Gini Dietrich

Lots of Changes at Google: What it Means for You

By: Gini Dietrich | April 1, 2013 | 

Lots of Changes at Google- What it Means for YouAll of the changes at Google are enough to make you want to cry over spilled milk.

As if it wasn’t enough to hear rumors Feedburner is shutting down, then they announce Reader is retiring and now Alerts is next?

I’ve always said we’re not the user of Google – we’re the product – so it shouldn’t be so devastating when they take away our free products, but change is hard. And it is devastating.

On the flip side, however, they’re launching some new things that will help you retrieve data and make better decisions: Universal Analytics and they began showing you trackbacks to your site.

Let’s first talk about where you can go to get the services you’re accustomed to having without a lot of pain in change.

Feedburner Replacement

A few months ago, when the rumor of Feedburner going away hit the blogosphere, we decided to be proactive in making the switch.

We reviewed both free and paid alternatives and settled on Feedblitz. It is the most mature of all of the options and, while it’s not free, you have access to all of your email and RSS subscribers…something Feedburner is wonky about.

If you want a totally free option, you can use Feedblitz for your RSS subscribers and MailChimp for your email subscribers. But remember, you get what you pay for and that certainly is the case here.

It’s not totally painless to switch to Feedblitz, but Phil Hollows and his team are extremely responsive and, in some cases, will even get into your site’s admin to help you troubleshoot.

There are also lots of tutorials on the web, including this one from Just Ask Kim.

Reader Replacement

I was very, very upset when I learned about the death of Reader…and then I found Feedly.

After using it for a couple of weeks, I want to yell, “So long suckers!”

I. Love. It.

Love, love, love.

Not only does it appeal to my need for balance in design, it feeds me my content in a very appealing way. No more red circle staring at me every time I open my browser, reminding me I’m a total slacker and I need to get by to visit other’s blogs.

Even better, the tablet app is gorgeous and I’ve found pleasure in reading blogs from there because of it.

Alerts Replacement

This one hurt, mostly because I may have to go back to every organization I’ve ever spoken to and ask them to tell past attendees Alerts is dead.

But, like Reader, I’m okay with this one because I have found Talk Walker.

I was very happy with Alerts until I set up Talk Walker and discovered how many things Google was missing and how late they are in delivering things to me.

Set up just like Alerts, Talk Walker is much more efficient and timely in delivering pertinent information.

I’d have both going for two weeks, just to be sure you haven’t missed anything, and then delete your Alerts. You’ll be much happier with the results from Talk Walker.

Good Changes at Google

But it’s not all bad. As they retire some of their more popular services, they’re introducing two things that will help you retrieve data in a way that is extremely valuable in helping you make informed decisions about the people who are visiting your site.

Universal Analytics

Essentially what the universal analytics does is give you more control over customizing the information you get. It allows you now to get information not just from those coming from websites, but from mobile, too.

What they’ve done is open the developer tools to all of us. I set up ours on Friday of last week so it’s only had a few days to collect information for me. I’ll report back when I have data points to share.

In the meantime, you can set up yours by following the steps outlined in the Google support section.


I’m really excited about this new feature because it not only gives you information you may have previously missed, it helps you determine the best use of your content.

What a trackback means is someone has linked to your site or to a specific piece of content on their site. Typically, if you’re on a WordPress blog, you’ll receive an email if someone links to a particular blog post. But if they link just to the website (this happens all the time to, you don’t get an email.

Just from that alone, this makes me happy. Finally I can see who is linking to us without relying solely on Google alerts (which we now know wasn’t collecting everything).

But now you have tools for your content strategy, including building relationships with those who are already linking to your content and creating a strategy around your content that is linked to the most.

Danny Brown has a good list of things to consider in “Using the New Trackbacks in Your Content Strategy.”

So there you have it. I highly recommend immediately switching to Feedly and Talk Walker to replace Reader and Alerts.

Rumor has it you have a few more months to switch your RSS and email subscription service, but definitely start thinking about it. When you switch, it won’t be as easy as the press of a button so give yourself some time to learn more about Feedblitz and get your readers ready.

P.S. See the comments below about the activity hub, which is part of trackbacks. You need someone with programming experience to help you set up your analytics so it looks at more than just Google+. You’ll need to give him or her this link.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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123 responses to “Lots of Changes at Google: What it Means for You”

  1. HowieG says:

    this is great stuff Ms. Gini.
    I heard Google was closing ITunes. That would be horrible!

  2. cspenn says:

    One comment on Analytics trackbacks – this is based on the GA DataHub which incorporates social data from almost every social network except… Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. So it’s useful for measuring your trackbacks for links shared by G+… but that’s about it. We still need third party tools for monitoring the other big 3.

