The Best Way to Track RSS & Provide Email Subscriptions on a WordPress Blog

The best way to provide email subscriptions on WordPress

I moved away from Feedburner a while back because I didn’t like the service much and was worried with it seeming like it might go away. I moved over to Feedblitz for my RSS and RSS-to-Email needs, which has been great, but with Google Reader being killed off, I am finding that my email subscribers are growing really quickly. Feedblitz was affordable when most people were just using it for the RSS feed and it made my Blogger to WordPress move easy, but it’s getting too pricey now. So I was wondering what you use/what you thought would be the best solution. I would like to keep things as simple and in house as possible. I don’t want to lose everything if a service goes belly up, and I have no problem paying for a monthly service if it’s reasonable. But my measly 200 RSS subscribers and 100 email subscribers do not justify no 10$ a month, so there has to be a better solution. Thanks!


Hi Ariel!

I’ll talk you through some of the options that exist out there, and what I personally use on my own blog. 🙂

How to track RSS

For starters, it’s important to understand that you don’t need a service for RSS. Your RSS feed ( ) already exists without a third party service. The only thing a third party service would do for you is try to help keep track of subscribers. But even without that service, people can still subscribe to your feed.

Personally, I don’t use any kind of third party RSS service. People have my RSS URL if they want to subscribe ( ). If you want to be able to keep track of your number of subscribers, there are many WordPress plugins that will do that for you. Example: Simple Feed Stats. This plugin keeps track of the number of “hits” your RSS feed gets. So every time someone views your RSS feed in a reader, the plugin gets notified and keeps track of it.

This is actually probably a lot more accurate than other options out there. Some options just track the number of subscribers. But if you have 500 subscribers, that doesn’t mean 500 people read your RSS feed. Maybe only 100 actually check it. Simple Feed Stats is more accurate because it counts the number of times your RSS feed gets viewed by someone in a reader. So it will ensure that your numbers are accurate and up to date.

Email Subscriptions

For email subscriptions, there are a few “in house” options. As far as WordPress plugins go, here are a few:


I personally despise Jetpack. It’s bloated, slow, and I could go on… But the email subscription service is lacking. There are very few options and the post formatting gets simplified. Shortcodes will not work on emails that get sent out, which can result in unprofessional-looking emails.

However, it is an easy option. It’s quick and fast to set up, and actually a ton of WordPress bloggers use this feature. I’m just very particular about what I want, and I know that Jetpack isn’t for me. But many bloggers do use it and seem to be okay with it.

MailPoet and MyMail

I personally use MyMail and love it (Click to view note) (I think MailPoet is a similar option, but I can’t really speak about it with experience). MyMail offers detailed statistics, much like MailChimp, but it’s a one-time payment only for $35 (no monthly subscription fee).

The downside to MyMail and MailPoet is that they can be a lot more complicated and confusing to set up and get right. The problem is that services like this need to use a cron job, which is basically an alarm that gets set to perform a specific action at a specific time (in this case, sending an email). But since the services exist through WordPress, they use WP-Cron, which isn’t a real cron job, it’s a “fake” one. Since it’s not a real cron job, there might be problems with emails not getting sent on time (or at all).

The way around this is to set up a real cron job instead. But something like this requires more technical knowledge and can be confusing for someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

In short, these are both excellent options that will allow you to keep everything in house. However, they require more technical knowledge and set up time in order to get them right and get them working 100%.

A third-party option: MailChimp

MailChimp is the best option if you’re looking for something as easy as possible. But it is a third party service.

For 100 email subscribers, MailChimp would be a great option for you. They have a free plan that allows you to have up to 2,000 subscribers and you can send up to 12,000 emails per month. So if you post once per day, you can have 400 subscribers (because 400 subscribers x 30 days = 12,000 emails per month). MailChimp is one of the best services because not only will they send emails, but you can easily customize the email template and see excellent statistics on the emails you send.

However, if you think your blog will grow and you’ll earn a ton more subscribers, then MailChimp may not be the best option. If you post every day, you can only have 400 subscribers. Once you exceed that, you will have to start paying money to keep going!

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  1. (Totally unrelated, but) Aw… you changed your profile picture! You look so whimsical and cute in this! 😀

    Excellent post, Ashley, and while I understood everything you’ve said in here, I didn’t know that RSS and email subscriptions were two different things (and still dont know the difference). I thought when you type in your email id in the box, you’re subscribing for emails. If that’s right, then what’s an RSS feed/subscription? ARGH!! I feel like such a newbie :/

    Fahima @ I Read, Ergo I Write recently posted: Why I Never Make New Year Resolutions (but am this year)
    1. Thank you Fahima! 😀 I’ve decided that I’m going to try to add more personality into my blog, so I’m starting that by updating my profile pic!

