How I Grew My RSS Subscription Count by 243%

Quick Sprout has been around for three and a half years. Since its conception, I have built up a nice little audience of 12,329 RSS subscribers. Considering that I have only published 171 blog posts within that time, I am pretty proud of my accomplishment.

When I first started, my feed count was growing at a rapid pace, but what really started killing off my growth rate was my inability to publish new blog posts on a consistent basis. During my peak, I was able to publish two blog posts a week, and during slow periods, I was publishing only one blog post every two months.

After I got back into the groove of publishing a blog post every week, my subscription count still remained flat.

Here is how I increased my subscription growth by 243%:

Think outside the box

I was at a conference in Indiana a few months back, and I ran into a gentleman by the name of James Paden, who specialized in conversion optimization. He had been a reader of Quick Sprout for years.

To make a long story short, James invited me to dinner, where we had a conversion about how we could grow Quick Sprout. Between the two of us, we started brainstorming and coming up with ideas how to increase Quick Sprout’s RSS feed count.

Among the multitude of concepts we discussed, we chose four that we ended up testing. Here they are:

Idea #1: Hook your readers

The most logical way to get someone to subscribe to your blog is to offer a subscription option below each blog post, right? It only makes sense. If you are reading something you like, why wouldn’t you want more of it?

rss idea 1

The idea James came up with was to have a subscription box fade in once someone finishes reading a blog post.

Idea #2: Offer email options

A lot of people don’t use RSS feed readers. Heck, even I don’t use them. What everyone does use is email. Within the sidebar, we added an email option.

rss idea 2

If you notice, we still left the feed reader option, but we put an “enter your email” box within the sidebar.

Idea #3: Offer a white paper

A good way to get someone to subscribe to your blog is to offer him or her an incentive. Blog content is great, but it isn’t enough.

rss idea 3

What we decided to offer was a free white paper on the business mistakes that I have made. To receive this white paper, you had no choice but to enter your name and email address. Once we collected your name and email address, we then automatically added you to my RSS feed count through Aweber (this allows you to get Quick Sprout blog posts delivered to your inbox).

Idea #4: Friendly pop-up

I know what you are thinking: no one likes pop-ups anymore. The truth is they still work. I already wrote a white paper, so why not create a nice looking pop-up that asked you whether you wanted to download it?

rss idea 4

Whether you happened to put in your information or click on “no thanks,” you would never see the pop-up again. Similarly to Idea #3, we then passed your information to Feedburner (it hosts my RSS feed) through Aweber.

The results

Drum roll, please…

Instead of having my RSS feed count grow at the usual pace of 3,522 new subscribers each year, it is now growing at a pace of 1,007 new subscribers a month or 12,084 new subscribers each year. This translates into a growth rate of 243%.

google analytics screen shot rss ideas

But what was really interesting to see was which RSS subscription method you preferred. I would have thought that your most preferred method of subscription would have been the call to action that faded in right at the bottom of each post. But according to the image above:

  • 63 of you entered your email from the call to action below each blog post (Idea #1).
  • 14 of you clicked on the RSS subscription icon from the call to action below each blog post (Idea #1).
  • 161 of you subscribed by entering your email in the sidebar (Idea #2).
  • 98 of you clicked on the RSS subscription icon in the sidebar (Idea #2).

I don’t have a full 30 days of history with ideas #3 and #4, but ever since James implemented them, you can see how my RSS count started to skyrocket.

google analytics screen shot rss

On October 28th, Idea #3 was implemented, and my new daily RSS subscription growth went from roughly 9 to 53 new subscribers a day. Within the next day or two, it died down to 20, but that isn’t bad considering it was Halloween weekend.

google analytics screen shot rss

On November 1st, Idea #4 was implemented, and my new daily RSS subscription growth went from 21 to 110. Of course, it slowed down over the next few days, but it still shows that pop-ups are effective.

Here are the stats for Ideas #3 and #4:

  • 186 of you entered your name and email into the sidebar white paper call to action (Idea #3).
  • 467 of you entered your name and email into the pop-up (Idea #4).

