Measuring RSS Feeds
Measuring and tracking RSS while a fairly
simple concept, is really anything but. Unlike websites,
RSS have the added caveat of potential syndication,
making accurate tracking a challenge to anyone but
the extremely tech savvy. It is not unrealistic
for marketers to want to know how many subscribers
they have, which items in their feeds attract the
most interest, or how many click-throughs are generated
as a result of an RSS feed.There are a number of
3rd party providers who focus on tracking the consumption
of RSS feeds. Some solutions are rudimentary but
likely sufficient for a small business testing the
waters with RSS. Other RSS tracking solutions are
more complex and while they can come close to being
accurate, with syndication there is no solution
that tracks with 100% accuracy.
Techniques Used to track RSS Consumption
Small businesses can view web logs to provide
information on how many times a specific file (RSS
feed) is requested. The logs and information is
rudimentary but will give a basic sense of a feeds
success. Many 3rd party tracking options have additional
tracking information available.
The most common method to track the number of
feed accesses or individuals accessing a feed is
to use a 3rd party feed host. Companies like FeedBurner
essentially track feeds based on accesses. The downside
to using a 3rd party like Feedburner, is that the
url is a FeedBurner url and any PageRank or popularity
associated with the url will benefit the feed host
rather than the feed creator. Additionally, no distinction
is made between unique views or syndicate feeds.
FeedBurner provides a free no frills service to
host RSS feeds and they have been proactive in circumventing
user concerns. Recently implementing a service that
eases users concerns about migrating from FeedBurner.
There is a 3 step process for users interested in
migrating from FeedBurner's free service, implementing
a permanent redirect, and url forwarding.
Details can be found at: http://www.burningdoorc.om/feedburner/archives/001251.html
Some publishers, who were concerned about lock-in
or wanted to retain control of the domain and feed
urls often resist a hosting service. The new program
FeedBurner Partner Pro is not free, but allows for
users to point to their own domain, retaining complete
control of their feeds without sacrificing statistical
tracking. The downside to using a service like FeedBurner
is that some filtering applications used on corporate
proxy servers block feeds residing on FeedBurner
or other free hosts.
Companies like SyndicateIQ have more complex
tracking solutions that generate unique urls for
each subscriber. The tracking benefits to such a
customized solution is obvious. Individual user
habits can be monitored and any users abusing their
access and inappropriately syndicating a feeds content
can have their feed turned off. The downside of
course is that the success of RSS is in a large
part due to the anonymity. Users don't want their
personal habits tracked. Considering the venture
capital interest in these 3rd party hosting services.
It is important to note that their value is in the
data that they collect. As with any 3rd party service,
it goes without saying that publishers should read
the rights to the collected information, and how
that information might be used. It goes without
saying that the value in many of the free services
currently available lies in their aggregate data.
Uniquely Named Transparent Images
Uniquely named transparent 1x1 graphics can
be added to the description field of an RSS feed.
Users can use standard web logs to see the number
of times the image is viewed and determine the number
of times the feed was accessed.
Companies Specializing in Tracking and RSS Metrics
Pheedo - Pheedo creates tools that enable individuals,
organizations and corporations to promote, analyze,
and optimize their weblogs and content.
SyndicateIQ - SyndicateIQ's position in the content
distribution chain provides clients a set of analytics.
FeedBurner - FeedBurner offers a full range of services
to help you build awareness, track circulation,
and implement revenue-generating programs in your
Each individual using RSS needs to make a decision
of the extent and importance of the analytics they
require. Realizing that any system they employ is
not going to be perfect.
About the Author:
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll
software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds
and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing
for FeedForDev http://www.feedfordev.com
an RSS component for developers.