Although I’m using Google Analytics for this blog, I’m not using FeedBurner. But imagining what feed readership stats I might want, I came up with a short list, and thought about how to get them without FeedBurner.
“Subscribers”: Tell me how many people have chosen to subscribe to the Atom or RSS feed. How often they bother to read it is another matter.
“Readers on web site”: Tell me how many people are clicking through from the feed to read the full post on the original web site.
“Readers, feed-only”: Tell me how many people opened the feed item, possibly read it, but did not click through to the orignal web site.
So the excercise is, how to do this without FeedBurner.
Readers clicking through to this site
Some people will start to read an item in the feed, then click through to the main web site to finish reading it. (People are more likely to do this if you’ve set your blog to show only above-the-jump summaries, with “continue reading” links.)
Since this is page views on our web site, this can be handled by Google Analytics (or similar, if Google shuts that down). The only trick is to distinguish viewers who got here from the feed, as opposed to from somewhere else.
Well, that’s what the GA
utm_xxx query parameters are for. In the feed, we’ll decorate the URIs that lead back to the original blog post.
http://example.com/path/to/thing.html? utm_source=feed& utm_medium=feed
This should let us view stats for
path/to/thing.html in Google Analytics, that came via the feed.
In Frog I’m also adding a
utm_campaign parameter, and distinguishing the RSS and Atom feeds (just because I’m curious).
Readers staying in their feed reader
Some people will solely read items in your feed, and not click through to your web site. (This is especially likely if you’re showing full posts in your feed.) How to count reads?
The answer here seems to be the tried-and-true “image bug”.
Each feed item’s contents will get the following image element added automatically:
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<img height="1" width="1" src="http://example.com/img/1x1.gif? utm_source=feed& utm_medium=feed& utm_campaign=<URI of blog post>"
We’ll share the same 1x1.gif image bug across all posts. So we’ll distinguish each post using the
utm_campaign query-parameter. The “campaign” name will be the URI of the blog post.
I’ve glossed over this so far. It’s the least-interesting metric to me—it seems akin to caring about followers count, as opposed to real interactions, on a social network.
In any case, presumably the way to handle this is as a Goal in Google Analytics: People who click the feed link have reached the goal.
If that’s not exactly like what FeedBurner does, maybe that’s OK with me. If you have some other idea, let me know.
That’s what I’ve sketched out so far. It’s taking a little time to test it out. If you see any problems or sheer stupidity, please let me know in the comments.