You have probably heard a lot of false things about stats, especially Feedburner's RSS stats. I'm here to tell you the truth! Make sure you listen to the episode because I explain everything in much more detail than I'm writing in the shownotes.
What are stats?
Stats (common abbreviation for “statistics”) tell you information about your audience. Thank you to Robert from It's Just Us podcast for asking the question to explain the differences between different stats and why he should care.
Are stats important?
Yes! But please don't fall into focusing on the numbers. The only people that need to care about numbers (or at least think they need to) are advertisers. However, you should watch your statistics to get a better understand of your audience and what content is more popular.
Hits are not accurate website stats
In the '90s, it was common to show off how many hits a site would get. Consequently, the term “hits” is still used, but the information is useless. A “hit” is anytime something is loaded from your site. If your webpage has ten images, that's ten hits for that one visitor (plus other files that are loading).
Instead, you should look at your website visitors and the pageviews. A visitor is a person who visits your website. Pageviews tell you how many pages were viewed (cryptic, I know!).
For website stats, I recommend the extremely thorough Google Analytics or the real-time Woopra. They're both free, but Woopra offers some premium editions, which popular websites would require. I'll explain advanced website stats in a future episode.
Feedburner RSS stats are real
Feedburner has been labeled a useless stats tool, but useful for syndicating your content and ensuring compatibility. But I'm here to defend Feedburner! It is simply misunderstood.
When you publish an RSS feed, people can subscribe with a podcatcher (like iTunes or Miro Player) or RSS aggregator (like Google Reader or NetNewsWire) and will automatically receive updates, including new podcasts, from your website. Feedburner reports how many people are thus subscribed, which is reported based on when their program (like iTunes) checks the RSS feed. If someone is subscribed to your podcast through iTunes but doesn't load iTunes on a particular day, they won't be counted as a subscriber. This is why your Feedburner subscriber numbers fluctuate daily. Read Feedburner's documentation for more to understand subscribers.
Feedburner's “reach” stats are even further misunderstood. These are the number of RSS subscribers who click something from the RSS feed, like a manual download, a link in your shownotes, or more. Read more on “reach” from Feedburner.
Although some web hosting companies offer tools to see numbers on file downloads (like your podcast files), these tools are buried in the control panel and don't give you very much information. LibSyn is very popular for hosting media files and providing basic and premium podcast stats, but they charge for this service and I only recommend LibSyn for extremely popular podcasts, if you have a good web host.
I use Blubrry's free media stats (they also offer premium stats and media hosting) along with their free PowerPress plugin for WordPress (neither require the other, but I do recommend the combination).
Both services offer the same, very helpful information: realistic stats on how your podcast is downloaded. They'll tell me how many people download through iTunes, through another player, or use my site's embedded player in their browser. This is helpful for recognizing how many more people listen to your content but don't subscribe to the RSS feed (using Google Analytics or Woopra can tell you how they got to your site).
For every RSS subscriber to my podcasts, I typically see two to three times more downloads. So if you're disappointed by your Feedburner subscriber numbers try using Blubrry's free media stats or LibSyn and you'll discover that you have more listeners than you thought! Podcast stats will also reveal your most-popular episodes.
I was interviewed in the Struggling Entrepreneur podcast and shared some of my struggles in having my own business and launching a podcast network. Check it out!
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This post may contain links to products or services with which I have an affiliate relationship and may receive compensation from your actions through such links. However, I don't let that corrupt my perspective and I don't recommend only affiliates.