Emails cause higher engagement

The best piece of information that I discovered through this test is that email subscribers engage a lot more than RSS subscribers.

aweber stats

If you look at the screenshot above, you’ll notice that there is well over a 60% engagement level through emails collected via Aweber. If you compare that with the data in the image below, you’ll notice that only 30% of the RSS subscribers, who use feed readers, engage.

feedburner stats


If you really want to sky rocket your RSS subscription growth, create a free ebook or a white paper and give it away to your readers. Just make sure that you are using Aweber to give it away as it won’t just help you collect more emails, but it will help create higher engagement levels.

P.S. If you want help growing your visitors and subscribers click here.


  1. Good concept!
    I have implement subscriber via MailChimp and outcome is tremendous. Mailchimp gives good look for my newsletter.
    Feedburner newsletter delivery is clean.
    Both are well! 🙂

  2. It is interesting how all those ideas seemed fairly straight forward, yet they weren’t apparent until you had someone, who was outside of the project, take a look and give their ideas.

    It’s a good lesson to us to always ask for a second opinion and, even when you think you are doing everything you can to increase conversions, there is probably something you can still improve upon.

  3. Hi Neil this is an excellent post to implement and get huge Subscribers list. I gonna try these 4 steps on upcoming days and I am sure it works. Cheers 🙂

  4. James Paden (Convertive) :

    And just as an FYI, this is only the first step in the RSS optimization process. We’re going to start doing actual split testing on these call-to-actions now. Look for more posts from Neil on this topic in the future!

    • Interesting…you’re going to do some split testing with the RSS location? I’d be really curious to know what you come up with.

  5. Michael Dorausch :

    Best part is that you tracked and reported on the growth. What fun is growing if we don’t measure it? Great stuff Neil.

  6. Well written article and some good information here but there is one thing worries me as a user experience designer: If I’m trying to get an ebook I don’t want to subscribe to your RSS feed. That’s a bait and switch.

    I’m assuming for your audience it’s not much of a problem because they are pretty sophisticated and understand that you are offering something for free so you can collect emails. But I bet the average web user isn’t going to put those things together.

    • James Paden (Convertive) :

      Brad, I agree. While common in some circles, I think this is a bad practice in general. I hope to release the next round of testing next week which include a subscription notice. It’ll be interesting to compare the conversion rates on the two different CTAs 🙂

    • I agree. If your audience is sophisticated, they won’t have a problem. You just can’t do it with a non-sophisticated audience.

  7. I use Aweber and I love the fact that they make it incredibly easy to create things like a light-box pop-up and all other sorts of forms to capture emails.

  8. Hey Neil! I’ve been subscribed to your Feedburner for awhile and immediately subscribed to your white paper. And last I checked I was getting both your Feedburner email and Aweber email when you post new content. I don’t mind but I think others might. Is there a way to take people off your Feedburner after they’re on your Aweber?

    • Sadly, there is no way I can do it on my end. They will have to unsubscribe from one.

      I appreciate the feedback though and I will ask around again to see if I find a solution. 🙁

      • Gotcha… Thanks Neil! Also, is there a reason you still give people the option to subscribe by email (through Feedburner) rather than having everyone sign up through Aweber?

  9. Awesome thanks for sharing good tips, yep offering email as well as RSS sure is key. For less sophisticated audiences I would suggest not offering RSS at all, it’s too confusing for people and people that do use RSS readers should already know how to add your feed without the button anyway.

  10. Good stuff.

    If many users mirror my habits, it goes like this: I sign up on my Google RSS but get busy and don’t go there that often. And when I do, I see such a backlog, I either leave or do a wholesale delete so I can start over.

    Recently, I’ve begun signing up for interesting feeds via email. Why? Because I know I will look at my email every day; ok, I admit it, I’ll look at it many times in a day.

    So, the advantage to me is that I will know when you make a new post. Frankly, I may feel too busy to look at it BUT at least I have seen it, something that wouldn’t happen if it’s sent to my Google Reader.

    And chances are, most of the time, I will at least open it and browse quickly to see if it’s something I want/need to read, either right now or later.

  11. Starcraft 2 Strategy :

    I can’t believe the pop up works that well! I have such a habit of just clicking off of it as soon as I see it, I’ve never even considered it for my website. While I do subscribe to the RSS feed, I still received the pop up when viewing this article, so it’s also something that I don’t love because it seems to never go away.

