What you need to know about Google’s product changes

We’ll soon say sayonara to Feedburner and Reader, but this PR pro has some better alternatives, as well as a sneak peek at Google’s newest products.


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 of Feedburner shutting down, Google announced Reader is retiring. Is Alerts next?

I’ve always said we’re not Google’s users, we’re the products, so it shouldn’t be so devastating when Google takes away our free products. But change is hard. And it is devastating.

On the flip side, however, Google is launching some new things that will help you retrieve data and make better decisions, such as Universal Analytics and showing 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 painful change:

1. Feedburner replacement

When the rumor Feedburner was going to go away hit the blogosphere a few months ago, my team and I 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 the options and, while not free, it provides access to all of your email and RSS subscribers—something Feedburner is wonky about.

If you want a free option, you can use Feedblitz for your RSS subscribers and MailChimp for your email subscribers. But remember, you get what you pay for.

It’s not totally painless to switch to Feedblitz, but Phil Hollows, Feedblitz’s founder, and his team are extremely responsive. In some cases, they will even get into your site to help you troubleshoot.

There are also a lot of tutorials on the Web, including this one from Just Ask Kim.

2. Reader replacement

I was very upset when I learned about the death of Google Reader—and then I found Feedly.

After I used it for a couple of weeks, I wanted to yell, “So long, suckers!”

I love it.

Not only does it appeal to my need for balance in design, it feeds me content in an appealing way. There are no more red circles staring at me every time I open my browser, reminding me I’m a slacker and need to visit other blogs.

Also, the tablet app is gorgeous. I enjoy reading blogs from there because of it.

3. Alerts replacement

If Google drops Alerts—which it hasn’t, although some smart people are suggesting it might—it would 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 with Reader, I’m OK because I have found Talk Walker.

I was happy with Alerts until I set up Talk Walker and discovered how many things Alerts misses, and how late it is in delivering things to me.

Set up like Alerts, Talk Walker is much more efficient and timely in delivering pertinent information.

I would use both for two weeks just to be sure you don’t miss anything, and then delete Alerts. You’ll be much happier with the results from Talk Walker.

Good changes

But it’s not all bad. As Google retires some of its more popular services, it’s introducing two new ones that will help you retrieve data in a way that is extremely valuable in helping you make informed decisions about the people who visit your site:

1. Universal Analytics

What Universal Analytics essentially does is give you more control over customizing the information it gives you. It allows you to get information not just from the people who come from websites, but mobile, too.

Google has opened the developer tools to all of us. I set up Universal Analytics for my business last week, so it has only had a few days to collect information for me. I’ll report back when I have data points to share.

In the meantime, set up yours by following the steps outlined in the Google support section.

2. Trackbacks

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.

A trackback means someone linked to your site or to a specific piece of content on his site. Typically, if you have a WordPress blog, you’ll receive an email if someone links to a particular blog post. But if someone links just to the website (this happens all the time to SpinSucks.com), you don’t get an email.

That alone makes me happy. I can finally see who is linking to us without relying solely on Google Alerts (which we now know didn’t collect everything). But now you have tools for your content strategy, including building relationships with those who already link 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 his article, “Using the New Trackbacks in Your Content Strategy.”

There you have it. I highly recommend you immediately switch 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 you should definitely start thinking about it. When you switch, it won’t be as easy as the press of a button. Give yourself some time to learn more about Feedblitz and get your readers ready.

You need someone with programming experience to help you set up Analytics so it looks at more than just Google+. You’ll need to give him or her this link.

Gini Dietrich is founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, Inc. and blogs at Spin Sucks, where a version of this article originally appeared.

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Topics: PR

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