I’m giving FeedBurner a try. FeedBurner addresses the thorny dilemma posed by RSS: while you know that it increases your readership, you have no frickin’ clue who’s reading your RSS feed.
FeedBurner swaps out your own with its version of your RSS feed (more on that in a minute); by running sophisticated tracking software on its end, it can keep track of how many unique readers you have at your RSS feed. Why is this important? In the first five months of 2004, my RSS feeds were hit 330,000 times. My homepage over the same period of time received 45,000 visits. Now the very nature of RSS feeds (that is, that they’re monitored throughout the day by aggregators) means that one person might account for 20, 30 or more of those hits in a day — but who knows?
I created FeedBurner-only copies of my RSS feeds, then pointed FeedBurner to those files. With the FeedBurner URL assigned to my RSS feeds, I then needed to make sure that all of you who subscribe to my RSS feed can still find it — even though, strictly speaking, the file you used to subscribe to is gone. (I deleted it from the server.)
With me? Good.
I updated .htaccess to include the following two lines:
redirect temp /tins/rss.xml http://feeds.feedburner.com/tinsredirect temp /tins/index.rdf http://feeds.feedburner.com/tinsrdf
Now any requests for /tins/rss.xml automatically redirect to the FeedBurner site, where FeedBurner does its statistical magic and can tell me how many people are reading my RSS feeds, how many links are clicked through and read, etc.
Amazing: in the time it took to write this post, 30 individual aggregators pinged my RSS feed.
I will provide updates here on how the experiment is going. So far, I’m very impressed.