Your PR Team Isn’t Tracking These Metrics …But They Should Be

Web analytics are still almost completely ignored or misunderstood by (most) public relations professionals. If you have a PR firm, I’d love to hear what data they report, and better yet, how they’re using it to make decisions.

I’m willing to bet the majority of agencies and client-side PR pros aren’t really paying attention to their web analytics packages, establishing conversion goals and deftly slicing and dicing data via advanced segments.

While at the digital agency, I had access to reports from a variety of PR firms: boutique to massive. And I was in shock looking at what metrics most of them reported (or didn’t report). That was actually one of the reasons I was compelled to leave the pure digital consultancy and join LEWIS PR, a firm which runs both digital-specific and traditional PR programs. As a data geek I was excited for what could be unlocked on both sides of the spectrum.

At LEWIS, we use web, search and social analytics in some interesting ways for clients. I’m not going to share all of them today because the specific mix of metrics you use to trend results and make decisions is going to be different for each brand. But I will share a few to get you thinking.

1. Referring sources (high traffic and conversion)

This is ridiculously simple to report and use to make decisions. You can do this right now. Just log into Google Analytics / Omniture (if your PR firm / team doesn’t have access: wow, just wow) and access referring sources.

Let’s have a look with a sample site – I’ve circled the media sending the site traffic:

If more media placements that send web traffic is a goal, all you need to do next is analyze what they linked to and why they linked there by slicing / dicing the data. From there, you can easily see what content you created that was successful at attracting traffic from media.

It’s easy from there to get iterative and create the next version of that piece of content. Or, maybe a guest post you drafted is sending lots of good traffic. Now you know it’s worth the time to craft another one for that site. Or go back to your media database to do more research and approach other sites in the same vein. Rinse, repeat and build sustainable returns on referral traffic and links.

But why stop at visits? PR people can now go deeper – why not also look at what types of media convert highly, then refine your outreach accordingly?

With goals setup, you can easily see how well organic media traffic converts based on each goal:

And remember, everyone can get to conversion, even if you’re not directly selling anything on your website. If you can’t do this, it means you’re not trying hard enough.

2. Branded search engine traffic

Your SEO and inbound marketing team should be focused on increasing non-branded traffic specifically. Savvy PR teams are also celebrating success here and fleshing out unique, useful and updated content on client (or their brand) websites / blogs to create long term value.

But even if your PR team hasn’t ever touched your website, they should be reporting on and showing the impact of their efforts on branded search engine traffic. This is a metric multiple teams can celebrate and use as an indicator of program success. It’s really simple: setup an advanced segment in analytics that includes the brand name / permutations. Now every month, you can trend brand awareness along with other key metrics and see how things shake out:

Of course, search engine brand awareness is just one indicator of success for building a brand, but it’s a pretty good one based on current user behavior and should be standard in marketing and PR dashboards.

3. Inbound links

Most PR firms know to put inbound links in press releases. Some even understand to use anchor text links that follow an SEO sitemap and help provide context to search engines (and users). But few actually track link metrics (volume, diversity and quality) let alone use link data to inform decision making. Sad in both cases because for many, a PR firm is their number 1 link / social signal generator. In nearly all cases though, they’re building this all too critical equity blindly.

Tools like SEOmoz Open Site Explorer or Majestic SEO are aimed at search engine optimization professionals, but there is a wealth of information for PR professionals as well: both to prove success of programs and conduct research (have you actually looked at your competitor’s link profile?).

These are just 3 examples of metrics PR pros should be using. And that’s the point, there is so much more I don’t have enough time to go through it all in one post.

Your PR team should no longer be operating in the dark: they should be equally as data-driven as any of your other marketing groups. Sophisticated PR pros are already here: reporting on a specific mix of metrics and using them to show results and make decisions. If your team isn’t, it means they’re late. Get them up to speed today.

image credit: Shutterstock