  3. KenMueller says:

    Good stuff. Like @cspenn mentions, Google still acts as if the other networks don’t exist.  When Feedburner shuts down, I’ll probably go with a native wordpress RSS because I don’t want to pay for Feedblitz. Plus they continue to spam me even after unsubbing from their emails. Or TRYING to unsub.
    I’ve looked into Feedly and not set it up yet, but mostly because I really wasn’t using Reader much lately. I’m doing things a bit differently in that area and using email subscriptions for the most important blogs.
    Really looking forward to checking out Talk Walker. Hadn’t heard about it.
    And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Google Trends as one of their newer tools, which I wrote about today (shameless plug). It’s a nice tool.
    It just seems odd that Google is pulling back on so many products that I thought a lot of people used. At least most people I know use all of the tools they are jettisoning. They all seem like tools that would feed into their one-stop shop approach to the web, particularly as they look to grow G+. All of those could have worked well in tandem with G+

    • ginidietrich says:

      @KenMueller  We tend to think, because we all use these tools, that the mass market does. In fact, Reader was one of their least used tools…even though the blogospher was all up in arms about it.

      • KenMueller says:

        @ginidietrich Yes, but things like this push me away from them. This is where Microsoft should be watching. Google is huge, but not invincible. The product set could push some people toward Bing.

      • HowieG says:

        @ginidietrich  @KenMueller I learned a long time ago that media/advertising/marketing/pr/tech people behave completely different than the rest of the world. Everyone I know has smart phones. Very few use them a lot through the day. Even fewer do social on them. This holds across a large group of unrelated people other than their connections to me. So I stoped believing anything from our industry that says ‘people use this. behave like this’.
        BTW I never used Google Reader and do very little RSS. Bookmarks worth fine for me.

        • ginidietrich says:

          @HowieG  @KenMueller It’s funny how differently we all consume (I hate that work) media. I would die if my subscriptions came into my inbox and bookmarks would be out of sight, out of mind for me.

        • KenMueller says:

          @ginidietrich  @HowieG I only have a few that come to email. The most important blogs. I’m working on something to see if I can get the others sent to Kindle automatically.

  4. giesencreative says:

    I’ll be trying out feedly for sure—I haven’t been actively using Google Reader for a while now and I’d really like a better way to keep track of the blogs I read. Thanks for the tip!

  5. CopyByTom says:

    Thanks for this eye-opener Gini. Google seems to be spring cleaning at the moment. Not without cause, I think, because there looked to be a bottleneck occurring in what was going on, with readers being on the receiving end.
    Google is on the ball more and more these days to stop these bottlenecks (or is it complacency?) Shake-ups can throw spanners in the works,but with the blogosphere, it’s a good thing. Life can get a bit too cosy for some who tend to forget who really matters online.
    Of course, you’re right to highlight ways that give insights into how best to be useful and give readers what they want. Personally, I always like to know how best to give readers what they want, so I’ll be watching out for how your recommendations perform.

    • ginidietrich says:

      @CopyByTom In fact, they call all of this spring cleaning, so you’re on pace with them 100 percent! Do let me know what you think of these new tools. I’m pretty impressed so far. I’m glad Google made me change because I was getting complacent, too.

      • CopyByTom says:

        @ginidietrich  @CopyByTom Ha! Great minds! Yup, will keep you posted. Talk Walker sounds like my first port of call. No doubt, you’ll be keeping us posted as well. So, I’ll be popping by to follow your news.

  6. BobReed says:

    Reader I knew about, but Alerts too?!?  Thanks for the skinny on Talk Walker!

  7. belllindsay says:

    Setting up Talkwalker right now! 🙂

  8. Shonali says:

    I just tried Talkwalker and LOVE it! How do you set it to go to Feedly, b/c I’m only seeing an option to get it delivered to your email?

    • ginidietrich says:

      @Shonali Oh I don’t know if you can! I’ll have to see if I can figure it out.

      • Shonali says:

        @ginidietrich  I just tried right-clicking on the RSS icon to grab the URL and it *did* paste it into Feedly. So I’ve added it there and we’ll see if it grabs the content tomorrow. Thank you again for this, Gini!

  9. ThomHolland says:

    Google has been feeling the pressure for a while now. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.

  10. Don’t tell anyone, but Facebook just bought WordPress and they are shutting down every blog, self hosted and otherwise. Soon we’ll all be forced to use just Facebook. 😉
    The utility of a tool is almost always dictated by the skill of the person using it. I wonder how many people really use more than 25 percent of the functionality of their smartphone, let alone the analytics and other tools that are tied into our social media presence.

  11. phollows says:

    Thanks for the mention Gini! We’ve actually simplified the FeedBurner migration process too; posted here:  FeedBlitz isn’t totally free ($1.49 a month minimum) but there are no limits. Nominally free services can be quite restrictive. Make sure you know their limits and how quickly you might hit them – before you switch!

  12. JayDolan says:

    This is a joke, right?

