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. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • HowieG

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

    • @HowieG Except Apple owns iTunes.

      • HowieG

        @ginidietrich oh right. Whew. I was worried.

  • 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.

    • @cspenn Yes, thank you. I had to have our developer help us pull in the programming needed to look at the other social networks.

  • 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+

    • @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.

      • @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.

        • @KenMueller I’d agree, but Bing doesn’t offer nearly the same data or analytics. As I searched and searched for alternatives, Bing never came up as one to consider.

        • @ginidietrich   Yeah, which is kind of  odd. It’s not like they don’t have the technology to do this sort of stuff. Missed opportunities…

        • @KenMueller Either someone is asleep at the wheel over there or they have other plans to take market share.

        • @ginidietrich  Well, rumor has it that Microsoft and Google are poised to both move into the hardware realm as the two big computer maker competitors. Kinda odd.

        • @KenMueller That makes sense for Microsoft, but Google? They should stick with what they do well.

        • @ginidietrich  Yeah, here’s the article from CNET yesterday.

        • @KenMueller Interesting…I’ll check it out.

      • HowieG

        @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.

        • @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.

        • @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.

  • giesencreative

    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!

    • @giesencreative I really love it…much more than Reader. Let me know what you think of it!

      • giesencreative

        @ginidietrich  Will do!

  • CopyByTom

    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.

    • @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

        @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.

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

    • @BobReed Yeah…and I didn’t realize how bad Alerts are until I set up Talk Walker. You’ll like it. Gives you far more data.

  • belllindsay

    Setting up Talkwalker right now! 🙂

    • @belllindsay You’ll like it. MUCH better than Google Alerts. I didn’t realize how many things I’d missed because Alerts either wasn’t sending it or sent it days later.

      • @ginidietrich  @belllindsay I set it up just now too. Very excited to see it.

        • @katskrieger  @ginidietrich  @belllindsay This discovery makes me very  happy. Gini, you just earned your bonus.

        • @katskrieger  @ginidietrich  @belllindsay DUDE. TalkWalker rules. Excellent find, Gertie.

        • @KenMueller  @katskrieger  @belllindsay Woo hoo!!

      • belllindsay

        @ginidietrich I love it!! Already getting alerts, and it’s so easy to tweak what words you use, etc.. 🙂

    • rdopping

      @belllindsay Does it talk the walk or walk the talk?

  • 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?

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

      • @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!

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

    • ThomHolland I’m curious why Bing (as KenMueller and I discussed) hasn’t done something to compete with these services. Odd.

  • 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.

    • belllindsay

      @Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes Are you making fun of me again?

    • Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes That would send me into convulsions.

  • phollows

    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!

    • phollows AND, as someone on Facebook said, if you pay for it, it means they won’t leave you in five years.

      • phollows

        ginidietrich Business models matter, as it turns out. How very web 0.1!

  • This is a joke, right?

  • 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.

    • @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!

      • 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.

  • tomgable

    Wish I had moved to Talk Walker sooner. Thanks!

  • John_Trader1

    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.

    • John_Trader1 Totally! I was really upset, but now I’m happy they forced me to change.

  • 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 !?!?! 😮

    • 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.

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

  • 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!

    • lauraclick You’ll need a programmer’s help with some of the analytics stuff, but you’ll be happy you got it.

  • JodiEchakowitz

    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.

    • 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

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

  • NancyCawleyJean

    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.

    • NancyCawleyJean You’ll like Talk Walker. It’s very, very nice.

      • NancyCawleyJean

        ginidietrich NancyCawleyJean Already loving it. Thanks, as always!

        • J_Hong3

          NancyCawleyJean And Talkwalker thanks you for loving its product! 🙂

  • 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!

    • bobWP I use Reeder too, but I’m finding my way closer to Feedly. I think it might be the bright colors. I’m a color whore.

  • 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.

    • barrettrossie It might be…or maybe less intentional as they’re just no longer supporting it?

  • ljcrest

    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!

    • ljcrest Yay! You’re always so helpful for me so glad I can return the favor!

  • BoundlessJen

    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!

    • BoundlessJen I think you’ll really like it. I am super impressed (and a little overwhelmed) already.

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

    • MrTonyDowling It’s GORGEOUS on the iPad. I really love it!

  • RobertGlaesener

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

    • RobertGlaesener I’m super, super impressed by it! It’s catching all sorts of stuff I wasn’t getting from Google. Thank you!

  • rdopping

    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?

    • rdopping You’re going to have to or no on will know where to find you!

  • 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 …

    • kateupdates I use SocialMention, but I don’t love it.

    • markzohar

      kateupdates Hi Kate, for an alerts product that focuses on social and is based on tweet activity check out TrendSpottr Alerts ( It’s like Google Alerts but based on predictive social trending signals; ie., receive an alert when something you’re interested in is about to experience exceptional or viral growth.

  • PattiRoseKnight

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

    • PattiRoseKnight Speaking of technology: How are those clones coming?

  • MSchechter

    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.

    • 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.

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

    • DaveThackeray Best ever?! Better than my cycling Facebook post yesterday?

  • 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.

    • bdorman264 Go Cubs, go! Go Cubs, go! Hey Chicago, what do you say! The Cubs are going to win today!

      • ginidietrich Hey, where did all my points go? I was only 27 short of a new car; what did you change up Ms Moderator….

  • 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!

    • Bruno Pierre Gebarski Shouldn’t you be asleep?

      • ginidietrich Bruno Pierre Gebarski Yes I should be but just made myself a cup of coffee! will sleep later! Thanks for your lovely input and as always great to be in touch with you! 🙂

        • Bruno Pierre Gebarski Sleep tight (eventually)!

        • Gini: What do you recommend for creating RSS Feeds from Twitter lists? Any advise? PLEASE ?

        • Bruno Pierre Gebarski Hmmmm…now that Twitter closed their API to IFTTT, I’m not sure the best feed. You might not be able to do it at all anymore. Let me investigate.

        • ginidietrich Bruno Pierre Gebarski would you please get back to me on that via twitter or email? Lovely and thank you!

  • 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!

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

      • 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.

  • 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. 🙂

    • Andrea T.H.W. I’m with you – I really love they forced me to make a change because the new services are better.

  • J_Hong3

    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!

    • J_Hong3 I really, really love the alerts! Big, big improvement over Google.

  • 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.

    • AdrienneSmith I just added to your to-do list! You’ll like the analytics. It’s definitely a step up from what was there before.

  • 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.

    • Word Ninja Um, recipe?!?

      • ginidietrich Here you go:

  • markzohar

    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.

    • markzohar 100% validate TrendSpottr as ahead-of-the-curve and a brilliant piece of technology.

    • markzohar Oh thanks! I’ll check out TrendSpottr.

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  • T_Burrows

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

  • 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.

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

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