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Feed Control: Redirect RSS feeds to FeedBurner and AdSense using CNAME

by James Fielding 25. March 2010 11:02

If you are anything like me, then you spend a significant amount of your professional life thinking about "what ifs". What if a system's user does this? What if a hacker does that? What if the good people at Google mistakenly sell FeedBurner to some evil people, who in-turn take my redirected RSS (or ATOM) blog or news feed hostage?

Whether your using Wordpress, BlogEngine.NET, or another syndication CMS, many administrators look at moving their feeds to FeedBurner to monetize their feed using AdSense, or to gain access to some great syndication and analysis tools.  Some of these people happily redirect their subscribers directly to FeedBurner's feeds at http://feeds.feedburner.com, without a second thought. 

BE FOREWARNED: If at some point you are unhappy, and decide to leave, you can't simply redirect your feed elsewhere, again. This would be known as "committing blogicide", as you won't be taking your old subscribers with you; you're just redirecting the new subscribers. This is obviously less than ideal.

As it stands today: Don't worry, you may be OK. If you decide to leave FeedBurner, as of this post's publish date, the good people at Google have provided tools to transfer your feed elsewhere. Having said this, if you've linked directly, you'll be relying on their system to exist in the future to do the transfer. Everything else being equal, I'd prefer to have control, rather than give it away and rely on someone else. After all, it's my feed. I should own it.

Here's how you keep control of your feed:

  1. Determine if your hosting provider will allow you to create a CNAME entry in your site's DNS records. This may sound complicated, but it's not. If you're using a shared hosting account, you may be able to do this through your control panel, or you may have to email your helpdesk to do it for you. Check you provider's knowledge base, or email their helpdesk directly to get a straight answer.
  2. You'll also need to be able to add subdomains to your site. It is common to name your feed subdomain something like "feeds.mysite.com" or "rss.mysite.com". You don't need to add the subdomain, yet. We'll do this in step 5. But, if you are in doubt about if/how to do this, check it out with your helpdesk, too.
  3. If step 1 & 2 are doable, log into your Google's FeedBurner account. If you haven't already set up a FeedBurner feed for each of your existing feeds, do so now. Just so there is no confusion, I'm going to rephrase what we're doing here: In this step we're telling FeedBurner where you currently publish your xml feed files on your site.
  4. While still logged into FeedBurner,  go to My Account > Services > MyBrand. Here you'll find the critical CNAME entry snippet. It will look something like:

    feeds CNAME xxxxxx.feedproxy.ghs.google.com

    where "xxxxxx" will be replaced by your FeedBurner account's unique ID.
  5. Go back to your hosting provider and, using the snippet, set up your feed subdomain and add the CNAME entry to it. I can't really walk you through this, as it as the steps are going to be hosting provider specific, but your helpdesk should be happy to walk you through it. If not, find another provider.
  6. You may need to wait a few hours for the CNAME entry to propagate. You'll know it's propagated when you type in your new subdomain's address in your browser, and the page looks like you've arrived at FeedBurner. It will probably be showing an error, since we haven't activated the MyBrand service, yet. If it still hasn't propagated after 24 hours, check to make sure that your CNAME entry is identically to Google's snippet, and seek out your hosting provider's helpdesk for assistance.
  7.  Return to FeedBurner's MyBrand, enter your newly created feed subdomain, and activate the service.
  8. Redirect your site's feed subscription buttons through your new feed subdomain. For example if your FeedBurner blog feed is http://feeds.feedburner.com/mysiteblog, and your new subdomain was http://feeds.mysite.com, then you'd redirect to http://feeds.mysite.com/mysiteblog.

NOTE: You can create additional FeedBurner feeds and access them all through your feed subdomain. For example, if you also have a news feed for your site, you could burn your feed to http://feeds.feedburner.com/mysitenews, and then have your subscribers access it at  http://feeds.mysite.com/mysitenews.

So now, to your subscribers, it appears that your site is hosting your FeedBurner feed.

The great news is, if you've already given up your feed by linking subscribers directly to FeedBurner, you can still implement a CNAME redirect. It won't get you back full control, but it will be good for new subscribers going forward, and you may be able to use FeedBurner's transfer tools to get everything back (I've never used the transfer tools, so if you do, let me know how this goes).

As you can see, not only have we future-proofed our feed, but we've given our site a professional-looking feed subdomain, and a feed address that is likely more user friendly, Moreover, we've also future-proofed ourselves: At some point, if you don't like your blog engine, it's no problem. Just swap it out. You'll need to relink your Feedburner feed, but your subscribers won't know the difference.

All in all, I'd say what we've done today isn't bad for an hours work.

Keep the power,
James Fielding

Sciosoft Systems is a Canadian web design & development company based in Muskoka, which is in central Ontario. We provide ASP.NET website & Windows Server application development services to small and medium-sized business, as well as local government and not-for-profit groups. If you have a website project you’d like to discuss, please visit us at www.sciosoft.com.

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Comments (2) -

Travel Designery
Travel Designery United States
3/17/2011 4:16:37 AM #

Is there a way to do this without using Feedburner? I was unable to register my feed there because when i tried it said the account already existed. when i tried to claim it it said it couldn't be located!!..and there's NO support through google, no help, no answers...email me back if possible. thank you.

ScioJim
ScioJim Canada
3/18/2011 6:39:20 PM #

Hi Lorena. "Do you mean, "Is there a way to [use Feedburner] without [registering with] Feedburner?" I'm going with "Not likely." Having said this, have you tried registering with your site with http://www.google.com/webmasters/ ? Your domain name may have registered by the previous owner, so this may allow you to access the "existing" account.

Let me know how it goes,
James

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The opinions expressed herein are the personal opinions of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Sciosoft Systems Inc.