There has always been a lot of debate surrounding the measurability of PR — its impact on the bottom line has always been difficult to prove with any certainty. Given that we live in a digital era where everything is capable of being analyzed, that demand for measurability and accountability has only increased.
Rather than get bogged down in the philosophical arguments about PR’s role in an organization, let’s take a quick look at some of the ways you can — and should — start measuring PR’s impact from a website traffic perspective.
Why? Most CEO’s and their fellow C-suiters in emerging growth B2B tech companies are hyper-focused on generating qualified leads and converting those leads into sales qualified leads (SQLs). The extent to which you can couch your PR activities in ways that support revenue growth will ensure PR’s viability in the organization.
Here are some website metrics available in Google Analytics to help you parse the data you will need when presenting monthly results to your senior leadership team:
Broadly speaking, website traffic is an indicator of a company’s ability to be found on the Internet. Traffic comes from a variety of sources, with these four leading the way (excludes paid sources like Google AdWords):
- Organic search: a user finds you by searching on a generic keyword (e.g., healthcare cloud compliance) and your website comes up (because you provide that service!), and the user clicks on the link in the search engine results page (SERP).
- Direct: a user enters your website URL directly into a search engine like Google or Yahoo and is taken directly to your website.
- Social: any inbound traffic from your social network postings (e.g., a post on LinkedIn about a new product launch).
- Referral: traffic sent to your site from another site that features your company’s URL (i.e., backlink on a website).
Why focus on traffic? When you run a media outreach campaign supported with a press release (wire release optional) and you obtain media coverage then it’s likely that you will see traffic generated by that content. Also, any social media posts you issue as part of the campaign may also generate a burst of clicks. Even Direct and Organic search results may increase slightly in the heat of a PR campaign.
If the media coverage is limited to a one-week window, then be sure to measure website traffic during that time and compare it to past trends (even year-over-year) to see if there is a spike you can attribute to the media coverage.
Be careful not to include in your measurement any other marketing initiatives that may be running simultaneously, like an email marketing campaign. One way to avoid conflating the results from competing campaigns is to use unique URLs in your media outreach — create a unique web page to which you can direct readers. Ditto for the email campaign — use a dedicated landing page to properly track your results and separate them from other traffic generating activities. Most marketing automation platforms — we support HubSpot, Pardot and Marketo — will allow you to easily create unique landing pages and even capture leads to measure sales funnel impact.
Final note on traffic: Be sure you go to the Filters section in the Admin panel and exclude the IP addresses for your key employees who spend more time on your website. Why? This helps exclude their traffic from the overall traffic measured, helping prevent any possible skewing of metrics (i.e., your team may stay on site far longer since they work more with the website, resulting in far higher time-on-site results, higher returning traffic metrics, etc.).
One way to figure out if your media outreach is connecting your brand with a wider audience is to measure number of returning users versus new users. A spike in returning users is a sign that your avid followers (customers, prospects, influencers, etc.) are engaging with your content in the media. New users is a sure sign that your media coverage has reached a wider audience and puts more eyeballs on your website for future conversion.
Pages per Session
While not necessarily tightly correlated to traffic from media coverage, spotting a spike in pages per session during your media campaign window can indicate that you drove visitors with more purchase intent, or at least industry alignment, then the random traffic that hits websites these days (e.g., Internet bots).
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Average Session Duration
It’s what I like to call time-on-site. This metric should see an increase as well given that traffic originating from media websites will have higher affinity with your website content. Be sure to measure the increase relative to traffic generated in between media outreach campaigns — it stands to reason that ASD might generally be lower when you are not running your PR campaigns. If, however, time-on-site happens to be low, then you may want to figure out where most of the traffic is coming from. If there is a media outlet sending low-performing traffic to your website rather than high-engaging traffic, then consider either avoiding or de-emphasizing that outlet in the future.
Pay close attention to the source of referral traffic since media outlets will show up here during your campaign. Did some generate more than others? Did others drive better on-site performance as measured by your metrics above? Knowing this will help you allocate more time and resources to the media outlets that move the digital marketing needle for your company.
While this may not see much, if any, increase from traffic generated by media coverage, why not measure it just the same? Maybe there are visitors who have been sitting on the fence when it comes to making a purchase decision and a favorably-written article becomes the trigger for a conversion. PR should be willing to point to their role in lead conversion wherever possible as its part of the company’s overall marketing communications strategy. The key, however, is to observe this metric for campaigns run over the past year. If you spot any positive trends then you call them out to the senior leadership team.
This merits attention since some B2B tech companies may have geographically defined media campaigns. Say a wire release and corresponding media outreach campaign targets northern European countries. It stands to reason that an increase in traffic from countries like Norway, Sweden, and Germany would stem from that campaign. Again, support your PR initiatives with specific, measurable data points from Google Analytics and company executives might just start paying attention.
A short word about demographics should include gender and age. While not as critical to making your case for PR’s effectiveness at driving higher potential traffic to the website, it can be an indicator of how well your PR strategy is aligned relative to your company’s established buyer personas, targeted influencers, etc. If your campaigns (and broader marketing initiatives) target female executives in their 40-50s and you are seeing a spike in male visitors in their 20s then you may want to rethink your media outreach strategy. This helps ensure the company’s marketing assumptions are truly reflective of your key demographics.