  13. Erin F. says:

    I’ll definitely have to set up Talk Walker. I’ve already delved into the trackbacks feature (Thanks in part to Danny Brown.) and made the switch to Feedblitz, but I’ll either have to wrangle with the Analytics code myself or try to find a programmer.

    • Lori says:

      @Erin F. Like you Erin, I’m wondering about this. There is a page of (detailed) instructions… but I’m wondering if we can just replace the old code with the new? It says it needs to go on every page of your site!??!?! There must be an easier way to do that – put it in the header perhaps? I don’t know! Good luck with it!

      • ginidietrich says:

        Lori Erin F. There is a page (I linked to it at the very bottom of my post), but if you don’t know how to change the code in your theme, you’ll need a programmer.

  14. tomgable says:

    Wish I had moved to Talk Walker sooner. Thanks!

  15. John_Trader1 says:

    Appreciate as always the advice on alternative tools to use in lieu of the shift change by Google. We will all go kicking and screaming because of the changes, but in the end change is good. It keeps us hungry for new ways to create efficiency and reexamine the end goals for collecting and analyzing information.

  16. Lori says:

    Thanks for all this Gini! I was wondering what to do about the disappearing Reader but I didn’t know they would be getting rid of Alerts and Feedburner (Is this an April Fools’ joke!?!?!) Is the old Analytics going away too? I still haven’t figured out how to use that to my best advantage – now there’s a new one!?!
    You’ve just filled up my To Do list for….the week !?!?! 😮

    • ginidietrich says:

      Lori I don’t know if the classic analytics will go away, but my guess is they’ll start pushing people more toward the universal analytics. Just as well…it’s better.

  17. NateStPierre says:

    Wow, thanks for the heads-up about the new reports – now playing around in them!

  18. lauraclick says:

    Whoa – I hadn’t heard about Google Alerts shutting down. Thanks for the heads up. I just checked out Talk Walker and was able to easily import my Google Alerts – it looks like this will be great! 
    I had always used Alerts combined with Social Mention (which picked up social mentions and seemed to pick up more web mentions than Alerts). However, it has shut down their email alerts, so I was looking for other options. I’m trying Mention now, which seems to be great, but I might not need it depending on how well Talk Walker does.
    I saw the info about the Google Analytics updates – I still need to take a look and set all of that up. Good stuff!

  19. JodiEchakowitz says:

    At your previous recommendation, I also switched to Feedly and actually far prefer it to Google Reader. I’m going to check out Talk Walker now. Will be good to have another option that actually works the way Google Alerts should have been working.

    • ginidietrich says:

      JodiEchakowitz I almost feel like I’m cheating on Google, but I also far prefer Feedly. I thought of something to tell you earlier, but I can’t remember what it was now. It’ll come back to me.

      • JodiEchakowitz says:

        ginidietrich Don’t you hate it when you know there was something else you wanted to say, but forgot what it is?

  20. NancyCawleyJean says:

    My dear bearer of bad news, I will NOT shoot the messenger! LOL! First Reader, now Alerts. Sigh. So this is an April Fools joke, right? But like you I am LOVING Feedly! And the switch was SOOOO easy! Woo-hoo! And now I must thank you for recommending Talk Walker. I’ll be checking that out today! You’re the best.

  21. bobWP says:

    Hey Gini, thanks for the info on Talk Walker, I never was that impressed with the results of Google Alert.. will have to give it a try.
    And yes, already moved to Feedblitz sometime ago and as far as Google Reader, I had switched sometime ago to the Mac app Reeder, which I love the UI. When I heard Reader was going away, I was a bit freaked, as Reeder pulls in from Google Reader. So I had intentions of moving to Feedly as I had head so many good things about it. But alas, Reeder gave me comfort that they would continue to work even after Reader is gone. Whew!

  22. Google Alerts seems to be less and less useful — that is, it misses so much. I wonder if this is intentional?  Anyway, thanks for all the good stuff here Gini.

  23. ljcrest says:

    Thank you so much for this, Gini! It was spinning my little pointed head trying to track all of these changes. I was aware of Talk Walker and Feedly, but your links to resources are killer! You’ve saved me a whole lot of time and grief 🙂 Kudos!

  24. BoundlessJen says:

    Talk Walker: not only a solution to a problem, but a better one!! Thanks Gini! I appreciate all the info you share to your community!

  25. Thanks for the feedly tip! It’s completely brilliant on an iPad 🙂

  26. RobertGlaesener says:

    thanks Gini or mentioning our Talkwalker service . Great to hear you love it.

  27. rdopping says:

    Not too great for the tech challenged casual blogger. I suppose I need to make time to change all this stuff around if I want to stay around, huh?

