How to Follow your List of Blogs the easy way–part 1

A couple of weeks ago I let you know that Google is going to discontinue the Google Friend Connect support for non-blogspot blogs. It is expected that it will be discontinued on all blogs not long after. So what alternatives are there to follow all your friends blogs in the most effective and fun way?

Many of you asked me to keep you updated and help you find new ways to keep tabs on your favorite blogs. Well I am hear to serve and share my experiences. I decided that I just have to much to tell you to cram it all into one post. So today I’ll focus on what a feed Reader is and how you can use it to follow your blogs. Come back in a few days for part two where I’ll explain all the neat tricks and fun ways you can use Google Reader to read blogs. And if I haven’t convinced you of the benefits of Google Reader by then, I’ll give you lots of alternatives in part three.

So todays topic is:

What is the best way to follow blogs?

First things first, let me recap this for you a bit, what am I talking about?

“What is Google Friend Connect and why should I mind that it is disappearing?”

I am talking about this cool thing almost everybody has on their blog:

Google Friend Connect Followers Gadget

The followers gadget. By clicking follow, your smiling face gets added to the list of followers and new posts of the blog in question get delivered to your Blogger dashboard.

Followes Dashboard

And if you had it set up that way, they would be added to your dynamic Blogroll in your sidebar too.

I think a lot of us are going to miss the followers gadget, whether it is because it was such a handy way to add blogs to your reading list or because we all got a kick out of seeing that number go up, missed it will be.

As to why Google is doing this? We can only speculate but chances are it’s because it wasn’t used the way Google had hoped and they are now trying to get us all to use Google+.

So what are we to do then?  Not to worry there are alternatives.

Okay for many of you this will be old stuff,but the comments and questions I got after my last post on this subject made me realize that so many new bloggers just don’t know this stuff. So hang in there while I explain the basics.

What the followers gadget does, and any other blog reading tool, is to catch the RSS feed your blog sends out.

RSS feed?!, I don’t have a feed, I write posts.”

Yup, you write posts and every time you do your blog sends out a message to the world that there is something new to read at your place. You can compare your RSS feed with a press release that is send out to many different media outlets in the world. The message can be a short summary of the big news with an inviting headline to check in to hear more (that would be a truncated feed in blog terms) or it could be a complete countdown of the news that can then be republished by newspapers, radio stations or TV programs.

Blog readers or RSS feed readers are the collectors of news items that blogs send out and they serve them up to you in the style that you choose.

There are many different blog readers out there and they all have there own set of benefits and limitations.

Why is it so darn useful to use a reader?

Well if you want to keep up with your favorite blogs, and if you are anything like me, that is a long list, you could manually click over to them from a folder you keep on your desktop. You click the direct link and you hope they have updated since you last was there, and you hope the post is to your liking. And then you click on to the next one. And you’ll never get around to clicking on the last one, and you’ll be forever missing out the good posts, or hitting blogs that haven’t updated in a while and wasting precious reading time.

10 reasons why you should use a blog reader:

  1. It is easy, often one click to add a new blog to your reading list
  2. It is easy to organize your list of blogs in categories, so for instance you could do all your ‘garden blog’ reading in one go when you feel like it.
  3. The reader tells you if and when a blog has a new post ready to read (no more clicking on blogs that haven’t been updated)
  4. When you have read a post in the reader it will be marked read, if you can’t keep up you can mark the posts as read yourself.
  5. You can see the title of the post so you’ll know if you want to read it beforehand. For instance I am usually not that interested in giveaways or product reviews (living in Europe makes them often not applicable to me) so I simply skip those posts and move on to the ones that get me excited.
  6. Every reader has its own set of perks and handy tools that you can use to customize the reading to the way you prefer it.
  7. You don’t actually have to do the reading of the blog in the reader, you just use the reader to keep everything in one place and to know when to visit a friend because she has news to share.
  8. Speaking of sharing, you can often share posts that you really like with your FB or Twitter friends from within the reader.
  9. Most readers make it easy to bookmark (or star) posts that you will want to come back too.
  10. Most readers are internet services which means that you can access your reading list wherever you are and on your mobile device too (great for blog reading while sitting in the dentist waiting room).

“Okay you have convinced me, so what do I do next?”

Sign up with your reader of choice. For the sake simplicity I am going to explain Google Reader to you first.

Google Reader is the most used feed reader out there. And Google has just renewed its complete look and functionality so I guess we don’t have to be afraid that they will discontinue this one too. I love Google Reader so let me introduce it to you a bit more and maybe even convince some of you that said they didn’t like it , to give it another try.

Now if you are on blogger, or have a Gmail account or use Picasa webalbums (which all of us Blogger bloggers have) you have a Google account. You can find your reader under your account settings.

Google account settings

All of the Google applications you use, or you could use are gathered here in one place:

Google Applications Dashboard

You can also go there via the short route which is clicking on it in the Google menu bar that is on top of every Google application.

Google Reader in Menu bar

Open Google Reader and you’ll see this screen.

