Understand the Follow-by-Email gadget and Feedburner

The Follow-by-email gadget uses Feedburner’s email subscription service. It’s very easy to add to your blog, but there are some things you need to think about if you use it to deliver blog posts to your followers by email.

The Follow-by-Email gadget is very simple way to give your readers access to blog updates by email: deliver a message to their inbox every day you post.

But to decide if it is a good thing to use, to get a good value from it, and to solve problems, you need to understand a little more about how it works.

And, since it uses Feedburner, that also means understanding how Feedburner works.

What is Feedburner?

The Follow by Email gadget uses a product called Feedburner to manage the list of people who have followed, that is, subscribed to your blog.

Feedburner was originally a tool to boost RSS subscriptions that website owners provided – see Why RSS / Subscribe to Posts is important for your blog for information on RSS. Basically, every time a website publishes a new article, Feedburner adds that article to a “feed” or summary of the site, and tells all subscribers, without the subscribers having to visit the website.

One option that Feedburner added was subscribe-by-email: website owners who use Feedburner for this have to activate the service, and then put “something” on their website that offers the service to people who want receive updates by email. To begin with, Feedburner only kept a list of email addresses, but now it is more sophisticated: it checks with the addresses that really want to be subscribed before adding to the list, and offers an unsubscribe option with each email subscription

Adding the email follow-up option to your blog sets this up for you. It:

  • Set up a feed,
  • Turns the e-mail service “on”, and
  • Place an email address request box on your blog.

What is installed when you add the email tracking gadget

The Follow-by-email gadget can be added to your blog the same way you add any other gadget. Doing this means that, you are logged in a Google account at the time.

If that Google account already has an entry (ie a “feed”) in Feedburner for the blog you add the gadget to, then the gadget only uses this feed.

But if the Google account does not currently have an entry from the blog, then a new feed is created, and the email service is activated for it.:

  • The Feed Title is based on the name of the blog.
  • The address of the feed seems to be quite random (for example, I created one for a blog called “Another test blog”, and the name of the feed is http://feeds.feedburner.com/blogspot/meaUW

Advantages of the Follow-by-email gadget

This gadget makes it much easier to offer an email follow-up option: you don’t need to configure the feed yourself, or use an HTML-gadget to provide an email subscription form.

And because it uses Feedburner, you have full access to Feedburner statistics, and many other things that are included in Feedburner features, including:

Disadvantages of the Follow-by-email gadget

There are some disadvantages of the gadget, and of the approach that Blogger used to implement it:

  • Google / Blogger mixed up the words “subscribers” and “followers”. It used to be that subscribers used RSS gadgets (from Feedburner or other feed providers), and followers used Blogger’s tracking tools. But this new gadget is called “follow-by-email”, and it is possible that mixing ideas will make many people very confused.
  • Using the gadget, you have little control over look and feel of the follow-up email option on your blog.

    Compare this to the “Get Email Updates” option at the top of this blog’s sidebar: I’ve put a lot of effort into getting the wording “just right” so potential subscribers know they’re in for a treat. – confirm the email. This wording on the screen means that even if they don’t act on the email immediately, they get another reminder if they come back to the blog in the future.

  • You have no control over the message that potential follow-by-emailers are shown to tell them to verify their subscription. It looks like that

    While this message is good for tech-minded people who are likely to subscribe to an RSS feed, it will probably bring a glassy look to those of your visitors who need a very simple subscribe-by-email option!

  • People who subscribe to your blog by email You don’t see any of the widgets on your blog, or any advertisement. (Unlike regular RSS-feed subscribers for which you can set up AdSense for feeds). Despite the options mentioned above, you have little control over how you view your messages, especially if you switch to using email software that displays your messages in plain text.

Related articles

Customize the “click the link to subscribe” message.

Get a list of all your email subscribers

Why RSS / Subscribe to Posts is important for your blog

The Follow-by-Email gadget: a very simple way to give your readers access to blog updates by email

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