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Provide a Link for Visitors to Verify Your Feedburner Subscriber Count

[ Count Chimpula ] 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.”

Display your subscriber count

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:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/~fc/feedname

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.

Jeff Starr
About the Author Jeff Starr = Creative thinker. Passionate about free and open Web.
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7 responses
  1. August Klotz July 9, 2008 @ 11:00 am

    Just a note: in addition to verifying the subscriber count by adding ~fc/ before the feed name of any Feedburner URL, you can also use something like the following to check the approximate number of Google Reader subscribers:

    http://www.google.com/reader/view/#directory-search/feedname//0

    This method is basically using Google Reader’s built-in feed-search functionality, which returns a list of available feeds along with the current Google-Reader subscriber count. Replacing the “feedname” with different feed/site-related terms will most likely return different results. Mileage my vary, but possibly useful for additional feed count information.

  2. Great tip.. I’ve also implemented a signature tag-line at the bottom of each post in RSS feeds so that way if it becomes syndicated, the original author will get credit.

  3. Jeff Starr

    @August: Yes, the Google-Reader technique is also useful for checking relative numbers of non-Feedburner subscribers. For example, before I began using feedburner, I provided around twenty different feeds — a few differently formatted content feeds, a couple of comment feeds, and a multitude of individual category feeds. The number of people subscribing to any of these feeds remains a mystery because they are being served directly from the site. So, using the Google-Reader trick helps shed some light on the number (or lack thereof) of subscribers for these types of feeds.

  4. I’m confused about how the fc count works. I tried setting it up but all I get is a 1×1 gif: http://feeds.feedburner.com/~fc/digitaldesigndiary

    Ok maybe that means I have 0 subscribers right? No, I log in to feedburner and it says I have 20. Is there some setting in my feedburner account to enable this?

  5. Clever idea thanks for posting the ow to!

  6. 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.

    I think this is wrong. Like the “XHTML & CSS valid” links, it’s showing your visitors that you are doing things correctly. Though, having valid code is the bare minimum for a website, so here I think it’s counter-productive, it’s like you are saying “hey look, the kitchen in my restorant is clean! You see, no bugs!”.

    Legitimacy and notoriety be proven by the large number of outcoming links. I mean, look at Daringfireball. Have you even thought of validating his pages, validating the figures he gives about his RSS subscribers?

    No, this blog is such a reference because of its content and massive linkage that it doesn’t need to show evidences.

    This is just my opinion of course, and don’t take it personnal Jeff – as I see you provide validation links on PP. Your blog is special as you’re making quite an art out of the markup :)

  7. Jeff Starr

    @Eric: you may want to try creating one of those Feedburner buttons through your account’s admin area. I am not sure, but if you haven’t done that yet, there may not be a button to display..

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