Mourning the death of Google Reader? You are not alone.
When the search giant announced that it would be retiring the news aggregator on July 1st, several news junkies wasted no time conveying their dismay and the interwebs really did its part to spread the word; petitions to stop Google from killing the service were created, the Twitterverse exploded with outraged comments, and numerous journalists expressed their concerns.
Additionally, a number of services aiming to serve as alternatives to Google Reader emerged (or re-emerged) to help users get through the mourning / transmission process.
Feedly for instance, announced that they’ve been working on Normandy, a clone of the Reader API that will allow Feedly users to seamlessly transition from one service to the other. Then there’s a site called The Old Reader, which is almost a clone of Google Reader that’s currently in beta mode. Digg also announced that it will be rebuilding “the best of Google Reader’s features” but will be making it more 2013-friendly.
Losing a huge source of traffic
The loss of a reliable news aggregator aside, perhaps the biggest issue that went up for discussion is the fact that death of Google Reader will result in a huge loss of traffic for publishers.
BuzzFeed illustrated this quite well when it pointed out that Reader actually drives more traffic (FAR MORE traffic) than Google+. MG Siegler echoed this on TechCrunch when he mentioned that on his own site, Google Reader is “constantly in the top five of traffic referrers day in and day out.” The same goes for TechCrunch that apparently saw that Reader was the 4th source of traffic for the site (at least in the past 30 days).
And this isn’t about just any traffic. It’s about quality visitors and readers. While it’s true that Google Reader may not have as much users as before, the loyal followers of the service consist of influential people that help spread the news and drive even more traffic.
As Siegler put it:
“Reader is the flower that allows the news bees to pollinate the social web. You know all those links you click on and re-share on Twitter and Facebook? They have to first be found somewhere, by someone. And I’d guess a lot of that discovery happens by news junkies using Reader.”
What you can do
The fact is, unless Google caves and decides to keep Reader anyway (highly unlikely), there really isn’t much that publishers can do about its death. Right now, it’s best to just pay your respects and find ways to regain the amount of traffic that you stand to lose. And below are few steps that you can take to help you do just that:
1. Point users in the right direction
Whining about Reader’s death on Twitter or on your blog is pretty useless at this point, so aim to be proactive instead. If you haven’t done so yet, suggest some Google Reader alternatives to users and encourage them to transfer their RSS feeds ASAP. The sooner they can adjust to a new way of keeping tabs on your site, the better it is for them and you.
Aside from the aforementioned Feedly and The Old Reader, popular replacements include Newsblur and Bloglines. You can also check out this crowd sourced spreadsheet of Google Reader alternatives for a more comprehensive list of solutions.
2. Exert more effort with different strategies
See the death of Reader as a wake up call to be more aggressive on other platforms. Take it is a cue to ramp up your marketing efforts on other media. To help fill the traffic void brought about by Google Reader’s demise, pay attention to other platforms that can send visitors to your site.
How’s your email subscriber list doing? Have you gotten people to sign up lately? If not, then post a friendly reminder encouraging users to sign up to ensure that they don’t miss out on any important updates. Perhaps you need to give better incentives for them to do so.
The same goes for your social media marketing strategies. If you haven’t been too active in getting more friends, fans, and followers then make more social efforts to get new users on board and to convince existing fans to become actual subscribers.
Also take the chance to look into strategies that you’re not doing but probably should. For instance have you tried guest posting to drive more traffic or boost SEO? What about using Pinterest or Google+? This isn’t to say that you should jump into all these tactics and just throw everything at it to see what sticks. But you should re-examine the things that you’re not doing to see what could work.
3. Don’t forget about the press
It’s important to note that good old regular readers aren’t the only people that you stand to lose when Google Reader kicks the bucket. Journalists also spend a lot of time using news aggregator services in their efforts to catch interesting features and ideas.
And while any good, responsible reporter has likely transitioned to another news aggregator by now, it wouldn’t hurt to spruce up your PR efforts to ensure that journalists will be able to get a hold of your content.
If you or your site has ever been featured on the news before, make sure that you have that journalists’ contact info and put them on your media list (with their permission of course) so you can send them any relevant material. You can also consider signing up as a source on HARO so you can be able to send pitches to reporters and possibly get a link back when you get featured.
4. Double down on your top traffic referrers
This seems obvious but you’d be surprised at the number of people who take a look at their analytics, see their traffic referrers and go “Oh okay” without really doing anything. Again, take this as a wake up call to exert more effort in generating traffic.
Do this now. Go to your analytics dashboard and take note of your top traffic referrers so you can double down on those sources. If it’s search, then ramp up your SEO efforts. If it’s guest posting, then hone your writing skills. If it’s Twitter then spend more time building relationships and gaining a wider audience to broadcast to.
And for crying out loud, don’t wait until July 1st before taking action. Do it now so when Reader finally retires, your site’s traffic won’t drop as much.