Marketers Still Don’t Get RSS Metrics – How We Really Can Measure RSS

Even after all that’s been written and explained, even reputable online marketing publications such as ClickZ still don’t get RSS metrics.

In an otherwise good RSS marketing article, Add RSS to Your Marketing Mix, Heidi Cohen has this to say about RSS metrics:

“From a marketing perspective, RSS’s measurability is still evolving and therefore limited. You can’t tell who has received your feeds as you can with e-mail.”

Yes, RSS’s measurability is still evolving and probably will evolve beyond e-mail metrics. In some ways it already has …

And it’s also true that you can’t tell who has received your feeds … if you’re using the most established RSS approaches and just the basic technologies.

However, once you connect your feeds with your existing user databases, you can in fact go beyond what e-mail metrics offer.

Here are some possibilities …

a] Use the “unique feed URL” approach, where each subscriber receives a feed with a unique identifier, based on which you can track precisely what feeds are being requested … namely what annonymous user is requesting what feed.

b] If you’d like to integrate annonymous feed subscriber data with named (registered) user data, you can easily provide feeds only upon registration or only to logged-in users, and actually connect each unique feed URL with a named user. Especially if you provide feed customization this won’t be a problem at all. Once you’ve integrated this data you can measure every and any iteraction your user has with your feed.

c] If you don’t want to force your visitors to register in order to subscribe to your feed, you can still use the unique feed URL approach, which you connect with a user session, cookie or other identifiable information. Once your RSS feed subscriber registers you can integrate the data you already collected based on existing feed interaction and website interaction with his new user account.

d] The other approach you can use is user authentication, where you limit access to your feeds with a username/password combination. If each unique users receives a unique combination, you can track everything based on this information.

There are other possibilities as well, and the actual implementation of those above is somewhat more complicated than it seems at first sight. It does for example also require a more complex internet marketing strategy. It does require using more complex tools than the simplest RSS publishing solutions available on the market. It does require integration with your user database and internet platform.

But the point is that it’s not only theoretically possible, but also in praxis. And in fact simple for companies with their own advanced internet platforms.

Just a quick disclaimer …

a] If your feed gets widely syndicated you can in fact lose view of who’s receiving your feed, even if you’re using unique feed URLs (you can of course measure this as well, by analyzing user agent data). Using the user authentication model solves this problem as well.

b] Even if your feed does get widely syndicated, that’s still comparable to your e-mail messages being passed around by users. And if we take in to account that measuring open-rates is getting increasingly difficult due to users blocking images, e-mail metrics don’t look that shiny anymore.

If you’d like to find out more about RSS metrics, simply start by reading our collection of RSS metrics articles, reports, interviews and news at

I’m also hoping that there’ll soon come a time when responses like this will no longer be needed, because marketers will finally understand the power of RSS metrics.

Copyright 2005 Rok Hrastnik

RSS Feeds – Why Measure Your RSS Feeds

With any kind of advertising or marketing campaign, you measure the results. You analyse your web statistics. You should analyse your RSS feed results too. If you don’t measure the results, how do you know if what you’re doing is working or not?

There are three simple things you should be looking for when analysing your feed results and, if your results show people are unsubscribing, how to fix it!

Firstly, you need to know how many people are signed up, or subscribed to your feeds. Services such as Feedburner give you these figures. If you’re using Google AdSense you can find your subscriber figures there too. When you make an update, how many people have asked to be informed?

With that simple figure, you can use it against previous subscriber figures. If you’re just starting out, you can use it to monitor over time. Are the figures going up or down? Decreasing subscribers over a period of time are a cause for concern. That indicates there’s an issue. Check that the problem isn’t a technical one. Check you’re getting your own feed correctly. If not, and you’re using Feedburner, use its tools to analyse your feed for problems. If the feed is working correctly, then you must then look at likely reasons why people are choosing to leave your feed notifications and take steps to prevent it from continuing, It means your content is not attractive enough to keep your readers subscribed.

Here are nine reasons people unsubscribe from your RSS feed and steps to stop the problem.

1. Your topic isn’t exactly what they want. Are you making it too broad or too focused? Have you changed your topic from what it was when they subscribed?

2. Is your quality still the same? If you’ve lost quality in your thoughts, you’ll drop off readers. Make sure you keep to the same standard, or improve!

3. Try adding more suggestions on how to do things. People like step-by-step instructions on every topic imaginable.

4. Are your thoughts too impersonal? Or too personal? You want your personality to show, but not your whole life, unless that is exactly what you blog about. If your web internet site is a news internet site, analyze adding a few opinion articles to throw a personal touch. Include a personal note or describe how you’ve personally used a product to produce your thoughts an individual touch. Alternatively,if your thoughts are very personalised, perhaps you should study writing sometimes in the third person.

5. Are you publishing infrequently? If you’re not producing regular thoughts for your subscribers, they’re probably going to leave. If your RSS feed is only to update users on a particular piece of application, for example, that might not apply, but then you probably wouldn’t be reading a website article like this. You need to post at least one article a week to keep your subscribers happy. If you don’t have the time, consider hiring a ghostwriter or go copy and paste from article directories (leaving the authors resource box intact of course) as guest posts. Asking for guest bloggers is another way to get more content for your readers.

6. Are you over-publishing and overwhelming your subscribers? A news web site will publish dozens of new thoughts each day, but a general internet site should not. A couple of posts a day is more than enough for most readers. One is usually enough.

7. Are you rambling, in long, drawn out posts that take forever to read? If that is the style of your blog, then good, but make sure you have your RSS feed set to summaries, not entire posts. Why not try abbreviating your thoughts or breaking your thoughts into multiple posts.

8. Are you putting out really short updates of 150 words or less? Short posts should be sent to your feed in full format. Make sure you add a few regular longer posts to add quality content for your readers to appreciate. Your blog posts should not read like Twitter tweets! Your blog posts should definitely not be Twitter tweets. Leave them on Twitter.

9. Are you sharing yesterday’s news? Is what you’re delivering to your subscribers up to date and relevant? Make sure you’re keeping up with the trends. Outdated content loses subscribers.

There are other reasons that people unsubscribe, but the nine suggestions above are all things you can examine about your feed and make gradual changes. Try only one thing at a time and watch the statistics over a short period of time to learn if it makes a difference.

The second metric you want to know is who is reading the feed?

If your subscribers aren’t reading your feed, then your efforts are wasted. Are you using catchy headlines to your thoughts to draw them in? What about your first paragraph? Is it summarising the article in the most interesting way possible?

Finally, it’s good to know the click-through rate of your feed.

Are your subscribers clicking on the ‘read more’ button, or your ads? If they’re not reading more, then you’re missing out. Subscribers get the headlines and the first few lines of your website article and judge the rest from that.If they’re not getting interested from the lines, they won’t click through.

If you don’t get the time to use the statistics, you have no idea if your efforts are working. You have no idea if you’re being productive or wasting your time!