Analytics Part III: Why Subscriptions Don’t (Really) Count

You may want to catch up before reading this post:

Analytics Part I: Tips and Tricks
Analytics Part II: Who, What, When, Where

When we last left off, we’d tackled some of the basics of analytics — how people find your content and some easy ways to track and measure it.

But you all had such good questions, I had to take them to the expert…the guy who literally wrote the book on Google Analytics…Mr. Avinash Kaushik.

(Photo from Conversation Agent, which also has this great interview with Avinash that you should go check out when you’re done here!)

I tweeted him to get help with a very simple question, and he blew me away when he not only responded immediately, but followed up by email and answered some less simple questions!

The biggest (and potentially most heartbreaking) takeaway that I got had to do with analytics and blog subscriptions.

I’ve told you before:

  • If you’re hooked up with an ad network like Foodbuzz, BlogHer, Federated Media, etc., you are most likely paid based on pageviews. If someone views your post in a feed reader (Google Reader) or by email subscription, you will not get CPM credit for that view.

And now, Avinash takes it one step further.

I asked:

If someone reads your blog post in a feed reader (Google Reader), does that count as a visit, a pageview, a subscriber or a combination?

Avinash answered:

It does not.

If you have a blog then it is extremely advisable to use a solution like Feedburner to serve your feeds and, of course, get your analytics data.  As an example see the data for my blog for the last few days. You can see views and subs and all that.

There is one exception to this. If someone clicks on your feed (say in Google Reader) and you are using Feedburner and they come to your blog then those visits are tagged with campaign parameter and are tracked as coming to your site from your feed. You’ll find this data in your Google Analytics Campaign reports.

(Katy note: I burn all my feeds through Feedburner and strongly advise you to do the same! Once you do, be sure to change all your RSS links to the new URL)

(Katy note #2: While subscriptions don’t count toward pageviews or other monetized analytics, I definitely do not advise you to take off your RSS or subscribe-by-email links. They not only ensure that your fans will come back to read and share your content, they are possibly the most important tools for building trust and relationships with your readers, which can be much more valuable than a simple pageview)

One more excellent piece of advice from Avinash (that I am now using to track keywords to my website) came from a question you posed. So again,

I asked:

Is it possible to use the Keywords section of Google Analytics to determine what post the search led to? For example: if a keyword listed on GA is “healthy recipes,” how can we tell which specific post was linked to?

Avinash answered:

Go to the report for that keyword. Click on the little box you see called None. You’ll see something like the [image posted below]. Click on Landing Page and Boom (!) you have what you want.

What other questions do you have about analytics, social media or anything else? Leave me a comment or submit it through my Ask Me page!

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  1. says

    You’ve apparently been reading my mind. Very scary. I’ve been trying to educate myself on analytics and, ultimately, how to take advantage of the data mined to do targeted marketing. There is a lot of confusing information out there, much of it written with the failed assumption that every term is understood by the reader. Not so. Your three articles here are clear and concise and very helpful. Thanks. And now I have to find where I’ve put my tin foil hat.

    • says

      Scott…I’ll start taking the brain wave blockers immediately. Wouldn’t want you to know what I’m thinking before I do!

      Keep me posted on how the targeted marketing works for you!

  2. says

    Thanks for this article! I must be dumb and dumberer b/c I tried to install GA about a year ago (when I cared more about stats) on my HTML and it didn’t work. I followed all the directions but I don’t know what happened. Then I gave up. I do have FB. Perhaps one day I’ll try GA again. I’m on BLogger so I’m obviously behind the times. :-)

  3. says

    The landing page trick is pretty cool. Thanks for figuring that one out! I really like GA and use it often, especially to compare months.
    The one thing I still don’t understand is Feedburner. If I have a whopping 12 subscribers, do they get a daily email with new posts? These people are different than those reading through Google Reader, right?

    • says

      Marci (and Katy) —

      It depends on what you mean when you say Feedburner. When you set up your account, you have several options for burning feeds, including:

      **Subscribe by RSS
      **Subscribe by email

      I offer both options on my site. So, people who subscribe using the Feedburner link ( get it in their choice of feed reader (Google Reader, etc.)

      People who subscribe via email get each post that I publish sent to their email inbox.

      Test it out by subscribing by email from my homepage (you can unsubscribe later) and you’ll see that tomorrow’s post will go to your inbox. If you also subscribe by RSS, it will go to your reader as well.

      Does that make sense? You have to set up each option separately.

  4. says

    wow, katy! thank you so much for sharing your answers from avinash! i’m just getting started with blogging, and i don’t know ANY of this stuff. i’m definitely going to check out your first two posts on the topic too.

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