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Paying To Increase Your Subscriber Count

I received an e-mail this week telling me that a new service has launched that enables you to buy feed subscribers to increase your RSS count.

The e-mail was received by a number of other bloggers and what has gained the most attention in the blogosphere so far is the fact that the owner of the site stupidly decided to fill in the ‘From’ field as “John Chow” and is using testimonials from other bloggers without their permission.

What the owner did was obviously quite stupid but debates about his credibility seem secondary to the fact that a service is being offered that actually enables you to increase your feed count.

RSS is the new PageRank

With Google making efforts to render PageRank worthless (and it will be in the future..but not just yet) and the fact they have taken over Feedburner, it’s pretty obvious that the number of RSS subscribers that a site has is slowly going to work it’s way into the search algorithms.

I doubt that it will have a heavy weighting, but when Google released their Blogsearch patent, the number of feed readers was definitely shown to be an emerging factor in their rankings. Whether it will also form a part of the general algorithm remains to be seen.

Regardless, there is definitely a shift in the amount of advertisers viewing RSS subscribers as a measure of a site’s value and it is no surprise that someone has come up with the idea of a paid service that increases your feed count.

Disregarding stupid promotional tactics, the service is filling a need that most bloggers looking to make money online have - to increase their feed count.

How it is done

It’s pure speculation, but I have to assume that the service is merely offering to sign-up to your feed under a bunch of different e-mail addresses.

The Feedburner chicklet only counts subscribers who view through a Reader when the feed is actually accessed but e-mail subscribers are counted whenever an e-mail is sent (regardless of whether it is read or not), so the only way to realistically “fake it” would be through fake e-mail subscribers.

I doubt that it would be very hard to do theoretically, but with Google controlling Feedburner I’m pretty sure that there will eventually (if not now) be checks in place to prevent this type of feed fraud.

And it is fraud

Paying to increase your feed count crosses a very fine line where being unethical and not afraid of a few “black hat” techniques suddenly becomes being fraudulent and illegal.

And that’s a line that nobody should cross.

If you’re selling any form of paid review or sponsored post, most advertisers will consider your feed count when purchasing and if they subsequently purchase a review based on that count, you’ve broken the law in almost every country.

If you get caught, chances are that you’ll have every advertiser on your site hunting you down for refunds. And an advertiser who wants a refund is someone who can completely destroy your future earnings!

Furthermore, if someone actually buys your site based upon your subscriber numbers, you’re entering a whole new world of illegality with very serious consequences.

As the admittedly evil John Chow says, “you don’t always have to tell the truth, but you can’t lie“.

You can’t fake it anyway

Essentially, faking RSS subscribers isn’t a new phenomenon and it’s something that has actually already been happening for quite some time through various methods.

Not surprisingly though, it’s incredibly easy to spot. You wouldn’t believe the amount of sites that I’ve seen with 200+ subscribers that don’t have a single comment in the posts.

When you have 200+ subscribers - you get comments - and fake e-mail addresses don’t leave comments. You can spot the fakers a mile away which makes the whole faking exercise quite pointless.

Expect more of this junk

Forums are filled with people who will happily pay to work towards having their PageRank increased and as less value is placed on PR, the value will most likely shift to RSS subscribers and that means that people will start offering a service to increase it.

It’s unavoidable - every offline business has a blackmarket equivalent and when RSS subscribers become a part of a blog’s business, a blackmarket will rise.

Fortunately, those who work to gather real real readers will always make more than those with fake readers. Fake subscribers don’t buy products, don’t sign-up to services and don’t buy advertising.

You’d probably get more real RSS readers by spending your money on well placed advertising rather than this service.

And real RSS readers are some of the coolest people that I know. Click here to become one.

