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Creative Uses For RSS Referrer Tracking By Bloggers?

On Search Engine Land, Dixon Jones’ blog and other sites, there’s a bit of fancy code that instantly refreshes the URL you’re seeing to add in referrer tracking parameters. This is usually used for conversion tracking, but I think other uses are possible.

Here are some ideas of my own – I’d love to hear yours in the comments here or on Sphinn. I’ll happily collect, edit and comment the best ideas into a follow up column with credit to the contributors as appropriate. 🙂

1) Show tailored messaging to your RSS subscribers.

The origin for this column is in a recent visit of mine to Dixon Jones, to read about some funky (SEO-wise) videos on the BBC. The URL I ended up at had the following parameters tacked on:


As you can tell, I was browsing Dixon’s feed in my feedreader, NetVibes (recommendation courtesy of this how-to by Dosh Dosh). In plain English, I’m a fan of Dixon’s writing.

As an RSS subscriber, Dixon can show me custom messaging. For example, he might have removed the call-to-action to subscribe to his feed!

This is just a slight deviation from Seth Godin’s comment about treating repeat visitors different from new visitors, which inspired this popular plugin.

Note: That’s the plugin that most people use for such RSS feed calls-to-action. (The reason it ironically asked me to subscribe is because it’s based on cookies, and I was visiting from a computer that hadn’t been cookied before – e.g. a ‘new’ visit.)

Don’t get me wrong – the plugin is great and I use it myself; there’s just a hole in it for people who remove cookies, access the site from different computers etc. Referrer tracking can fill the hole left by cookie-based tracking solutions.

There are other custom messages referrer-tracking might be used for:

  • RSS-subscriber-only-downloads, which effectively incentivize people to subscribe to your feed. I currently offer my Internal Link Building plugin, a link building scoring/reporting spreadsheet and other goodies to my own blog’s subscribers. That’s only visible within the feed, courtesy of Joost’s RSS footer plugin, but a referrer-tracking based implementation is also plausible. It’s possible that people could fake the referrer to get access to the downloads free, but that would be limited to a small minority we can dismiss.
  • Different calls-to-action that speak in a more familiar, intimate language. Blogs are conversations, and subscribers are those you speak to most frequently. If I’m building a community around the blog, why not invite subscribers to register as members?

Another option is to customize the website by removing or swapping normally static items.

1. Calls-to-action and ads that your subscribers have seen a million times before.

The plugin I mentioned invites me to subscribe, but virtually every blog today has a dedicated area to encourage RSS subscriptions. Frequently, that area is in commercially-valuable real estate: the header, sidebar etc.

Why not replace it with some perk for subscribers or custom promotion? Ex.: 10% off domain registrations for RSS subscribers.

For the esthetically inclined, you could also just remove that and leave it as agreeable white-space! (“White space?!” The ‘money making online’ crowd just died a little inside, I know. Sorry! 😉 )

2. Adsense. Numerous blog posts and studies have shown that search traffic is more likely than other sources to click on AdSense. The corrolary is that RSS subcribers are largely blind to AdSense.

By removing AdSense for subscribers, you increase linkability amongst an audience that is more likely to link to you, in exchange for a minimal chunk of [lost] change. Yet another way to “‘buy” text links. After all, you can project that the number of links you get depend on your distribution.

(You could also do the opposite and rely on referrer tracking to only show AdSense to search engine traffic.)

A final caveat:

While there are obviously lots of advantages to referrer tracking, I know that in some cases it can cause Internet Explorer to collapse (not sure if that’s 7 or 8). I’m writing this from my university’s library, where the following URL loads SEL’s favicon and nothing else:

(For the record, Firefox doesn’t work either. My best guess is that this issue may affect large computer networks behind firewalls. Also, and this just occurred to me, the additions to the URLs may be based on a particular plugin and/or Netvibes.)

p.s. If you found this interesting, I encourage you to check out and download a free sample chapter from my upcoming advanced SEO book, which also features a lot of original tactics.

Category SEO
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Creative Uses For RSS Referrer Tracking By Bloggers?

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