It’s early August and time to check out those Photoblog stats again. If you remember from last time, I opted not to do anything for the month of July that might increase the number of visits. As I suspected, I earned slightly fewer unique hits than the previous month, but the results were still educational.
Here’s the quick breakdown:
June = 83 unique visitors with 162 visits
July = 76 unique visitors with 174 visits
What’s interesting here is that the ‘blog indices in which I registered my Photoblog are still generating hits. Last month, I signed up in 20 or so indices. I’d say 15 hits on my site were from those same indices sending a ‘bot to check if the URL was valid. Since I didn’t submit to any new sites throughout the month of July, it’s arguable that I actually gained a few new visitors instead of losing 7 as the statistics indicate.
Looking over my list of referrers, I see a sprinkling of “globeofblogs,” “blogwise,” “linkexchange,” and “eatonweb portal.” Not a whole ton of hits, but at least they’re pointing some people my way.
I’m also noticing a few more keyword searches resulting in hits on the site. I¡¦ve got two each for “isabela de sagua” and “mendenhall glacier poster,” and one apiece for “nags head photo sunrise,” “isabela de sagua cuba,” “open-shutter photography,” and “pictures of el sano banano.” I know exactly which photos each of these point to — still no sales, but I hope they found what they were looking for. A couple people bookmarked my site this month, too — that’s a good omen for repeat visitors.
For the month of August, I’ve already implemented the next step — an XML syndication feed. The only change to the site will be a tiny little orange XML button at the end of each page. Getting this up and running was actually pretty easy since I had already sweated out the hard work on the ‘blog you’re now reading. What does it do? Glad you asked.
RSS, RDF, and XML feeds all do pretty much the same thing: They’ll let you know as soon as a webpage is updated. In order to do that, though, you’re going to need a new piece of software. Don’t panic! I’ll point you to one that’s free and easy to use.
What you need is a “news aggregator.” An aggregator is a program that probably looks a lot like what you use to read your e-mail, but instead of checking your e-mail, an aggregator will check all the RSS feeds you’ve signed up for. That’s where that orange XML button on my Photoblog (and the blue RSS button on my ‘blog) comes in — those are my feeds.
RSS feeds have changed the way I surf the web. Instead of roaming across the same sites every day to check to see if there’s anything new posted, I now let those same sites come to me. Every hour my aggregator goes out and checks for new content from sites like Slashdot, Wired, C|net, and the SciFi channel. If there’s something new, I’ll see a popup appear (much like an MSN Messenger message) near my taskbar. When I have a spare moment, I can open up my aggregator — it stays active 24/7 in my system tray — and read the newest news.
Okay, let’s talk specifics. I’m using an aggregator called Feedreader. You can head on over to their site and download a free copy right now. Once you’ve got the downloaded file on your computer, you can double-click-install it just like any other program. After that, fire it up and take a look around.
(By the way, this is simply the aggregator I’m using. There are plenty of others out there: Feeddemon seems to be one of the best, but it’s $30 after a 20-day free trial. A friend of mine is using Pluck – an aggregator that works as a plug-in for Internet Explorer. There are also plug-ins for Outlook, as well, and even web-based aggregators like Bloglines. If you really want to get into RSS, Google is a great place to start!)
Now that you’ve got Feedreader (or some other aggregator) running, you’ll have to supply it with an RSS, RDF, or XML feed. Don’t be alarmed — all it’s really asking for is a URL. Take my ‘blog for example. See the blue RSS button on the front page? That little button has a link to the RSS feed that Feedreader needs. There are a lot of ways to get that information into your aggregator, but because each person’s setup can be different, I’ll give you the only sure-fire way I know of:
* Place your mouse cursor over the button, but don’t click.
* Look down in the status bar at the bottom of your browser — the URL to the feed will be displayed
* Open up Feedreader and click the “New Feed” button.
* Type in the URL and click Next, then Finish
That’s it! Do the same thing with the XML button on any of my Photoblog pages and you’ll already have two sites that will notify you whenever they are updated (as long as you keep Feedreader running in the system tray, that is!)
What other sites have RSS feeds? You’d be surprised! Many, many sites that have dynamically changing content already use RSS feeds. How can you tell? Easy. Surf on over to the site in question and search the page for either “RSS,” “RDF,” or “XML.” If that doesn’t turn up anything, scan the pages for a button much like the ones I’ve used. If you still find nothing… well, not everyone is as cool as I am.
Just to get you going, here are a few of the feeds I most enjoy:
Wil Wheaton dot Net – The journal of an actor turned writer (My hero!)
Neil Gaiman’s Journal – The journal of a fantasy and comic book writer
A Midgett Blog (‘natch!) — The most important journal in the world… to me.
A Midgett Photoblog (double ‘natch!) — See the world through my viewfinder
Wired News — Breaking Technology news
Slashdot — News for Nerds, Stuff that Matters
Dan’s Data – This guy really knows his stuff
Gizmodo — News and reviews of tech gadgets, delivered in an irreverent style
Engadget — MORE news and reviews of tech gadgets, less irreverent
PhotographyBLOG — What’s new in the world of Photography
Digital Photography Review — Very detailed reviews of digital cameras
Dynamic Artwork — There are some great Photoshop tutorials here
That should do it. I’m really impressed with this new way of getting information — so much so that I’ll be starting up whole new ‘blog soon (stay tuned!) In the meantime, if you have any trouble getting started with RSS — either in using an aggregator or in modifying Greymatter – please don’t hesitate to ask me for some help.
Oh, and one more thing. I want to apologize in advance for the extremely ugly subject lines in my Photoblog’s RSS feeds. When I originally set up the site, I wasn’t expecting anyone would be reading the raw HTML code. Asi es la vida… at least you should be able to see a nice little thumbnail of each week’s photos.