Review: FeedBurner Analyzes RSS Traffic

FeedBurner provides tools to publicize and analyze your RSS feeds, helping you maximize their effectiveness.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

July 29, 2005

3 Min Read

Blog publishing is a fairly simple matter, especially with a service like Blogger or TypePad. However, trying to publicize your blog, track subscribers, find out what articles are most popular, and get other statistical analyses is another matter. Enter FeedBurner, an online service that provides tools to publicize and analyze your blog traffic, along with a host of services designed to enhance your feed.

You begin by visiting the FeedBurner Web site, entering your blog URL, and selecting the services you want. You can go with a basic (free) statistical package or upgrade to the Pro package with enhanced tools, which costs $4.95 per month for up to three blogs. It's easy to get started — if you run into trouble along the way, each service choice in the configuration process includes help text, which you access by clicking a Show Details link. To select an item, you simply click a check box. You can go back later and add or remove services in the same way.

After you complete the initial configuration, FeedBurner redirects your blog's URL through a FeedBurner URL, a process that is automatic unless you are TypePad user, in which case you must manually change all references to the FeedBurner URL — no small matter for many users.

FeedBurner also provides publicizing features such as an RSS subscription button for your blog, which routes subscribers through the FeedBurner address. To include this button, you need to manually alter your blog template by pasting a code snippet provided by FeedBurner in the correct spot in the template, a tricky procedure that non-technical users will likely find intimidating. I was able place it satisfactorily after a couple of tries, but I was not as successful when adding the FeedBurner hit counter button to the template. No matter where I placed the code, the button always ended up floating in an awkward spot.

Once the service is set up, you can review your traffic statistics in easy-to-read charts, graphs, and tables. The free service supplies stats on feed circulation, subscribers to the Pro service adds tracking details for each published item, and information on where your feed is being resyndicated (featured on another site).

Standard FeedBurner also include the ability to facilitate podcasting and insert Google Ads in your feeds (services we did not test for this review). If you decided to integrate with the Flickr photo service, your subscribers will see any changes to your blog and to your Flickr album in the same feed, a convenient way to distribute different types of online content in one subscription. Other services include SmartFeed, which makes sure that you RSS feed will work in any reader, choice of a Web-ready graphic that will make it easier for visitors to your site to opt for your RSS feed, and a direct link to your circulation statistics for your blog.

Overall, the FeedBurner idea is an excellent one, providing a bevy of feed-related services and access to more detailed traffic analysis than you can get directly from blog providers. However, it requires a fair amount of technical savvy to implement some features effectively. I also found the idea that FeedBurner is redirecting the blog URL troubling, especially for blog publishers who have an established blog with regular subscribers in place. On the whole, though, FeedBurner is definitely onto something and blog publishers should take a long look.

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