How to count your blog’s RSS subscribers

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For a while I’ve been trying to have a better picture of who reads my blog. While this blog is where I kinda bare my soul, readers who come by can only leave scraps of identity (e.g. unique IPs), unless they leave me comments complete with their email and blog URL. As of today, my sitemeter stats shows that I get about 92 unique visitors everyday, but I’m really not sure if this reflects those who read my blog via RSS, which I believe is the more popular reading method for my geek-like target audience. This is where I started googling for ways to track RSS circulation. Google’s search results revealed a bevy of wild ideas, from having your web tracker monitor the specific RSS xml file, to having links in your rss feed embedded with “?RSS” at the tail end of the URL to measure clickthroughs via your RSS feed.

Well I’ve been looking at Feedburner’s FeedCount™ service for a while now. Essentially, it tallies your feed’s most recent circulation as a graphic that you can display on your blog or site (See top right part of this page).

feedburner home

Here’s how you can do it for your blog too:
1. Sign up for a free account with Feedburner.com
2. Add your blog URL to your account and Feedburner’s version of your rss will be generated.
3. From your feedburner login home page, click on “Publicize”.
4. Click on the “Feedcount” link to customize the look of your feedburner badge
5. Once satisfied, click generate the html code for entering into your blog.

That’s it right?
Well, not really… what about my existing RSS readers? They won’t be added into this new pool of rss subscribers right?

A tip on Feedburner’s forum showed how you could point your existing feed URL to your new FeedBurner URL. This will applies to the Apache web server which most of us use, but those who use other platforms should get the general idea. The point is to instruct Apache to redirect requests for your old feed to your burned feed. As such, we will create an .htaccess file with this single line in it in the directory that contains your old feed. If your published directory is /user/www/blog, you would enter this line (replace accordingly):

Redirect temp /blog/index.xml http://feeds.feedburner.com/yourburnedfeed

Notice that we use a temp redirect. This redirect means that feed readers will still access /blog/index.xml and then get redirected. If we used permanent instead, readers would forget the old URL and just use the new URL permanently. In Feedburner’s pre-alpha service phase, they don’t recommend permanent redirection yet. Once you create .htaccess, it takes effect immediately. No server restart required.

Have fun and do let me know if you have better ideas to track your RSS readership!

7 thoughts on “How to count your blog’s RSS subscribers

  1. Unfortunately I can’t boot people onto my FB feed; I suspect a few are still on the old Atom Blogger feed. Ah well, one does one’s best with a free account!

  2. I see you’re on blogspot, that’s why you’ve no control over your free hosted space. In any case, just do what I do, take away all references to other RSS feeds and advertise the feedburner one conspicuously (like how I do mine on the top right now).

  3. And then there’s Bloglines, and others of that kin. Since they are pulling your feed singly but redistributing it widely, it ends up underestimating the feed a bit.

  4. Pingback: matt at lightwind
  5. If you have access to your blog's log files, you can go through them and calculate the number of subscribers aggregators like Bloglines and Google Reader say they're pulling your feed for, and count unique IP addresses for browser-based readers ('live bookmarks' in IE, Firefox, Safari). I wrote a little program that does just that, given a log file: http://www.rss4lib.com/feedstats/yourstats.pl

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