3 Easy Steps to Test and Tweak Your RSS Link Locations Using Google Analytics

May 12, 2009 - Written by Gyutae Park  

rss-clickIf you’re a blogger, you know that RSS subscriptions are important. It’s one of your most effective content distribution channels – so you should be heavily advertising your feed, right? Last week, I outlined the 8 prime locations to promote your blog’s RSS feed. If you haven’t had a chance to look through the post and implement all of the suggestions, go back and do so now.

In this followup article, we’ll cover a related topic – tracking RSS subscribers on your blog through Google Analytics. Using this method, you’ll be able to set up GA to display the performance of each of your RSS feed positions. You can then test and tweak each location to maximize your subscriber count. If you’re not tracking your RSS feed links, you’re making a huge mistake. How can you effectively increase your subscriber base if you have no idea where your readers are clicking?

Setting up Google Analytics to Track RSS Feed Sign Ups

This guide will show you how to track RSS feed sign ups in Google Analytics using conversion goals and link onclick parameters. It isn’t the most accurate tracking solution because an action is recorded every time someone clicks on a feed link, NOT when they actually subscribe. Conversions will probably be slightly inflated as a result. However, the tracking method still gives you useful insights into which links are performing best relative to the others. Here’s how to set it up.

1. Create a goal in GA
If you haven’t already done so, sign up for a free account with Google Analytics.

Once you’ve set up your site for tracking, click on “Analytics Settings” in the upper left hand corner then “Edit Settings” for your site.


Under “Conversion Goals and Funnel”, click on “Edit” for G1 or for the next available goal.

Use the below settings. You can name your goal whatever you’d like (I used “Feed Subscriptions”).


Google Analytics should now be set up to track clicks on RSS links as a goal.

2. Append unique onclick parameters to RSS feed links
Next, you want to include onclick parameters to each of your RSS feed links so that the feed subscription goal is registered each time someone clicks on a link.

Below is the sample code you should use. Surround the link code with brackets (< >) and replace the feed URL with your own.

a href="http://feeds.winningtheweb.com/WinningTheWeb" rel="nofollow" onclick="pageTracker._trackPageview('/feed/sidebar-rss-button');"

It’s important to note that the ‘/feed/sidebar-rss-button’ portion changes with each link. The given example is for my sidebar RSS button link. Google Analytics tracks every occurrence of ‘/feed/’ as a goal but you’re able to include a sub-directory to track performance of each individual RSS link. You can use as many unique identifiers as you’d like.

Some of the ones I use are shown below. Each of them represents a different RSS link on my blog.

  • /feed/sidebar-rss-button
  • /feed/join-subscribers-link
  • /feed/sidebar-email-form
  • /feed/post-bottom-rss-button
  • /feed/post-bottom-blurb-link
  • /feed/greet-box-rss
  • /feed/greet-box-rss-google
  • /feed/greet-box-email-google
  • /feed/greet-box-rss-facebook

To track “RSS by email” subscriptions, simply append the same onclick parameter to the form submit button (e.g. input type=”submit”).

3. Track RSS subscriptions – analyze performance
Once you confirm that everything is working properly, check back to your analytics after a while and see which RSS link positions are performing best. You can do this by clicking on “Goals” in the left sidebar of GA and navigating to the various sub-sections.

Below are the results I’ve seen here on Winning the Web over the past 2 weeks.


Over the past 2 weeks, Winning the Web gained 43 new RSS subscribers (modest increases). Of those new sign ups, my big orange RSS button accounted for 44%. That’s a very large number – second place (sidebar email form and greet box before posts) only accounted for 14%.

Furthermore, 28% of new RSS signups came from the new WP Greet Box plugin that I installed. That’s huge considering the fact that I didn’t utilize the tool before and I’m sure I left a lot of subscribers on the table. Be sure to install WP Greet Box on your blog.

Test, Test, Test

Over the next few months, I will continue to monitor RSS signups and the performance of each link. Using this information I’ll test out different variations in copy, calls to action, feed button size and color, and link placement. In fact, my next idea is to add an arrow and “click here” text to my RSS feed button. We’ll see how that affects conversion rates.

Always test to get ahead. It’s my belief that there’s never a ceiling for this sort of thing. There’s always something you can do to improve – and tracking/testing is the first step.

Do you track your RSS link signups? What have your results looked like?  What are the link positions that work best for you?

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16 Responses to “3 Easy Steps to Test and Tweak Your RSS Link Locations Using Google Analytics”

Dominique on May 12th, 2009

Interesting and useful tutorials. I never knew that Google analytics could be used to track RSS subscriptions. Going to implement it now.

Gyutae Park on May 13th, 2009

Google Analytics can be used to track almost anything these days (even SEO rankings and universal search categories). Let me know if you run across any issues with implementation. Were my descriptions in this post clear?

Dominique on May 13th, 2009

Hi Gyutae,
your instructions were clear but I am still not that certain how to key in the Feed URL to tracking.

Am questioning.
1) How to find out our feed url if it is already channeled to Feedburner?
2) I don’t really get it on how to append the unique URL clicks as am not sure what are the various URL click on buttons named- I know the right hand side bar and WP-greetbox but how to label the other RSS subscription buttons where are part of other plugins on your site?

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Mike Huang on May 13th, 2009

Oh dang, you’re smart Gyutae 😀 I thought the goals were only for traffic, but I guess not!

Gyutae Park on May 14th, 2009

Goals in Google Analytics are actually pretty flexible. You can track whatever you want on your site – including sales, clicks, page funnels, etc. It’s definitely worth learning so you can get useful insights about actions on your site.

Nick Stamoulis on May 14th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

The goal conversion is a great way to track any number of items online. This however is also a great way to see where is the best area to promote your RSS.

Gyutae Park on May 14th, 2009

Hi Nick,
Yep, tracking RSS locations is just one application of goal conversion in analytics. Every blogger should be using it!

Dennis Edell on May 15th, 2009

I’d think there’s only so many places to place it without over killing it anyway.

The Work At Home Blog on May 17th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

I better implement this now. I really haven’t had a chance to promote my RSS feeds. Thanks for the locations to get them out there.

Chris Langston on May 18th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Gyutae, You have a great skill of laying out this detail very clearly. Thanks for sharing this information and I’ll follow your tips on implementing this on my own website.

Here’s a test of your Tips on getting people to subscribe to my own rss feed by placing it in comments on your blog 🙂

If you feel this is un-cool, then feel free to remove it http://www.chrislangston.com/feed/

ZK@Web Marketing Blog on May 18th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

it only works with a function reference, which means you\’re not actually calling it, so there\’s no reason to pass it a parameter.
You probably need a different solution, if you tell me what you\’re trying to do, maybe there is a better way.
Is it possible to grab the data you need without passing it as a parameter? Find out where that parameter actually gets defined, and then just read it from inside your function, rather than trying to pass it dynamically.

ZK@Web Marketing Blog on May 18th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

There are third party RSS tracking services, like FeedBurner that count subscribers to your feed. But there are also disadvantages of such services. You have to publish the URL of that company and not your domain, because the whole subscription runs through their services.

MP3 tunes on May 25th, 2009

Thank you for useful information. I has long been using Google Analytics, but all functions have not yet been reviewed. Now I know another one …

Jermaine on July 4th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

This is really an awesome way to test out Google Analytics with RSS. Thanks for the steps.

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