  12. All are aware about RSS but very few can utilize it properly. Neil i think your white really boost up and off course your post always taught new lessons, but we hoping more frequent post from you. 🙂

  13. Those were interesting ideas, Neil. I guess it depends a lot from the niche of your website and the audience that follows your content.

    I would be very interested to try your idea #1 as I think it might work on my case. Is that a WordPress plugin freely available or you have is custom made for your site.

    As for idea #4, is this the same WP plugin that also offers a sign up form in bottom as in most of WP blogs out there?

  14. I mainly use my RSS reader to filter the article headlines in sites like Yahoo News, Engadget, Slashdot etc because these sites can have many posts in a single day. I only read the articles with headlines that interest me.

    I am not sure if RSS is useful for sites with not that many posts.

  15. Mrs. Accountability :

    Neil or James, do either of you know of a plug-in that will accomplish the fade in email subscribe at the bottom of each post? Neil, thanks for sharing the information from James Paden with us.

  16. As stated, email subscribers engage more than RSS subscribers. But i noticed that receiving QuickSprout (QS) notifications through email takes much longer than receiving them through an dynamic bookmark for instance.

    Generally, i missed one or two days the release of new posts.
    Did QS send too many subscribers to feedburner ? :p
    Anyway, is there any faster mean to get notified ?

  17. In the long run, how do measure the impact of the ideas and see them performing upward, downward … ?

  18. Nikunj Tamboli :

    Hi Neil, Good info was trying to figure out how i can improve my subscriber count of my blog & this post has made many things clear, on how i can do that.

    The other points I would like you include that if you are using facebook fan-page then by using fbml you can insert the subscription form at the welcome page its also a good way to increase your subscribers as it has worked for me.


  19. Nora McDougall-Collins :

    It’s viral. I often pass links to your articles on to my students through my Facebook page. Often I think they don’t read them, but then they mention them, and I know I am passing them a valuable resource.

    However, I have stopped asking for anyone’s white papers. It just means that I will have to do a lot of deleting of advertisements I don’t want.

  20. Hi Neil, I don’t know whether I would mix my RSS subscribers with my email list. Personally I think the 2 should be kept as different lists.
    When I subscribe to a RSS I don’t expect to end up on a marketing list.
    Just my humble opinion.


  21. A person from outside can have a much clearer vision that a person from the inside because seeing the same things every day you get lost in details and tend to miss some points. I still think that combining all the ideas together is the best option. Every subscriber counts after all.

  22. Wow, well done!

    I’m currently working with a client (we’re taking some similar first steps) and I hope the results turn out as well as yours did.

  23. Wow, 161? That is pretty substantial. Right now I have text in my sidebar that tells users to subscribe, but after reading this, I think I am going to switch that up and change it into an rss icon and an email subscribe button.

    I only get 150-200 visitors a day so I am not quite ready to launch an email list with aweber, but I am working on a free giveaway. When I get to 500 visitors a day I will start an email list. Thanks Neil, this was insightful and a fun read 🙂

    • Many things come in small steps. You can’t expect to grow your readers in a few days. This process takes some time and requires a few strategies as Neil pointed out. Good luck with having more visitors to your website 😉

    • I would suggest you get started right away… 200 visitors a day is enough to collect a few emails each day. I think if you don’t do it, you’re missing out on a lot of potential clients.

  24. Neil,

    This is definitely a great collection of data that I am definitely going to test out. I think right now, I am gaining the most subscribers from my lightbox opt-in form on my website, but then again I don’t have all of the other things in place.

    Thanks a bunch for breaking down the hard numbers

  25. David Robert Hogg :

    I’d be curious what either an email or icon option below the post title would have achieved. I think of this as the sweet-spot of any post, the area — whether it be links, ads, a welcome message — that gets the most attention and clicks.

  26. I finally gave in and will try Awebber. I wasn’t sure about the cost, but seems that if you’re serious, about growing your blog it’s a must.