Rich people subscribe to Cash Quests


It is as you say unavoidable. I only hope Google makes a quicker crackdown than with PageRank which took months and months; and as I have proved a few months it all it takes to make a wad online.

by Matt Jones


You’ve mentioned before the ratio of comments to subscribers as a way to determine if a blog really has the number of subscribers it claims. I suppose that depends on the type of blog. For some it’s not a reliable measure. One of my blogs has 500 feed subscribers and 2,000 daily pageviews. I post to it two or three times per day. It gets very few comments, an average of around 1 per day. But the readers are there everyday.

by geomark

Sure. It depends on a lot of factors. On a blog that has three posts per day, I’d say that posts move off the front page so quickly that it would be hard to get a discussion or flow of feedback going. Someone could leave a comment and it would be deep within the archives quite quickly - that removes a lot of motivation. You’ve also got to consider the type of blog too and whether it’s news or opinion.

The ratio is just one factor of many that leads to a “reasonable” conclusion.

by Cash Quests


Actually, the real idea here would be to not have fake email addresses - but to have real people sign up using real email addresses, then you can use them to sign up for however many sites you’d like. The RSS count would then be real - nothing illegal or fake. Secondly, if you profit shared with them, I bet you can get a ton of people to do it. And thirdly, some of those may actually end up reading the site.

Sounds like a winner to me. Damn that I can’t program!

by jackbravo


That’s an interesting point about posts dropping off the front page too quickly, although on the blog in question I keep a week’s worth of posts on the front page before they go to the archives so they are there in front of readers for a while.

But that has me thinking about themes and formats that might be better for frequently updated blogs.

by geomark


AH, I know how this is done.. :twisted: ur right about different email..

Someone offered me as well and disclosed how it was done..

I bet that this is another pure evil plan.. but worthless - too bad..

by Michael Woo


RSS is the next page rank. This is 100% true with blogs. Nowadays people look at No. of RSS readers in order to advertise in the blog while previously it was PR. But some blog authors are making fake subscriptions to their own RSS feeds which more than silly and this should stop.

by How to get 100 Stumble Fans for free every 24 hours


“You bought our Fake Feed offer but it looks like you will also need to buy our Fake Comments offer too. And would you like a side of high PR directory greens with that order as well?”

Deception can get expensive.

by Frank C


“but with Google controlling Feedburner I’m pretty sure that there will eventually (if not now) be checks in place to prevent this type of feed fraud.”

Nah, I don’t think feed fraud is detectable. Absolutely impossible to detect in my opinion…

by Ruchir


Fake rss subscribers defeats the whole purpose. RSS was made to syndicate content so you can easily get daily returning visitors, not useless robots.

My website that launched this morning ( aims to actually provide a service to get RSS subscribers, but it is bad RSS press like this that hurt the growth of RSS in general. =(

by Collin LaHay


I have a question Kumiko, at what target did you start displaying your RSS numbers.

by david


kumiko is right, u r better off buying adverting than rss fake subscribers because it’s way too obvious. take it from me, we have two (2) readers on our rss and we offer velevant content for our local costomers. we would be your best friend if u subscribed to us.

by johnCard


Ugh this is what I hate about the Internet marketing niche is that there are so many people out there trying to make a quick buck by any means necessary. This one is particularly low. I haven’t received such an email thankfully.

by Caroline Middlebrook


Yeah.. I agree with you .. I’ve seen a blog with 200++ rss readers but not have a single comment..
I like to get a subscriber but not with the fake type..
WHy get some many number in your feedburner but no one read it….
It’s up to you…

by shy guy


Now, see, you have been added to the “bad” list on his site… shame on you :)

I think he is doing all this just to get attention to his site, and at the moment it seems to be working, but eventually, you would think it would catch up with him.

I agree though, eventually you would think Google or Feedburner would get wise. Scott

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by Is RSS feed count the next Page Rank?


I completely agree with you about the fake RSS subscribers. You could of course prove your RSS readership with stats from FeedBurner such as history of subscribers, reader breakdown and article views.

Your other point on comments doesn’t always ring true. I have been blogging on Newsniche for over 2 years and blogging about RSS.

The blog management system is hand coded by myself and I have no commenting system yet I have about 300 RSS subscribers, all real.

I accept that I am in a tiny minority but none the less comments are not always proof of readership.

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by Friday Long Island Iced Tea Time - 11/16/07

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