Recently, I received a bizarre email accusing me of calling someone out on their fake Feedburner subscriber count. Apparently, some desperate blogger had been claiming to have something like 30,000 Feedburner subscribers when in reality they only had around 700. From what I could tell, the fraudulent site was displaying a counterfeit Feedburner subscriber-count badge using some fancy CSS image-replacement or something. Whatever. I really could care less, but the information contained in the email got me thinking:
Providing an easy way for visitors to verify your subscriber count is a good idea..
Enabling visitors to quickly and easily verify your claimed subscriber count fosters a sense of credibility and legitimacy concerning you and your site. Especially for larger feed counts, validating your claim removes doubt, improves perception, and solidifies reputation. Without some sort of verification, new visitors to your site have no practical way of determining the validity of your claim. Reassuring your guests with an official “verification” link is an excellent way to demonstrate your authenticity and sincerity. Users may or may not actually click on the link, but its mere presence provides a clear signal of your site’s integrity. You know, like saying “look, this is the real McCoy — I’m not faking popularity for personal gain.”
If you are using Feedburner to deliver and track your feeds, there is a very easy way to get the true number of subscribers for any account. Assuming your feed name is “
feedname”, simply type the following into your browser’s address bar:
Upon doing this, the official Feedburner chicklet (or whatever they’re called) will be displayed. This information is coming directly from Feedburner servers and is therefore an excellent way to verify anyone’s subscriber information. Apparently, this was one of the techniques used to expose that fraudulent site I was telling you about.
Using this verification URL, providing a subscriber-count validation link for your visitors is very easy. For example, you can furnish a verification link by adding something like this to your page template:
<p><a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~fc/feedname" title="Verify my Feedburner subscriber count!">Verify Subscriber Count</a></p>
..which would look something like this: Verify Subscriber Count.
There are many different ways to add this feature to your site. You could place a text link beneath your Feedburner badge, design your own “verify-this!” button, or even link to a post explaining what’s up. As an example, here is how subscriber-verification is implemented here at Perishable Press:
<h5><a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~fc/perishablepress" title="Verify this number via Feedburner"><?php if (function_exists('fc_feedcount')) fc_feedcount(); ?> Subscribers</a></h5>
Basically, I am using the excellent Feed Count plugin to display the daily number of Feedburner subscribers. This information is then linked directly to the verification chicklet on the Feedburner server. Then, just below the verification link are several feed-subscription options. Jump to the current theme’s main menu to check it out.
Wrapping up, keep in mind that this method is an easy way to verify anyone’s feed count. While playing with this technique, I have been testing quite a few sites, especially sites that claim larger numbers of subscribers. So far, it seems that almost everyone is being up-front and honest about their numbers. Even so, sporting a quick verification link is a great way to emphasize your site’s authenticity.