Or… “why subscriber stats can be misleading”…
How do you measure the success of your website? Is it the number of unique visitors? Pageviews? Sales? Comments? You can pick any number of different ways, but a common one is the number of people who have subscribed to your RSS feed. Subscribers are people who are obviously interested in what you have to say and want to read more, so it’s not too shabby a statistic to track!
Feedburner, Google’s feed serving setup, makes it very easy to track how many people are subscribing to your feed, what reader they’re using, even which articles they’re clicking on. There’s a nice graph showing how many people are subscribed and how many people you have “reached” (people who have read or clicked on your articles). The thing is, just recently (June 17th) there was a huge jump in my subscriber count, and I hadn’t a clue why.
It was a chance comment on Twitter from mikecj that made me realise what had happened… Feedburner had started to count Friendfeed subscriptions in its total. Whilst that’s great and, perhaps, gives a better idea of how many people are actually reading this site, the jump seemed to indicate that a load of new people had subscribed when actually they hadn’t.
So, excitement over. But it did get me thinking – is subscribers really the best analytic to be tracking? I’m now wondering whether actual interaction… i.e. comments… is a better indication of quality of content and reader engagement. And, I’m not sure why, but it almost feels like adding Friendfeed numbers is artificially inflating the statistics… I say I’m not sure why because it must be a good thing to know those people are there, surely?
What do you think? How do you track the success of your blog? Is the number of subscribers a bit of a red herring? And what do you think about the change to Feedburner’s reporting? Let us know in the comments!