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Friday, April 19, 2024

New Feed Subscriber Stats & User Interface For Google Webmaster Central

Google Webmaster Central has gone live with a new "subscriber stats" area showing statistics of how many people read your feeds through the iGoogle personalized home page and Google Reader, as well as a new look and user interface for GWC. Below, more about both, as well as issues for those tracking feeds through services such as FeedBurner.

I like the new look, and Google says it is designed to better group similar tools and reports together. Here’s the overview page:

Google Webmaster Central: Overview Page

Off to the left, you can see a box with the five main groupings of tools and reports:

  • Diagnostics
  • Statistics
  • Links
  • Sitemaps
  • Tools

Select an option, and the tools and reports within that option are nicely listed and explained. Here, I drill into statistics:

Google Webmaster Central: Tool Options

That produces a screen clearly showing me major statistic types I can view.

Google Webmaster Central: Tool Overview

New in the Statistics area are the Subscriber Stats:

Google Webmaster Central: Feed Counts

Nice! Now I can see exactly how many Google subscribers I have for the feeds I provide. Oops, not so nice. Trust me — I have more than 3 subscribers on our most popular feed!

What’s wrong? Well, I have to do some checking (and will postscript when I hear back). But the first issue is that I never gave Google these feed addresses. My assumption is that it knows I’ve verified the searchengineland.com domain, and it also sees that within iGoogle and Google Reader that there are some feeds that match that domain, so it is automatically listing them.

The problem is we use FeedBurner. We give FeedBurner a "hidden" feed that is on the searchengineland.com domain. Then FeedBurner gives us back a URL that runs through the FeedBurner system. Because we use the MyBrand service (see Stay Master Of Your Feed Domain and Google Makes FeedBurner’s TotalStats & MyBrand Free for more about this and why you should also use it), our feeds come back using the feeds.searchengineland.com domain.

For example, our main feed is here:

http://feeds.searchengineland.com/searchengineland

Now for Google Webmaster Central to know that this is my feed (and show me stats), I need to verify that I own the feeds.searchengineland.com domain. To do that, I need to put a meta tag on the domain’s home page or upload a special file to the domain.

Uh oh. See, go to feeds.searchengineland.com, and you’ll find that this redirects you to FeedBurner. Hey FeedBurner — I told you ages ago that MyBrand owners needed to control the home page! Yes, it really is my domain — but I point it at FeedBurner, and they make sure the actual registered feed addresses work. But there’s no way for me to upload a file to the domain or put meta tag on the home page. Thus, I can’t get this domain in Google Webmaster Central.

I’m sure that we’ll see a fix come along for this. However, that fix will be much harder for anyone that doesn’t use MyBrand. In those cases, the feeds use FeedBurner’s own domain. There’s no way for anyone but FeedBurner to register those. The same will be true for anyone that uses any tracking service that doesn’t use a domain they can verify.

What to do? Well, if you’re using FeedBurner already (it’s a great product and now fully free, so definitely try it), you’ve already got these stats. Go into Feed Stats, then Subscribers, and the pie chart there shows you subscribers by reader. Google Feedfetcher is the combined figure for those using iGoogle and Google Reader. Right now, I’m told I have 7,446 subscribers.

How many of those are in iGoogle versus Google Reader? Well, remember the Google Now Reporting Number Of Users Per Gadget article that I wrote back in June? No? Yeah, well, you’ll read it now.

That article explained how any feed in iGoogle is considered a gadget, and for any gadget, you can find the number of subscribers. Checking on my feed in iGoogle, I’ve got 1,528 "users" or subscribers. So now do the math: 7,446 – 1,528 = 5,918 subscribers are hitting me through Google Reader.

Like I said, hopefully Google will come up with a solution for those hosting feeds on domains that can’t be verified (a brute force method is to look at your logs. See Google Reader Reporting Subscriber Numbers, Offers New Publishers Guide and here at Google for more about that).

On the plus side, some sites have many feeds they don’t bother tracking. Our Sphinn forum site is an example of that. We have a variety of very specific feeds that we’ll never set up tracking for, since they aren’t likely to be used much. This new tool is wonderful for discovering that use:

Google Webmaster Central: Feed Counts

Now I can see how feeds that I don’t bother tracking with FeedBurner are doing. Should any one become particularly popular, I might then decide to redirect that feed through FeedBurner, for better tracking.

The tool is, of course, very helpful for any site that doesn’t bother with feed tracking at all.

Another nice feature of the new UI is how you can switch between sites you have verified. For example, if I’m viewing Sphinn stats, I just click on the down arrow next to the URL, and I can jump to one of my other domains:

Google Webmaster Central: Switch Sites Option

Finally, one more change for Google Webmaster Central. It’s now available in Turkish and Romanian, bringing total languages supported to 20.

If Google isn’t already showing the correct language for you, then according to this, go to the Google home page and set your language using the preference option. For Webmaster Help Center, which also gets the new languages, go over to the right top corner and pick the correct language there. Discussion groups in those languages will also open soon.


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