Google Reader Interface

The big red button is where you can add blogs manually (by copy pasting the blog address), but there are better ways to do that, more on that later.

Below you’ll see (once you have added some blogs) a list of the blogs you have subscribed too. In the middle in the big white empty spot you can read the blogs. The right column gives you suggestions based on your preferences, tips and tricks and a short history.


Now how do I add blogs to Google Reader?

There are many ways.

If you are already following a lot of blogs through the Followers widget you can import those into Google reader.

Import Followed Blogs into Google Reader

In your Blogger dashboard you’ll find a link on the right  (next to the list of unread blog posts). Click it and poof you’ll be taken to Google reader and all your blogs will be listed and you’ll see your first unread post in your reading panel.

Import Followed Blogs into Google Reader 2

Other easy ways to add blogs to your reader (any reader in fact) is by using the RSS button. The original version is the orange button with the white crescents. But many people (like me) have customized them to match the look of their blog.

RSS ButtonUniversal RSS Button Feed knop My customized RSS button Custom RSS buttonCentsational Girl’s RSS button Feedburner Chicklet
You can also click on this Feedburner Chicklet.

Just click that and you’ll see a pop up screen asking you to which reader you want to add this blog.

RSS Subscribe Form

You can see there are several options and Google Reader is one of them.

Okay. Now you can import the blogs you follow in the Google Reader and you’ll know how to add any blog to the Reader you want to receive updates from. Start playing and reading and familiarize yourself with the layout.

I’ll be back here soon to show you how to use Google Reader AND enjoy visiting blogs on their home site simultaneously, what extra benefits Google Reader has and some neat ways to customize the whole thing to your own special preferences.

And as promised if you still don’t like it, in the third episode of this impromptu series I’ll share a buck load of other options with you. I am sure there is a favorite way to follow blogs for all of you.

In the mean time if you have any questions, fire away. I’ll either answer them in the comments (too bad the treaded comment thing is not working on my site) or I’ll address them in the next post on the subject. So ask me…..


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  1. Renee Living Laughing Loving says

    I love Google Reader!!! I wouldn't survive reading all my blogs w/o it! Love all the little tricks you can do with it too!! According to blogger buzz you have to have embedded comments for the threaded comments to work… so maybe give that a try? I know some people with customized templates couldn't get it, and I couldn't get it to work while using Chrome, but it works great on firefox. :)

  2. Lori @ Lori May Interiors says

    Such great info, thanks! I made the mistake of signing up to follow people through email. I love it, but I can't handle the number of emails, so I plan to switch to a reader. I didn't quite know how it works, so your info is super helpful for me!

  3. Chrissy @ Adventures in DIY says

    Thank you sooo much for this info. I am new to blogging and only used the reader on the Blogger dashboard. I heard last week that they were discontinuing this and about freaked out – how am I supposed to keep up on all the current posts?!?! This answered my question – I had no idea how the RSS worked. I'm going to update my info tonight. Woo hoo!

  4. Lesley says

    So I just read this and decided to 'convert' lol I have Google Reader. I just always chose to use the dashboard. It's easier for me. Oh well…progress, right?!??

  5. Barbara Jean says

    I appreciate all the time you are putting in on this research for all of us.
    I will say though, my google reader has not worked for months….really, I mean months!
    It either keeps saying it is connecting, or comes up not available.
    Will keep checking back to see what other changes I might make.
    I do so love all the blogs I follow!!

    barbara jean

  6. debi huntsman says

    Great post! Thanks for sharing this valuable info. I love my Google Reader, and couldn't live in blogland without it.

  7. Marianne says

    Bedankt! Zover kan ik je nog volgen! Ik kijk uit naar de volgende posts. Volgens mij is er nog veel wat ik iet weet van GR.

  8. Anonymous says

    Thanks for adding some details about Google Reader. Options are always nice. I use Bloglovin' ( reader, and enjoy it's ease of use. You add a blog by copy/pasting the url into the add box. You can add blogs to a specific group if you want. You can view them all at once, or one at a time. It's so easy and visual that I'm hooked on it, but I always like to check out as many options as possible.

    • says

      I also use for keeping up to date with my favorite blogs, I enjoy how it all integrates together and still allows you to view each site as you normally would with the themes and everything. Definitely worth checking out in my opinion!!

  9. skye @ neathering our fest says

    I love using a reader! I would like to know more about grouping my subscriptions into categories – that would be super helpful and I haven't the first clue how to do that!

  10. says

    I’ve been using Google reader for awhile now and LOVE it. It’s so easy to see who’s posted and to click on the link to the site. Great tips, Marianne, very clearly explained.

    • Marianne@Songbird says

      Thank you! I am doing a follow up next week, so make sure you don’t miss it. I might just have a few tricks for you….
      Welcome to my new home!

