How to Track RSS Subscribers in a Blog Contest

March 15th, 2009
HOW-TO, WordPress FAQs

Let me start off by saying that this post will not talk about how to get sponsors, how to determine prizes, or how to determine rules for a blog contest. This post will talk about how to tweak your WordPress blog to solve the biggest problem in running a blog contest to gain RSS subscribers.


The issue here is that there is no easy way to track if each contestant has actually subscribed to your RSS feed. Without the ability to confirm RSS subscription, anybody can just claim that they have subscribed to your feed and get a free entry into the contest.


A known solution to this problem is to include a special contest code into your RSS feed and not have this code visible on your website. That way each contestant will be forced to grab the code from your feed and submit the code via comments to verify that they have subscribed to the RSS feed. To implement this solution with the minimum amount of effort you will need to do the following two things:

1. Include the special contest code into your RSS feed

You can automatically do this by adding the following code snippet to your theme’s functions.php. The following code will make the text “Special Contest Code: yourcodehere” show up at the end of each post in the RSS feed, but not show up on your website.

function contest_post_filter($content) {
  if ( is_feed() )
    return $content.'Special Contest Code: yourcodehere';
    return $content;

Make sure you change “yourcodehere” to your own special contest code.

2. Automatically censor all comments with the code in it

You can automatically hide all RSS confirmation code in your comments by including the following code snippet into your functions.php:

function contest_comment_filter($comment_text) {
  return str_replace('yourcodehere', '[code hidden]', $comment_text);

Once the contest is over, you can lock the comments on that post and remove the following line to have all confirmation codes reappear for validation:


Why is Does This Work?

Simply because you do not have to deal with the contest again until your contest is over. Your special contest code is hidden from view, so there is no way of cheating. Once your contest is over, you can just un-hide the contest codes, tally up the participants, and [randomly] pick your winners.

Do you think you have a better method of tracking RSS subscribers in a contest? If so, please share in the comments section.




  1. izzat aziz (2 comments.) says:

    i currently do this contest, but i think i will see the email list that provide by feedburner to see who really subscribe. thank for the info i might doing it on other contest.

    • Thaya (51 comments.) says:

      You can use the Feedburner email list to run an email subscription contest and gain email subscribers, but you can’t use it to run an RSS subscribers contest though :).

  2. Erika Jurney (1 comments.) says:

    Brilliant — that’s really clever!

  3. PDR (1 comments.) says:

    I’m going to try to whip up a plugin to see if I can implement an easier way.

  4. Janice @ Big List of Giveaways (1 comments.) says:

    Wow! That’s great information. I’ve always wondered how people who run contests and giveaways can track WHO subscribes to their RSS feeds. I’m in the process of launching a site: that will allow people to log in and post their giveaways as a way to gain traffic and participation. As part of this site their is a blog section where I want to post tips and tricks for running giveaways and contests, do you think I could re-publish this post with a credit to you? Please email me and let me know. Thanks!
    All the best,
    Founder of The Big List of Giveaways.

    • Thaya Kareeson (51 comments.) says:

      I do not own the contents I write here, so please use the site’s “contact me” section to email Mark directly about this.

    • Mark Ghosh (386 comments.) says:

      As long as you do not claim the content as your own and provide attribution to this post, author and blog, you are welcome to reproduce the content.

  5. Todd Larason (1 comments.) says:

    How do you differentiate between people who posted comments with ‘yourcodehere’ and those who posted with ‘[code hidden]’?

    • Thaya (51 comments.) says:

      Once the contest is over, you can remove the line “add_filter(‘get_comment_text’,’contest_comment_filter’);” and all the code will be visible again. You can then use that to verify the real contest code against [code hidden].

  6. Jack (2 comments.) says:

    Very good. This is a great idea. A simple code can do all the job.

  7. Music (1 comments.) says:

    YEAAA! GO THAYA!!! I know my comment has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE POST whatsoever but yeaa.


    Okay, have a nice day~

  8. Mahesh (1 comments.) says:

    Thanx for the info. Very Nice!

  9. George Serradinho (107 comments.) says:

    Nice idea, I seem to agree with PDR about having a plugin do this. It would make it easier for beginners to get it right.

  10. Chung Bey Luen (14 comments.) says:

    Great idea. Thanks. I can use it in my future blog contest.

