Paul M. Banas on Consumer Insights, Marketing Research, and the Digital Media Landscape
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10 Steps To Mastering Google Reader


When paired with the simple steps outlined below, there is no better tool for managing the torrents of blog feeds and news posts on the Web than Google Reader.

I am currently subscribed to over 100 blogs and news services, all centered around digital marketing, marketing research, media and advertising, and general Web 2.0 type stuff.

That means anywhere from 50 articles and posts per day on the weekend, to almost 400 on a busy weekday. And I have a relatively narrow window between work and family (5:00AM to 7:30AM) to both read them and write my own posts.

Which is why Google Reader, paired with some knowledge management techniques I learned from digital photography workflows, has been such a critical asset to me.

Since I can’t really read 400 posts a day, I needed a way to quickly separate what interests me from what doesn’t. In a tool such as Photoshop Lightroom, the point of a digital photography workflow is to quickly eliminate all the out of focus and hopeless images, and identify and sort the ones that really matter for further editing, all through use of flags and keywords.

I follow a similar process with Google Reader by use of tag folders, the J-key shortcut, and the Star function.

  1. First I sort RSS feeds into macro topic tag folders (marketing research, advertising, economics, etc.). You can do this by tagging a feed after you subscribe to it by using the Feed Settings drop down menu.
  2. I then create a Read First folder of blogs whose postings are ones that I find I always read in detail. I move this folder to the top of my list. The neat thing about Google Reader is that a feed can reside in multiple places, so Seth Godin’s blog is in both my marketing and Read First folders.
  3. When I then check my feeds, I go right to the Read First folder, since I generally find myself wanting to read most of what these writers post. If there is something I want to come back to, I then hit the S-key in order to flag it for the Star folder.
  4. I then go through the postings in the remaining folders. Blogs like Mashable! and news sources like MarketingVox have tons of posts everyday, some of which hold interest for me and some of which don’t. Which is where the J-key comes in. For everything but the Read First items, I give the post a second or two scan based upon the headline and the first sentence. Then I either hit the J-key or Star it to come back to it later.
  5. Which means if you are creating content that is being read through a feed reader, some of these best practices from Copyblogger and Problogger on headline and copy writing are critical. If I’m scanning 100 blog post headlines in less than 5 minutes, it’s the well written and succinct headlines that capture my attention and my S-key.
  6. After I’ve gone through all the new items (make sure Google Reader is set to only show you new items), if I have the time, I go back through and read in more detail the starred items.
  7. These remaining posts are read and saved, or discarded by use of the S-key again, which toggles off the star.
  8. I don’t used the Star folder for permanent storage however. I’ve lately paired the social bookmarking tool with Google Reader, which allows me to store posts I find while I’m surfing the web, as well as stuff from Google Reader.
  9. On occasion, I look at the Trends report from Google Reader. This helps me identify upcoming feeds for inclusion in the Read First folder, as well as those that have gone inactive and may be candidates for deletion.
  10. And from there: rinse, wash, repeat as necessary.

For a much more intricate system that is designed to handle a much greater volume of feeds, check out this one from Steve Rubel at Micropersuasion.

The key is to develop a Google Reader system that works for you; otherwise, you may end up with the exact opposite.


1 windyridge { 02.12.08 at 8:59 am }

What’s the J key?

2 The RSS Curse | social media and green horses { 02.12.08 at 2:09 pm }

[...] and have enjoyed its assistance. I have mentioned before, that I have been following almost 100 blogs and news sites; and I wasn’t just scanning the information coming, I really read them – and I [...]

3 Paul M. Banas { 02.12.08 at 8:32 pm }

Here is link to the list of all the keyboard shortcuts you can use on Google Reader:

4 windyridge { 02.12.08 at 8:38 pm }


5 Chris { 02.15.08 at 3:52 am }

Wow! Wish I was that organised and efficient…

6 Paul M. Banas { 02.15.08 at 6:51 am }

Unfortunately, that’s just one aspect of my life. I can’t see the wood on my desk at work for all the scattered decks and memos. Now if there were just a Google Reader for paperwork…..

7 Jason A Clark { 02.18.08 at 2:29 pm }

I completely agree that Google Reader is the easiest way I’ve found to make my way through many feeds daily…and quickly. I’m in a similar situation as you and am able to go through many feeds daily uses a lot of the techniques you mentioned. I think this is a good resource for those wanting to find a way to browse through their RSS feeds quicker on a regular basis.

8 Paul M. Banas { 02.18.08 at 9:29 pm }

Thanks for the good words. And if you have any other Google Reader tips or techniques for managing large amounts of feeds, I’d be happy to hear about them.

9 andymurd { 06.09.08 at 2:33 pm }

Great list, Paul, I do something pretty similar myself. I especially think that Google Reader and together are amazingly powerful.

Another useful tip is to have an “emergency” folder of feeds that need instant action – web hosts going down, sudden traffic spikes, social media searches for your name. I get Google Reader to aggregate all these feeds and then use TwitterFeed to instantly notify me of any changes.

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