Measuring & Tracking RSS
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
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
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
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,
carefully, be aware of who owns 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 feed(s).
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 http://www.feedforall.com
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.