Google Reader Now Reporting Subscriber Figures

Earlier this year, iGoogle started reporting the number of readers putting a blog on their personalized home pages at Google. Now Google Reader is doing the same, showing how many readers a blog has within Google’s dedicated feed reading service. More on this below, especially how in contrast, FeedBurner/Google Feedfetcher report a combined figure for iGoogle plus Google Reader, as well as some top blog lists that are being assembled.

Google Now Reporting Number Of Users Per Gadget from June explained how by finding a blog’s "gadget" listing in iGoogle, you’d know how many readers get that blog in iGoogle. For example, you’ll see Search Engine Land here with 1,551 "users" or readers.

New Feed Subscriber Stats & User Interface For Google Webmaster Central from last month explained how site owners could get the number of readers they have in Google, a combined figure of those using iGoogle and Google Reader. It detailed how by subtracting the iGoogle figures you can get separately, the Google Reader figures could be known.

Unfortunately, this was only available to individual site owners. Now, Google Operating System spotted a new way that anyone can get Google Reader figures in the same way that anyone can get iGoogle figures. Simply go to Google Reader and click on the + symbol by the Add Content link:

Google Reader Counts

A new search box will appear. Enter the name of the blog you’re looking for (or the blog address or feed address should also work):

Google Reader Counts

Search, and you’ll get a listing of matches. Next to each match is a rundown on the number of readers that blog or feed has:

Google Reader Counts

The example above shows two of the various feeds that Search Engine Land offers, including our most popular main feed, which has 3,910 subscribers. Note that these feeds have different content — they are NOT simply three different flavors (RSS versus Atom) of the same content. This is important later!

Remember that I mentioned a combined iGoogle+Google Reader figure is available? My previous article on this explained how Google reports the combined figure via your log files (if you use FeedReader, this is where it gets its Google Feedfetcher figure).

Checking my combined figure for the most recent day available, October 13, I have 8,149 readers. Now let’s go to the individual figures I can get:

  • iGoogle: 1,551
  • Google Reader: 3,190
  • Total: 4,741

Hmm — but my combined total was reported by Google as 8,149! What’s going on? It could be that the individual figures are for different days (iGoogle could be from last Wednesday; Google Reader from Sunday — you can’t tell). It could also be that Google might be combining traffic for our different feeds into the same number. That shouldn’t really be the case, however. I’ll check on this with Google.

The main point is that many have long used Bloglines subscriptions as a way to measure the popularity of a blog, and now Google has stepped up with its own figures. Some of the buzz going now to knock the usefulness of any lists of this nature.

Sure, lists can be abused and have issues with them. But they can also be a useful guide along with other factors. Certainly it’s nice to have both figures from Bloglines and Google Reader rather than Google Reader alone.

Of course, even better to me would be a ranking by FeedBurner stats, since the figures they provide give a blog’s combined readership across multiple services. The Blogs & Search Blogs With The Most Readers from me in April talked about how those FeedBurner stats are developing into a "preferred currency" for measuring a blog’s full worth. Yet, FeedBurner has issues. First, not everyone uses it. Second, the stats themselves can vary widely based on how often a blog posts and other factors.

Still, the lists go on. TechCrunch has assembled one of top blogs, and Robert Scoble is assembling stats. Lee Odden does one for the SEO crew, focusing just on search blogs (we’re at number four, and it wouldn’t take much to move us in to number two – how about subscribing to our search feed!).

Matt Cutts has some helpful advice for those of whom have failed the learn the lesson of Highlander and still offer RSS 0.91, RSS 2.0, and Atom versions of your feeds in favor of one. C’mon — you only need one, not all three. Really, pick one, anyone one, and you’re fine. Then 301 redirect those other ones.

Let’s swing back to Bloglines for a second. To see the readers for a feed there, just search for the feed or blog by name (be sure to set the drop-down box to feed):

Bloglines Reader Counts

Bloglines also has a long-standing list of the top blogs here. There’s no guesswork with that list, in that Bloglines knows ALL the blogs read through its service. In contrast, the Google Reader lists that are being assembled aren’t true top lists since there could be a blog that no one realizes is popular. If you don’t check every blog, a popular one that should be on the list might go missing. That’s why it would be useful if Google Reader would release its own top list. No doubt some would immediately poke at such a list as just reinforcing A-Lister glory, but I’d rather have a list than guesswork.

Postscript: Google Reader has now done an official blog post on the new figures with more information about them.

Related Topics: Channel: Content | Google: Reader


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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