The plugins that automatically email a commenter or display a blurb at the top for first-time visitors suggesting they subscribe to your RSS feed might be hurting you. I’m not going to single them out by their names, but you know which ones I’m talking about. I have nothing against the people who created these plugins, but I can’t stand the way they’re used. I think they’re doing more harm than good.
I make it a point to personally email people who comment on Remarkablogger. When I leave a comment at a blog and get an automated email–and you can tell they’re automated–it does not make a good impression on me. I pay no attention to it and give it no importance, because that’s how the blogger treated me: unimportant. An email written just to me, personally, by you, will establish a connection and both of us might make new friends or at least grow our professional networks. I love to meet new people online (and off). I love to get to know people from all around the world (India, Pakistan, Poland, Germany, Malaysia, South Africa, England, France, Canada, and other parts of the US to name only a few).
And I help people in my network, with no thought of charging them a dime or for what I will get out of it. I just like to help my friends. Your automatic email does not gain you entry into my network. It annoys me. And that means it probably annoys a lot of people. But they’re not writing blog posts about this subject.
Even worse, to me, is the plugin that invites me to subscribe to your RSS feed before I’ve had a chance to even read anything. That is a big strike against you. I’m going to subscribe to your blog based on its content. You are much more likely to get my subscription from an RSS link at the end of your post, not at the beginning. After I’ve had a chance to read your blog, I may have a favorable impression of you and I might subscribe. If your blog was a store, this is like asking me if I want to check out as soon as I walk in the door. I’m not going to subscribe unless you impress me. And that plugin doesn’t impress me.
Yes, I know people put good, hard work into coding those plugins, and I’m sorry, but I dislike seeing them. It has the opposite effect from what you really want. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who finds this annoying.
What to do instead
Send personal emails. This is a no-brainer. Reach out to people. Make contact. You really want to build an audience? Build your network.
Invite me to subscribe after I’ve read your post. Place the invite link and RSS icon at the end of your post–after I’ve read it and have some idea what I’m getting. Want to subscribe? Give me a great reason. That’s all I need. That’s all most people need.