  27. Hi Neil,

    I’m a fan by the way. I was wondering how this guy James approached you? Was it purely informal, “you should try this” type of approach, or was he more like “hey man, I think I can help you, so here’s the deal”. And if so, I was hoping you could elaborate on “the deal”. I’m thinking about moving from standard online marketing services to a 100% “share the wealth” model where I would make money only on performances. I know you’re creative when it comes to create win-win deals so I’d love to hear your thoughts!


    • James and I were just chatting about blogging at a conference and he informally offered to help me. There was no deal or anything like that… he just did it for free.

      You could switch to a “share the wealth” model, but a lot of businesses hate it.

  28. Awesome post Neil, building your subscriber list works fine by strategizing. If you are able to strategize in a cool way, you will get good results. Thanks for sharing. Have fun.

  29. The Bad Blogger :

    Some great ideals you have, I like the one after the post where it fades in… although I have one at the end of my post, but getting it to fade in… seems to be cool. How you do that?
    And using Aweber to get email subscription… that was a nice ideal and I didn’t know about it till I read this post… OMG… thanks for sharing this info and now I have something to change and do in my Aweber account… talk to you soon.

  30. Ash - SEO Sydney :

    It is true that the world wide web is filled with millions of blogs apart from millions of websites. However, I think, blogs that have been actively blogging will range among hundreds only. And that is the reason why the success rate of the people who ty to make money online is substantially low! They need to change their mind, their intention to find things that can keep them continuously active. One master and known formula is to select businesses/websites/blogs which you think you are passionate about.

    • That makes the process 100x easier… yes. People are unfortunately all over the place and for this reason, this don’t make it. They need to do a mass cleanup of all the garbage there.

  31. Maybe I’m missing something in your writeup, but how is someone subscribing to your blogs in ideas 3 and 4? Signing up to receive a report is not giving permission to receive emails of new blog posts.

    • Through Aweber they are automatically subscribed to the blog.

      With a non-sophisticated audience it could be a problem, but with a savvy one, there usually isn’t an issue.

  32. Some great ideals you have, I like the one after the post where it fades.

  33. Although having thousands of subscribers is certainly surprising considering you only published 171 posts in over 3 years, i feel the backlinks pointing to your site does help.
    According to Yahoo, you have over 60,000 backlinks pointing to this site. Surely, that does help with the organic traffic you receive and getting a PR6 homepage.

    • Good eye.. yes it does. I try to spend a lot of time on each post so I can have more people blog about it. But these changes I recently made, helped me drastically.

  34. Purushottam Kushwaha :

    Idea #3: Offer a white paper is really helpful..
    I tried this on my institutes site and it really works. Sadly I had to remove this feature because of copyright 🙁 .
    Still I m happy with this IDEA

  35. Hi Neil, Loved your post,very honest, I run a small wordpress blog, just curious is there any plugin that you user for you RSS and Email bar to show after each post or is it self customized?

  36. Hi Neil,

    I am first time visitor to your blog, I am completely sold to your art of writing. They are simple and clear.

    I have downloaded your 13 business mistakes….. doc. It is really great. I am happy to have this at right time as I am planning to start my own from Jan 2011.

    Best Regards

  37. Hi Neil,

    It’s my first time here. I’m overwhelmed by your style and content. Do you use a plugin to add the subscribe RSS by email ?
    I really want to implement that.

  38. Great post for webmasters.Thanks a lot for sharing this valuable tips on getting more subscribers.But please do try to post on the technical matters related to these processes, e.g.- how to make the subscription form or how to manage them.

  39. Rubber car mats :

    It is puzzling to me now, but in general, the usefulness and importance is overwhelming. Very much thanks again and good luck!

  40. So much information here on email subscriptions and I like the pop-up to subscribe. I’m not familiar with how to do this on my website. I use WordPress, like so many other people, and would like to know if there are any good plugins recommended to mimic this popup. Anybody?
    Thanks for the post!

  41. This is great content Neil. I’ve implemented a few of these elements into my site, but I’m about to do all 4 now. Any chance you know someone good who I can hire to add these elements on my site? I like the RSS that appears at the bottom… as that’s something I don’t have.

  42. Barbara - Freelance Marketing Consultant :

    Great ideas and great results. Thanks for sharing. About your email option #2, I’ve read somewhere (can’t remember where) that using the word “subscription” might confuse the less web savvy into thinking it’s a paid subscription. So using ‘free’ and ‘delivered’ as you’ve done is a good step as well. Thanks.