  28. KateFinley says:

    Ugh. I freaked out about this for a minute. I didn’t care about the RSS feed honestly because I had been using Feedly. However, I do use Google Alerts for everything so THAT freaks me out. Setting alerts for Talk Walker seems like a solid option and I’ll look into that later today.
    Do you have a recommendation for an alerting system that incorporates tweets and social mentions? Curious …

  29. PattiRoseKnight says:

    Technology is only as good as its ability to make my life a little easier.  If it does I am pretty loyal.

  30. MSchechter says:

    You’re not worried about going from one free Reader to another? I haven’t settled on a replacement yet, but find myself leaning towards Feedbin at the moment. $2 a month, so there’s motivation to sustain, they also are working with Reeder to build integration in, which is promising.

    • ginidietrich says:

      MSchechter I’m not because it was so easy to switch and because I didn’t lose anything in the process. If they want to make a prettier reader in five years, I’m cool with that.

  31. Thank you, Gini. This is one of your best-ever posts. Informative AND useful: kapow!

  32. bdorman264 says:

    I just knew this social stuff was going to crash and burn; and what a shame after I put all this time and effort into it….
    Good info, some I will definitely have to incorporate or go home.
    Cubs win; wasn’t pretty, but according to my son, Cubs win.

  33. Gini! Thx for your article and your review of alternative! I love Feedly but hope they will come up with more add ons to personalize the reading experience! The tip for Google Alert replacement is great: I will try it right away! Greetings to you from this side of the pond and a wonderful rest of the week to you and your team! Later! BPG!

  34. rebeccacaroe says:

    Interesting that the Google alerts website still has the 2012 copyright statement on the bottom of the page.  I’m sure this is a co-incidence – but it does show that nobody at Google is ‘listening’ or managing that service actively or they’d have noticed it!

    • ginidietrich says:

      rebeccacaroe I’ve always thought it’s funny they still have “beta” on there. Alas.

      • rebeccacaroe says:

        ginidietrich rebeccacaroe Clearly the ‘always in beta’ was taken too seriously.  Do you know when they launched this part of their service?
        I am running a direct side-by-side test against Google Alerts and will let you know my findings next week.

  35. The shortsighteness of Google is always amazing. They transformed themselves from a good service into a money-making-machine-at-all-costs and into the internet ruler detailing what is right and what is not. Sometimes changing their mind from month to month.

    And beside the initial disappointment this is great because this way users are forced to find alternative services which many times are better than the ones from Google. They show their incompetence, so to say. And the more they try to own the net and traffic the more people will find other ways to get traffic which on the long road will put Google as a minor player, even with Google’s Glass. 🙂

    A perfect example of the rule that we all create our own destiny. Imho. 🙂

  36. J_Hong3 says:

    Hi Gini! Thanks for the article! Loving your support. The Talkwalker team is happy to read all positive reviews about our solution. May you all have a fab day!

  37. Hey Gini,
    Thanks for this post and I wasn’t aware that Alerts was also on it’s way out.  To be honest with you, I’m not surprised at all.  I wonder what the heck Google is really thinking.  
    I’m been searching for alternatives and am aware of the ones you mentioned for RSS and Reader.  Now that I know Alerts is on the way out I appreciate this share for their replacement.  
    I’m really excited about the Universal Analytics and the trackbacks.  I got so many junk ones from my blog that I think this hopefully will be a better fit.  I guess we’ll see.
    Really appreciate this information, thank you so much for giving us the scoop.  Okay, off to check all of this out.

  38. Word Ninja says:

    Gini, this post makes me think of the amazing asparagus strata I baked for Easter…full of ingredients that are wonderful on their own, but when you put them all together, casserole perfection.

  39. markzohar says:

    Another Alerts product you may want to check out is TrendSpottr Alerts ( Similar to Google Alerts but sends alerts based on predictive social trending signals. Also includes real-time sentiment and analytics with all email notifications.

  40. […] Gini Dietrich posts “Lots of Changes at Google: What it Means for You” at Spin Sucks. […]

  41. T_Burrows says:

    Read this piece on Monday and put it to work right away. I am loving Feedly and Talk Walker. Thanks Gini. Awesome as always.

  42. 3HatsComm says:

    Needed this, thanks. I don’t use Reader so much anymore (RSS feeds go into other apps) but Feedburner and Alerts are 2 products I’ll miss.  Will check out Talk Walker, TrendSpottr and stay on the lookout for any other good Alerts alternatives. Now to check out what’s new w/ the trackbacks.

  43. Thank you for the Reader and Alerts alternatives!  Now… how about a good replacement for iGoogle? 🙂
    –Tony Gnau

  44. […] The death knell of RSS is singing, where do you stand? […]

  45. […] reference aside, we’ve seen some major changes at Google during the past few […]

  46. […] and search has changed. You might think Penguin 2.0 was the tipping point, but Google has been trying to diminish, if not destroy, the value of paid-for or spammy links for a very long […]

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