How to Track RSS Subscriptions

rss-trackingSo many technology bloggers we work with get somewhat fixated on the number of user comments their posts garner (or don’t). “Why doesn’t anyone comment on our blog?” is the plaintive cry I hear. After I tell them that I sympathize (err…agonize) with them, I inform them that there are many other metrics to consider. Certainly unique page visitors are important (people who read, lurk, but rarely comment). But in addition, retweets, backlinks, comments in social networks to which you syndicate posts (i.e. Facebook, LinkedIn)…these are all valuable numbers to gauge the appeal of your blog content. One big one that often gets overlooked is RSS subscription.

More and more, blog readers (and Web users in general) use RSS subscriptions as a way to amalgamate preferred content. Rather than have to go and visit their list of favorite blogs, they elect to have the content from those sites served up to them in programs like Google Reader or NewsGator. And if you’re not tracking this activity, you may think you’re being bypassed. Or, if you look just at traffic numbers, you may see a decline in unique visitors and think that one-time readers have stopped reading, when really they have simply subscribed to your RSS feed.

A few minutes to cover your bases
The easiest way I’ve found to track this activity is to use Google FeedBurner (FeedBurner was acquired by Google in 2007.) FeedBurner monitors subscriptions to your RSS feed. Log into the control panel and see in one big number how many people have your feed served to them. This is absolutely a key metric to weigh in the success of your blog outreach. It reflects not only more eyes on your content, but the fact that said subscribers value it enough to have it served fresh to them daily is telling (and encouraging.)

It takes minutes to set up. You’ll be asked for the address of your RSS feed (which is easily identifiable if you use Blogger or WordPress.) Once you enter that address, FeedBurner will prompt if it can modify your RSS subscription links so that they can be tracked. Press OK and presto, you’re done.

It’s a great way to close up one potential hole in your social media analytics and to feel a little better about how many people think your writing is worthy. 🙂

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