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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
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
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
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
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
an RSS component for developers.
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