How to Use Google Reader to Keep Up with Your Favorite Blogs

I follow more than 200 blogs. I am often asked, “How do you do it? That would take me forever!” It would me, too—if I tried to visit all of these blogs daily. But using an RSS Reader, I can stay current by spending less than 30 minutes a day.

If you can’t see this video in your RSS reader or email, then click here.

In this post, I want to show you how to set up Google Reader and then use it to keep up with your favorite blogs. This is not a post for “power users,” though even they might pick up a tip or two. It is intended for novices—people who are not even sure what RSS is.

If you are just getting started with Evernote, I suggest that you buy Brett Kelly’s remarkably practical e-book, Evernote Essentials, 4.0. It will save you HOURS of learning Evernote on your own.

Let’s start at the beginning. What is RSS?

RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication.” Before RSS, you had to bookmark your favorite sites and then visit them one-at-a-time. Maybe they had new content, maybe not. This was slow and tedious; it took forever. You could only follow a very limited number of blogs with this kind of workflow.

In 1999, engineers at Netscape dreamed up RSS. It is a simple technology that allows you to subscribe to your favorite blogs. Whenever one of your favorite bloggers posts new content, it is pushed out—or syndicated—to you and everyone else who subscribes (watch the embedded video above).

Subscribers read this content in something called an RSS Reader.
There are lots of RSS Readers on the market. I’m tried many of them. After trying most of them, I prefer Google Reader. Why?

  • It’s simple.
  • It has lots of easy-to-use features.
  • It’s free.

Why should you use Google Reader? Three reasons:

  1. It is convenient—content comes to you.
  2. It is consistent—you have a single user interface.
  3. It is fast—you can read WAY more content then you could by visiting sites one at a time.

So, how do you get started? Fortunately, it is very simple. I am going to walk you through it, step-by-step:

  1. Set up a Google account:
    • If you already have a Google account, you can skip this step.
    • Goto Google.com/accounts.
    • Look in the lower right-hand corner. Click on the Create an Account link or button.
    • Sign-up.
    • Make sure you write down your new email address and password.
  2. Set up a Google Reader Account:
    • Goto Google.com/Reader.
    • Sign into your new account, using your Google login credentials.
    • You should have a new screen with some pre-populated posts.
  3. Start adding subscriptions:
    • You have three options:
      1. Click on the Add a Subscription button. It is in the upper left-hand corner of Google Reader.
      2. Visit the blog you want to add and click on the RSS button. Most blogs have this prominently displayed.
      3. Click on the universal RSS button in the address bar of your browser.
    • Start adding a few subscriptions. I have a list of my favorites here.
    • Optionally add each subscription to a folder.

Now is when the fun begins. Create a bookmark to Google Reader. That’s the only bookmark you really need in terms of blogs. Here are a few random tips for using Google Reader on a day-to-day basis.

  1. Install Add to Google Reader if you are using Mac Safari. This makes it exceedingly easy to add new subscriptions.
  2. Adjust your Reader settings:
    • Click on Settings | Reader settings. It’s in the upper right-hand corner of the Google Reader page.
    • Check scroll tracking to marks items read as you scroll past them.
    • Click on the Send To tab and check the services you use most often. I have Digg, Facebook, Instapaper, StumbleUpon, and Twitter checked.
  3. Use the shortcut keys. You can find a full list here. The ones I use the most are:
    • j moves you forward one post; k moves you back. These are the keys I use the most. They allow me to scan through new posts quickly.
    • The space bar moves the page down. Shift-space moves it back up.
    • s stars the item; l likes the item.
    • v opens the post on the original blog site.
    • Shift-s shares the item with those who subscribe to your Google Reader feed. Here’s mine. (Yes, some people might be interested in reading what you find interesting.)
    • Shift-d share with the note. You can not only share the current item, but share why you think it is important or make any other comment.
    • e emails the article to a friend. I use this all the time.
    • Shift-t opens the send to menu. This enables you to Twitter the post or share it on Facebook. This is probably the feature I use the most. It makes it really easy to share posts that you find meaningful with your followers.
  4. Use Google Reader on your phone. You can access Google Reader on the go by pointing your mobile phone’s browser to http://www.google.com/reader/m.

Using Google Reader may seem awkward at first. But I would encourage you to stick with it. It is one of those applications that becomes more valuable the more you use it.

Questions: Are you currently using Google Reader? How has it helped you be more productive? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • http://justonebeggar.com Ron

    Thanks for walking through how to set this up. I’m very new to blogging and a lot of social media, so it’s nice to have this blog as a resource. Your site was one of the first I added on Google Reader!

