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by Don

Here at we follow many sites using RSS. It allows us to follow and track things without needing to navigate numerous sites in a day in our effort to stay abreast (random link spurred by that word) of the news. Counting hits generated by RSS syndication is a tricky thing. Many sites have taken to using a query string in the url to try to track hits generated from RSS followers, for example this one:,1284,66374,00.html?tw=rss.TOP. Notice the tail end of that … “tw-rss.TOP”. The URL works the same with or without that string. The problem with that type of query string tracking is that it alters the actual URL, so if I copy the URL, press it to my blog-roll, or forward it to a friend, you will get all of these secondary hits shown as coming from the RSS. Of course that is what originated the hit, but it is not what caused the hit. It may cause you to figure more people are following RSS than are really doing so.

Better solutions could certainly be cooked up on the server side if you wanted to track only direct RSS hits. For example you could strip the query string server side and only server the actual url after logging the query string.

Many sites put all manner of things into the query string, for example your screen resolution and operating system are often shown in a query string. It is much better to use a counter like ours (free version or $10 advanced version) to track that type of information. We are currently working on improving our counter to make it faster and more efficient. We have a beta version up and running in fact and it will be sent to all current customers after the beta test is completed in a month or two. It tracks more things — like how many hits are from non-javascript browsers. What it never does is pass info via the query string. So if you pass a url to another person, it will capture their details, not repeat the senders details.

Having said that, to close the circle, our counter doesn’t currently address people reading only via RSS feeds and doesn’t track people arriving from the RSS feed as the referrer. One of our goals may soon be to try to marry these two ideas. We’ll see how it goes. Meanwhile, if you pass on URL’s with query strings, decide if you should strip them out. If you use them to track visitors, be aware that you are collecting secondary hits with the data.

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