How to track RSS subscribers in Google Analytics

One of the most important measures of success for a blog is the number of RSS subscribers. In this post we'll show you how to set up a feed subscription goal in google analytics, this will help you to:

  • track your new feed subscription
  • understand which of your feed subscription channel converts best
  • understand what content make visitors subscribe to your feed
  • understand how to use google analytics goals

1. Create the Page that Sits Between The Link and The Feed

Unfortunately, Google Analytics doesn’t really track links, so what you need to do is create a page that sits between your feed link and a feed. You also need to create what they call a “Meta Refresh” that automatically forwards you from the created page to your feed. Meta Refreshes have a command built into the header that tells the browser to refresh the page after a certain number of seconds, and optionally forwards you onto somewhere else. This page will appear blank, but will contain your Google Analytics code in the usual place. So, in notepad create the following file.

<html>
<head>
<meta http-equiv=”refresh” content=”1;url=[PUT YOUR FEED URL HERE}" />
</head>
<body>

[PUT YOUR GOOGLE ANALYTICS CODE HERE]
</body>
</html>

Save this as something like “subscribe.htm”. Upload this to your server.

2. Setting Up The Goal

The goal will be triggered when a user clicks on one of the buttons to subscribe to our rss feed. Note that this does not mean that the user will subscribe to the feed, but we can't go any further since the subscription is handled by an external program or site (e.g. the feed reader).  At businessintelligence.me for example, we have one main subscription source, an RSS feed button on the side bar of our blog.  Often there will be multiple paths with the same goal, so normally you would need to track how each of these subscription channels perform, so you can add a single feed subscription goal in Google Analytics.

Here’s how to do it:

1. From the Analytics Setting Page (the first page after you login) click “Edit” for the site you want to add the goal to.

2. From the Conversion Goals and Funnel table, click “Edit” next to one of the non-configured goals.

3. Enter the URL of the page you created, along with a name for a goal, then make sure it’s activated.  The goal name will be something like “feed subscription“, and we need to have head match as the selected match type (it’s at the bottom of the page).

It should look something like this:

4. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click “Save Changes”.

3. Point All Your Feed URLs to The Page You Created

Before you are able to use the new page, you need to link to it, so whenever you have linked to your feed (usually in the template), change the feed link to the new URL (in our case http://businessintelligence.me/subscribe.htm).

Done!

After a few days, you’ll be able to see how your feed buttons are performing, and how many goals (i.e. subscriptions) you've achieved.

The Goal menu will show you an overview of the goal performances, the conversion rate and a nice graph.

If you click on Goal Verification you can see which buttons convert best, so you can focus on improving the conversion rate of the weak ones, or remove them completely.

Under Reverse Goal Path you can see the pages the visitors subscribed from, so you’ll be able to understand what content makes visitors subscribe to your feed.

Goal Possibilities

After this, you can add as many goals as you want, and track exactly how your visitors interact with your site… some possibilities are below:

  • Social submission goal
    to track which content is submitted to which social network using the social icons
  • Download goal
    to track download trends
  • Affiliate link goal
    to track which affiliate link position converts best

This blog post was just about tracking RSS feeds.... but the tracking opportunities really are endless!