  43. I really like the fade-in RSS Subscription box idea. How did you do it?

  44. Who cares about RSS? It seems like complete BS. wouldn’t you rather have an email list that grows 243% than an RSS feed that no-one ever checks?

    • A lot of my traffic actually comes from my RSS subscribers ;). An email list is great and I think mine will grow over time.

  45. Neil, what kind of plugin are you using for the email “RSS”, I tried a lot but none seems to be working as I want, most of them were ugly and I didn’t find a way to customize them 😀 🙂 Thanks!

  46. Neil can you please tell me are you using any plugin for that rss and email box below every post or how to add this to a wordpress blog.

  47. Is there word press plug in for the email box under each post?

  48. I liked the way this theme has simplicity and options to subscribe which is one very good reason i had subscribed here. Popup option did work for me but it was only in the case of first timers and regular readers feel annoyed with those banners for subscriptions.

  49. Nice post.I liked offering white papers to the users .Thats the best way to engage them.What is the role of PR in this.I subscribe those blog having nice PR.Whats ur take on this?

  50. Neil,
    I have all the options in place that you mention here. I am having a problem with getting enough traffic to my blog. Any suggestions?

    • Write better content, promote it to social media platforms and be patient… it takes time. This blog took me over 5 years.

  51. Edinburgh Driving School :

    12,000 RSS subscribers! That is impressive Neil.

  52. The points you have mentioned herein are actually the best tips to get more subscribers. Out of all this, the pop-up, which I also see has been the most converting for you, is the best. lightbox popups that offer a useful freebie and has an email form in it, often works pretty good. The conversions are seen to be extremely high in such popups.
    BTW, I noticed one more thing on your blog. You reply to almost every comment. This way you engage your existing readers and people who might not have been on your RSS list or, email list would want to join your list. I personally feel that this is one thing that can help you grow you blog considerably.
    Thanks for the tips.

    • Yeah… I’ve been preaching that to people for a long time now. If people take the time to respond to my blog, I definitely want to respond to their comments.

  53. Great post Neil, One question though, Do you know if you can do the same thing with GetResponse AR? That is my AR service and I have been having problems with my RSS feed on my blog. Thanks

  54. Find A Language Teacher :

    I had great success with the white paper. Sure, more people unsubscribed after they downloaded the paper, but many more found value in the newsletter and the subscribtion rate grew much faster.

  55. Neil,
    Is there a plugin or something for idea #1 or did you just customized your own. I think that’s a pretty awesome feature.

  56. How could we can make the importance of rss feed to our readers because not all of them are interest to subscribe to my rss,any suggestion

    • Maybe your visitors are more likely to subscribe to your email feeds. It varies on the industry as to what people want.

  57. College textbooks :

    thanks for the tips. My RSS scripts are low and it is something I have needed to work on but haven’t carved out the time to do it. These tips should help me get back on track.

  58. SmashingShowcase :

    Can you please tell me which plugin you are using for after post rss email feed.

  59. Great article Neil! Is there a plugin you use for the RSS subscribers or do you think a paid service is preferable?


  60. Mirko Ceselkoski at :

    My experience is that RSS readers number are decreasing over time..Especially in the last several months of 2012!

  61. hey neil,
    this post has cleared my concepts.
    very informative article.


  62. That is pretty substantial. Right now I have text in my sidebar that tells users to subscribe, but after reading this, I think I am going to switch that up and change it into an rss icon and an email subscribe button.

  63. ajit prabhakar :

    I think Idea no. #2 is good to implement.

  64. Great article Neil!

  65. The friendly pop-up worked pretty well. I wanted t make sure it was very subtle so I did not lose readers. And I didn’t!

  66. Pankaj Chauhan :

    Now, that’s really out of the box thinking and great ways to increase the subscriptions.

    Thanks Neil for such a good post.
    Keep it up!

  67. Aniruddha Ghosh :

    I am totally confuse with RSS feed burner with RSS feed . I am using latest free version of wordpress yoast. So how i will integrate RSS feed into my blog?

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