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  • http://www.boynamedtracy.com TD

    I definitely use Google Reader. The best part for me is how it stays in sync and doesn’t show me posts I’ve already read. That’s a real timesaver! Now if only I could find a twitter client that syncs read tweets I would be a happy camper!

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  • http://www.coachradio.tv Justin Lukasavige

    Fantastic directions, Michael. Thanks for going so deep.

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  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    Thanks Mike for sharing the information! I have started using Google Reader after reading this post.

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  • Anonymous

    I set up Google Reader but fell off using it. I definitely feel the urge to revisit this as a tool to improve my operating efficiency.

    • frustrated

      why does some of my blogs that i follow only show a snippet? i find this annoying. is it so we go to their site so they get more hits?

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        That is an option on all blogging software. I find it annoying, too.

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  • Omoniyi Oladokun

    I very much like your write up.But I will like to know how Google reader can be used on a website/blog to keep to date with favorite blogs or websites.I am setting up a blog now and I need a website aggregator on it.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      You can’t really install Google Reader on a website or blog. It is rather a tool to read blogs via RSS feed. However, you should install an RSS feed on your blog so that others can subscribe to it. I can’t tell you how to do this; every blogging system is different. But it should be there, right out of the box.

  • http://byrdmouse.wordpress.com Jonathan

    I started using Google Reader only last week after some comments in another of your blogs. I am absolutely loving it. 

    The only thing I haven’t yet figured out is if subscriptions to Google count in your blog’s subscription count (I’m using the free version of WordPress). How can you track people following you via RSS?

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  • Roman Kl

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  • http://www.careyjaneclark.com Carey Jane Clark

    I just had to come back and comment on how much this tip has helped me. So much more efficient and friendly than what I was doing before. Thanks!

  • Wayne Groner

    Where does the Google Reader show up on my computer? Is it an icon on My Desktop? Start button? Task tray? I’m confused.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      It’s a website. Google it!

  • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Unfortunately, you can only read via Google Reader. If you want to comment, you have to view the actual page. However, in Reader, you can get there with one click. I do it all the time.

    • http://www.laugh-quotes.com Rhonda

      Thanks.  After reading this last night I used the short cut keys and go through my reader so quickly.  With the J, K, and V it didn’t seem so time consuming to add comments anymore.  Too bad I can’t do it from reader.

  • Tim

    I just read Google Reader is getting shut down soon. I have been a faithful user for many years now and have no idea what do use next! I guess I will be on the hunt for a new method to keep up with my favorite blogs and news services. I actually found this post while searching for a new method. What will you do?

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  • http://twitter.com/BrianKIves Brian Ives

    Just got my Google reader tonight, I only have you and Chris Locurto’s blog coming to it as of now, look forward to adding more later. I already see how this is going to be much faster then getting an email and going to individual blogs.
    Thanks

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  • Valerie McEvoyy

    I’ve heard that Google Chrome has an extension that allows you to see the page or post rank of each post in Google Reader. How do you determine the quality of these posts?

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  • Giuseppe Pagnoni

    I Use the “Pocket (read it later)” app/extension to save articles for later reading. It integrates perfectly with Google Reader and offers an amazing uncluttered reading experience.
    You can also tag saved articles so that you can later retrieve information based on exact info.

    Also, Google Reader offers a powerful search engine that can instantly look through all your posts/subscription. I use this feature extensively to look in older posts when I subscribe to a new blog. 

    Michael, excellent tips… as usual!

    Giuseppe

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  • Ellen Paul

    RSS
    Feed Reader for Google Chrome enables you to follow your favorite sites
    within Chrome browser. It installs from the Google Store as a one
    click. You can get instantly notified when a website present in your list
    updates its content. The notification can be easily turned On or Off, because
    it can be disturbing to see a pop-ups when you’re working on the computer all
    the day long. You can read about it here, http://how-to.in/indias-first-smartphone-with-intel-inside/.
    After getting much detail about it you would definitely want to subscribe
    it.  And trust me guys you would also
    going to love this. Any revert back would be highly appreciated.

    Thanks!!!

  • Spackminder

    Thanks for the clear and helpful article.  I have been trying to sort out RSS for some time and this worked very well…

  • http://www.wordpressians.com/ WordPressians

     That is the perfect way to get in touch with the favorite blogs. Other than that, you may use other RSS news reader like alltop.

  • http://twitter.com/USANerd USANerd

    Can you do another one of these for Feedly now that you switched? It would also be good to have an update of your daily reads. Thanks!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      It would be the same list. Nothing much has changed.

      • Brian Snyder

        What happens to the feeds on Feedly once Google Reader is shut down? Doesn’t Feedly get my blogs from Google Reader?

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          Yes, but they are building their own RSS reader system. They claim it will be a seamless transition for their users.