Tracking and Measuring
by: S. Housley
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
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%
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:
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
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
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
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.