Feedburner is an excellent service for bloggers. They provide some terrific tools to easily expand the presence of a blog. They have methods to help publicize, optimize, monitize, analyze and yes, even troubleshootize (honest!) your feed.
Their free analysis tools are fairly simple, but quite useful. Feed Circulation gives me an aggregate number of subscribers on a daily basis. Since they provide this stat through their Awareness API too, I have a widget on my desktop that gives me my updated number each day. They also provide a further breakdown of my Readership, showing the number of subscribers by reader. Note: now that 23 of you subscribe via Bloglines, according to nice folks over at Ask Jeeves...this is a blog that matters (although, they've probably upped the requirement since October's Web 2.0 conference :-)
Collecting Feed Subscribers
Getting this data from Feedburner is very handy, but I wanted to tie back my subscribers to the Feedburner feeds to my other analysis tools. There are a couple of ways to do this, but the simplest method is to add an image request into Feedburner's "Feed Image Burner", as shown below.
This is normally used to provide an image to readers when displaying articles, but I hijacked this image location to add an analytics image request. Geek note: In RSS 2.0, this image is in channel->image->url, in Atom, I believe the atom:logo element would work the same. In order to include requests for my feed in my web analytics data, I modified the "noscript" image request from my WebTrends code to insert into the "Image URL" field. The image request looks like this:
Cool. This gives me a separate breakdown in my WebTrends reports showing requests to the URI "Feedburner.feed". Requests to the image are made when someone actually reads the feed, not when the reader picks up the feed. (Note: I'll figure out an equivalent URL for MeasureMap and Google Analytics, and post that in case anyone is interested.)
Back to Feedburner. I noticed an issue that I need to research further. I was originally using their "SmartFeed" service to translate the feed format to be compatible with the subscriber's application. It seemed to strip out the image, even though it showed it correctly inserted in the "XML Source" in the Feedburner UI. I disabled the SmartFeed service, and set the "Convert Format Burner" to RSS 2.0, and all worked great. I can now analyze when the feeds are viewed in a reader (for those readers that display an image of course).
There's more to this story. I now have some visibility into (at least a partial list of) who is reading my feeds. But, are they visiting the site? More on this conversion in a subsequent post...