      I do have a post on what the heck is RSS? if you’re interested in checking that out. 🙂

    1. As long as you use WordPress you can track the “hits” your RSS feed gets with the Simple Feed Stats plugin! There may be a few other options too, but that’s the one that I use. 🙂

  2. I always feel so stupid when I read these posts, because I never knew that there were so many options out there for something like managing email subscriptions. I still use Feedburner, but I know a lot of people initially started using MailChimp when news about Google Reader came out, but I’m still too much of a wimp to make any changes yet :O (I tried setting up MailChimp but it didn’t work at all and it was so sad D:)

    But anyway, thanks for sharing! <33

    Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain recently posted: 2014 Reading Challenges
    1. MailChimp can be a little confusing at first, I guess, just because there are so many options. It’s not just “enter, submit, go” like Feedburner is. Instead you have to make your template, set up the content to be put in there, schedule the campaign, etc. Of course you can make it get sent automatically, but there’s a lot more of a setup process than there is with Feedburner.

      But you get a lot more useful stats than you get with Feedburner. Like you can easily see how many people opened each email, how many people clicked inside the emails, what links they clicked on, etc. It’s cool!

  3. Like Eileen, I feel like such an idiot. LIKE WHAT IS ALL THIS. I think I’m with feedburner, (see? I don’t even know what I use) but have been meaning to move because the service is rather bad and I want more statistics. So this post is so helpful!

    Thanks for sharing, Ashley! <33

    Melanie (YA Midnight Reads) recently posted: Farewell, 2013!
    1. Yeah I know what you mean. It can be really misleading to say like, “I have 500 RSS subscribers.” But what if only half of those actually read your posts on a regular basis? O_O Totally misleading information!

      (But then the problem is that most bloggers probably post those “misleading” stats.. so if you post the real ones, your numbers will look lower than other peoples’, even if they’re not. THE UNFAIRNESS!)

  4. After FeedBurner stopped working, I barely even glanced at how many people subscribed to it. I use Blogloving and it seems to work, but I don’t even know if people are clicking through from there. I haven’t noticed it.

    I still use JetPack eeps. I know it’s not easily customizible and the short codes drive me crazy, but it works for now. Until I can find another alternative that’s fast and easy, I’ll just stick to it for now.

  5. I was using Feedblitz for awhile, but I lost my check card and had to get a new one. You don’t want to know the drama that created with Feedblitz, but ultimately, I could never get my feed to authenticate with them again because it would accept the new card number, and then send me an email telling me my payment needed updating. This happened FIVE times. I even emailed support and they really didn’t know what they were doing or how to fix this.

    After all that, I decided they didn’t want my money THAT BAD. So I found Feedpress. It’s really simple, but it does what I want it to do, and that’s track my RSS numbers. And it’s free and easy to set up. I’ve been waiting for the catch, but so far, none yet and it’s been several months.

    Jennifer @ The Bawdy Book Blog recently posted: ARC: A Cold Creek Christmas Surprise by RaeAnne Thayne
  6. MailPoet’s cron service which is available in our Premium version will soon be available for free.

    We decide to offer the service, since a fairly large minority of users experience this issue.

    Cheers! Kim from the MailPoet team.

  7. Though I have not started email subscription service on my blog, after reading this article and many other articles mentioning mostly about aweber, mailchimp, I need to know what’s difference in using these third party services and email providers like gmail, outlook, yahoo. Say for eg, if I started email subscription, what will be the advantage/disadvantage of using gmail over mailchimp (if subscribers are less than 400 and sending 12k emails per month)? Thanks.

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    1. Well you cannot have an automatic email subscription service with Outlook or Gmail. With Gmail, the only option would be to manually send out emails… but people cannot “subscribe” through Gmail. Also if you manually send out emails with Gmail, you’d be in violation of the CAN SPAM act because there’s no “Unsubscribe” button.

      You use a third party service like MailChimp to have all the emails sent out. But then the recipients view the emails in whatever client they normally use (like Gmail or Outlook).

  8. I was actually going to bug you about the email subject but if found this post (of course i’m in a nerve wrecking because i’m starting in a unknow world call self-host wordpress blog XD,so emailing things will be years of light away)i heard before about mailchimp and i think since i’m still small maybe mailchimp will be a good option 😉

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