitter buttons
10. TwitMeme follow widget

By carefully placing and testing these widgets on your blog, you can increase your number of daily readers, attract more advertisers and guest authors.

Val Danylchuk is the author of Web Tracking Guide – an easy, step-by-step tutorial for tracking and maximizing your online profits. Visit Val’s Web Tracking Blog for more about follower tracking.

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