  11. KushMoney (1 comments.) says:

    I have to try this next time I run a contest on my blog.

  12. Property Sale (1 comments.) says:

    This way sounds easy! Shall try test it out and see if it works.Thanks!

  13. Eddie Gear (2 comments.) says:

    Hi there,

    Thank you for sharing information. This is an excellent post. I’ve always been wondering how to track subscribers specially when they subscribe via RSS. Did you happen to write or have written a post in the past relating to how to conduct a competition? I tried looking around.

    Eddie Gear

    • Thaya Kareeson (51 comments.) says:

      Thanks for your kind words. No I haven’t written an article about conducting a competition. I found plenty of those online when I was trying to run a competition, but found that nobody explained how you can confirm RSS subscription when running these competitions.

  14. jessie (1 comments.) says:


    thanks so much for the info. i’ve been looking for ways to ease up tracking of participants in my blog contests. i’ll use this code you stated here next time. :-)

  15. Fresh Young Bloggers (1 comments.) says:

    Ah nice! good idea!

  16. Blog Contest (1 comments.) says:

    Hmm…I’m always into contests and I’m looking forward to finding more of them online.

  17. tina says:

    Okay, this is nice what what about those of us who use blogger? this is only good for wordpress.

  18. Megan (2 comments.) says:

    I followed your instructions in the above post but did not get the same results.
    – I use WordPress.
    – Added the code from #1 to my Appearance > Editor > Theme Functions (functions.php) code (above the ending “?>”).
    – Then I subscribed to my feed from a separate computer.

    I can see my feed, but there is no special code anywhere.

    Would I need to post a new blog before the code is visible in the feed? If so, that means new subscribers won’t see the code until after I’ve posted again. Please advise.

    • Thaya Kareeson (51 comments.) says:

      Hi Megan,
      I think this is because your feed is an excerpt feed and you are appending the contest code to the end of your post (which never shows up because only an execerpt of each post is displayed in an excerpt feed). You can modify the code in #1 to:

      “return ‘Special Contest Code: yourcodehere<br/>’.$content;”

      To have the contest code show up before each of your posts.

      • Megan (2 comments.) says:

        Genius! Works perfectly! Thank you! Do you know if this would work with Feedburner? I’d like to have both.

  19. ant says:

    I just used this code and tested with a ‘test code’ and then I changed the code and reuploaded my functions.php file and now it won’t update to the new code i entered. It keeps displaying the old one. How can I fix it?

    • Thaya Kareeson (51 comments.) says:

      Are you using Feedburner or any other feed service? There are usually a content change delay with those services.

      • ant says:

        Yeah! It ended up working. But, people are commenting and the code is showing up as visible within the comment field? Isn’t it supposed to be hidden? I don’t want other people reading the post to be able to see the code through peoples comments.

        • Thaya Kareeson (51 comments.) says:

          Did you do part 2 of this post (Censor the code)? Make sure you follow every step and make sure “yourcodehere” is replaced with your code.

          • ant says:

            Yeah, I did. I even replaced it a second time just in case I missed a line or something. I am not sure why they are showing up…

  20. DuFFeR - ??? (1 comments.) says:

    if you can please help me a little
    i have a wordpress blog and recently subscribed to feedburner
    the counter from feed burner is just showing a few readers count
    while i know that its too high than shown number
    the old users have subscribed to my blog’s original feed, not feed burner
    what is the procedure that i get a sum of feed count of feedburner and my blog’s feed subscribers count?
    thank you so much in advance :)

    • Thaya Kareeson (51 comments.) says:

      I don’t think there is an easy way to do this. I think the best thing for you to do is to write a blog post telling your readers to switch over to the new Feedburner RSS URL.

  21. Raju (2 comments.) says:

    This works like a charm. Thank you so much!
    is it possible to have HTML tags inside?

  22. Tim (2 comments.) says:

    I love this concept! I think there is a plugin that will do step one for you called RSS Footer. I haven’t seen a plugin for step 2 yet:(

  23. Tim (2 comments.) says:

    Wait a minute! It seems that if someone were to just click the subscribe button, whatever is appended at the end of each post becomes visible!

  24. kevin love (9 comments.) says:

    always good to help me track!


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