“Public relations is difficult to measure effectively.” Unfortunately, that’s a claim we hear all too often in PR circles. But one of the ways to improve measurement is with Google Analytics-a ready-made tool for gauging the impact of your Web-based PR efforts.
Segmentation: The Key to Measuring Online PR Placements
Links are the building blocks of digital PR measurements. Without them, it’s impossible to track the effectiveness of PR assets that live online. There are many tools that measure links across the internet, but few (if any) of them also measures the traffic that comes from each link. But by tracking the sites that link to your site due to your PR efforts, you can measure the impact of placements (e.g. circulation, ad equivalent value), social sharing (e.g. brand mentions, sentiment, owned content shares, comments) and downloads (content downloads, Slideshare views).
While you can’t directly track links through Google analytics, you can track traffic coming from individual websites-a feature that enables you to measure and monitor a sampling of PR outcomes using advanced filters. By creating segments for placements, you can gain valuable insights about the ways audiences are interacting with your content.
For example, let’s say you earn a blog post on a third-party website. On the surface, the idea of tracking the PR impact of the post may appear impossible. But what if you include a link to an owned case study in the post? With Google Analytics segmentation, you can apply a segment that identifies visits to the case study from the third-party website. You can also create segments to identify social shares and other common gauges of success.
In many cases, placements can generate traffic six months or even a year after publication. By regularly adding, updating and monitoring segments in Google Analytics, you can demonstrate the increased value of PR over time-an important variable you otherwise wouldn’t be able to measure.
What Can I Track with Google Analytics?
The ability to accurately and consistently measure public relations outcomes demonstrates the role PR plays in the organization’s digital ecosystem and highlights additional opportunities to connect with key audiences. Google Analytics increases your measurement capabilities by tracking a range of critical PR outcomes, including:
1. Traffic. After you have created a segment, Google Analytics lets you view reports that detail the traffic driven from links in PR placements. These reports offer insights about the “stickiness” of the traffic the placement generated, including information about whether visitors bounced or visited multiple pages, and other pieces of content they found interesting.
2. Conversions. Many visitors don’t convert in a single visit. But Google Analytics offers visibility into the contributions PR placements make in conversion activities. Segments can be developed to track “assisted conversions” and to describe how many days or visits it takes visitors to convert after a visit generated by a PR placement.
For example, with Google Analytics, it’s possible to see that someone viewed an article about a data study on his mobile device, clicked through to your website but didn’t convert, and then came back to your site from their desktop the next day to download the white paper (a conversion action). Although it’s useful to view the “last click conversion,” it’s also important to view the assisted conversion for a clearer picture about the value of PR placements.
3. Companies. Google Analytics provides visibility to the network providers for all visitors to your website, including segmented visitors from PR placements. Since larger companies are more likely to have branded networks, it’s relatively easy to identify whether your PR and content efforts are reaching the right audiences.
For example, if your PR campaigns are targeting large retailers, you might look for visits to linked content from network providers like Lowes, Overstock, Walmart, CVS, etc. Although consumer audiences require a slightly different approach, the ability to track companies via network providers offers a significant advantage when evaluating the impact of PR for B2B companies.
4. Backlinks. Backlinks improve SEO by boosting organic search rank and by helping Google theme your brand, website and content. The links that are contained within PR placements strengthen your company’s authority in a given area-especially when they originate from respected and relevant media outlets. So, by tracking the trafficking coming from PR placements, you can demonstrate a connection between SEO and your organization’s digital PR efforts.
There are many different ways to measure the impact of PR. But with digital playing an increasingly larger role in PR campaigns and placements, Google Analytics presents a powerful and accessible tool for quantifying the effectiveness of the time and resources your organization invests in PR activities.