  11. says

    Oh, thank you so much for this tutorial! i’ll bet the Google Reader is why i get comments from some bloggers in email! I’ve followed your instructions to add the Google Reader thingy. It seems odd to me but I don’t want to loose my followers. I do use Blogger.
    Thank you again and be a sweetie,

    • Marianne@Songbird says

      Oh how nice that new people are finding you, that’s always good isn’t it.
      I’ll give you lots of hints on how to use Google Reader the best way next week. So stay tuned.

  12. says

    Very informative post on this subject. I heard that bloglovin is also good but have not checked into that for my blog reading. I did a post on this subject yesterday, not the techie part but how I plan on handling it. I have a feedburner option and an RSS feed option for google reader, but I am also going to add more options via RSS feed so my readers can keep tabs.Most of my readers are via email at this point and that seems to be the straightforward way for them to get the post.
    I will look forward to reading the rest of the series.

  13. Melanie says

    Thanks for this great post on google reader. I use it but always want to know more about how to use it more efficiently. I, too, follow a ton of blogs and couldn’t keep up without Google Reader. I’m looking forward to more posts on blog readers.

  14. Stacey says

    I am not a blogger (maybe someday) but I love to read blogs & I have been using Google Reader for a while. Not being a blogger & having only read blogs for a little over a year all of this talk about the Google Friend Connect going away had me thinking that it meant Google Reader was also going away. I appreciate you post…you cleared it up for me & now I understand a little better as to what is going to take place. I enjoy your blog very much:)

    • Marianne@Songbird says

      Good! I am glad I could help. Tomorrow is March 1. Guess we will find out one way or another of GFC will still work. But we will always have Google Reader!

  15. says

    Thanks for the post. I have blogged for awhile and I’m ashamed to say that I have never understood what an RSS feed actually is. And I’m glad to know that Google Reader won’t be going away. Question for you: I want to know which blogs I’ve added in the past year–is there any way to sort the blogs I follow according to when I subscribed to them?

    • Marianne@Songbird says

      Glad the post helped you. And I am sorry but I have no idea how you could sort your blogs that way.

  16. michelle says

    Hi, I just came upon your post about using google reader. I’ve been using GR for a few months and often get frustrated by the aspects I don’t understand. in your post above, towards the end, you say we can click on the RSS feed to add it and then you say that there is a list and google reader is one of them. But when I do this, I don’t see any that say google reader. There is google+ and yahoo, etc. Am I missing what it looks like since none say google reader?

    And just curious, up until about a month ago, not sure exactly when it changed, but on most blogs, there was a button at the top that said ‘follow’ and you could click on it to add it to your reader list. Now, I never see the follow button. Did google discontinue it?

    Another question 😉 I have my blogs I’m following list and then in dashboard (I think) I made some folders, naming one quilting. So I labeled certain blogs as quilting. When I look at my list in reader, some show up under blogs I’m folioing and some show up down below under the folder I named quilting. So if I set up on to follow, do I have to go into dashboard each time and tell it to put it in the folder? Or is there a way to do that when set it up to follow?

    I realize you may not want to answer these questions and I respect that. I was online tonight for an hour, googling things to find out these answers and I just get directed to google forums and when I go there, I cannot find the topic I listed. Soooooooo frustrating.

    thanks for any help you might give. And if there is a good place to find this info out, please tell me and I won’t bother you 😉


    • Marianne@Songbird says

      ok a short reply to your questions
      1. If you click on the RSS button and the pop up screen comes up. Google is one option. Click that and then you can choose to add the feed to Google Reader (or your Google page or something). This works best if you are logged in to Google (which you are if you have been in your gmail, or on your Blogger blog etc.).

      2. I am not sure what you mean with the Follow button. If you are referring to the gadget that has a follow button. Yes Google discontinued that partially anyway. It only works on Blogger blogs now. So all the blogs that are run on Typepad or WordPress don’t have that option anymore. Unless they have added the button themselves like I have ( you have clicked that button on my blog haven’t you :-) ).

      3. Follow and Subscribe are the same and different.
      When you subscribe you use the RSS feed thing directly. From there you add things to your Google Reader and they show up in your GR list where you can then allocate them to a folder. When you follow through Bloggers gadget, you use a specific Blogger service that also collects the feed but typically sends it to your Blogger dashboard. As a service Blogger allows you to import the blogs you follow into Google reader, where they show up under Blogs I follow. You can then reallocate them to a folder too.
      So no, you can’t send them from follow directly into a folder. You have to do that in the Reader. Check out my second GR tutorial (with video) to see how to put your subscriptions in your folder the easy way.

      Once you figure GR out, I am sure you will not be able to live without it.

      I hope this helped.

      • michelle says

        Hi Marianne, this did help, thank you! And I did go read most of part 2 and plan to finish reading it. I just ran out of time. But I saw how to choose GR to subscribe. I am sure my question was not worded well, it is a frustrating and hard subject to describe. So you tutorial was a big help. And you language skills are fantastic. I can speak any Dutch so you are right! LOL

        thank you again. I will read and watch the rest of tutorial and am sure I will feel better about using GR. Organizing the blogs so I know what I’m following and which I want to read next, etc., will definitely make it more pleasant and valuable.

        in Seattle, USA