Google Reader now reports feed usage, and it is being suggested by a prominent Google engineer that you should look at aggregated numbers.
Danny has gone into what many of the numbers mean, but he is missing out on some vital clues that are extremely revealing.
Google Reader is currently showing 3 different feeds that are all providing the same content, which you might think would be better served as a single number as appears in Feedburner.
Hopefully that will never, ever happen, as those split numbers are incredibly useful.
Why Are There Split Numbers?
It is vital to understand why split numbers occur to fully appreciate how useful this is.
There are 3 main ways people subscribe to your RSS feeds using Google Reader.
Using A Subscription Button
My subscription buttons point to andybeard.eu/feed/ and this is the URL used by feed readers to collect my feed, even though that redirects to Feedburner using the Feedsmith plugin.
This is that little orange icon that appears in your browser alongside the URL for RSS subscription. It is handled in different ways by various feed readers. Google Reader evaluates any redirect before you actually subscribe, thus you end up at feeds.feedburner.com/Exploring-Niche-Websites before making a decision. Historically speaking this isn’t a very good thing to happen, because as a feed publisher you “lose ownership” in some ways of those subscribers, as they are not subscribing to a page on your site that can be moved to somewhere else.
This again uses the autodiscovery URL in the header of your blog, but for some reason, maybe my own oversight or mistake my autodiscovery URL is andybeard.eu/feed – notice this URL doesn’t have a trailing slash.
RSS Feed Subscription – Evaluation
This is where we gain a unique perspective on Feed Subscription
- 580 people are subscribed to http://andybeard.eu/feed/ – those people used a subscription button to subscribe to my feed.
- 196 people are subscribed to http://feeds.feedburner.com/Exploring-Niche-Websites – those are either very long-time subscribers from my time on blogspot, or they used RSS Autodiscovery to subscribe using Google Reader
Now if you are very smart, you could use this method to split test subscription methods, and rely on Feedburner for your aggregate data.
In this post I am trying to highlight some unique information that no one has ever revealed before, and could be extremely useful.
This isn’t the same as tracking RSS subscriptions, in many ways it is better because the tracking only gives you a click on a button, and doesn’t give you anything from autodiscovery, losing half of the data.
I for one hope Google doesn’t “fix” this “problem” with aggregated feeds, because it could prove to be very useful.