All 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 spinsucks.com), 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.