What the Data: the Digital PR Approach to Impact

August 17, 2018 Lacey Miller

At TrendKite, we organize metrics that matter into a framework we call the Communicator’s Funnel. In this post, we’re taking a closer look at the middle of the funnel to measure PR’s digital impact.

Read the previous post: What the Data: Brand Impact Metrics that Matter

 

When people have motivating brand experiences, they want to learn more. Often, they do it by visiting your brand’s website. Marketers carefully measure the performance of the “owned content” or other digital touchpoints they create. PR can do the same.

 

Measuring earned media’s digital impact answers the basic question, “Is PR driving traffic to my digital properties?” but it goes further to understand the actions PR-driven visitors are taking, how earned media is improving your site’s search rankings, and also how resonant PR content or messages are with audiences. Looking at 3 categories — traffic, SEO lift, and social amplification — can help PR prove digital impact.

 

Need to get organized first? Check out the Communicator's Funnel Cheat Sheet

 

Traffic

Start by tracking how many visits PR drives to your brand’s website. Sounds simple, right? But you need to be certain which visitors came from earned media or PR campaigns. Look at referring sites, and be sure PR traffic is attributed to PR. Track PR-driven traffic as compared with overall site traffic to get the percentage of total web traffic PR motivates over time.

 

Driving traffic to the site is job one, but you also need to assess the value of your traffic. Do PR-driven visitors engage or “bounce” from the site in seconds? Check engagement by looking at visitor behavior: how long do PR visitors spend on the site, how many pages do they check out, and what content keeps their attention? Evaluating traffic behaviors helps you differentiate between articles that drive one-hit wonders and those that drive visitors who engage.

 

The cool part about tracking PR traffic is how you can report the dollar value PR drove for the business. Any CMO knows the value of a new site visitor, and the cost of gaining such a visitor through paid search or other traffic-building programs. Did a PR-driven visitor complete a lead form or request a demo? Download product info? Add something to a shopping cart? Find out the dollar value marketing associates with high-value actions like these, and use this data to show the real ROI of PR-driven site traffic.

 

SEO Lift

Search engine optimization (SEO) is about getting found in Google or other search engines. PR creates SEO lift when earned media creates high domain authority links to your website. You might think of domain authority as “link juice.” Links from lower-traffic, less-important sites don’t have much juice, and won’t improve your search rankings much. Meanwhile, a single juicy link from a well respected, high-traffic site can really help your brand’s search engine ranking. When PR wins that kind of link, PR makes it easier for all visitors to find your brand’s site.

 

Pro Tip: Google considers some links from low-authority publications to be “toxic.” You can disavow these links so they don’t undercut PR’s SEO contribution.

 

That’s why SEO-savvy PR pros pitch publications with high domain authority. Not only will you research the top publications and journalists in your market, you’ll check which have the strongest domain authority. Then, be sure to land backlinks to get engaged readers to your website. Google prioritizes companies with the greatest number of relevant backlinks, and PR is one of the best sources for generating strong backlinks from relevant sources.

 

If industry influencers or high-readership publications are talking about you and linking to your website, then Google deems you more credible. Frequent links from social media or influential blogs show Google organic interest in your brand, which is a positive for your company’s search engine ranking. Track your links with an eye to their value: mention (good), mention with a backlink (better), and a backlink with anchor text (best).

 

It’s like if you asked a friend where you should take a date out to eat. In evaluating the answers you get, you’ll consider how credible a given friend is on the topic — which is kind of like their domain authority — but also how complete and helpful each answer is. Answers that give you everything you need to take action are the best.

 

Social Amp

So, now you not only track PR-driven traffic, you report on the value of PR links offer across all site traffic. What’s left? The third digital impact element you can measure is social amplification. This is where you look at how earned media readers are extending your brand’s digital footprint across social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and more.

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Content shared on social either connects with audiences on an emotional level, or is so useful that they just have to tell others. Look at platform metrics, such as shares and likes, to see which articles resonate with readers. If those audiences are also taking high-value actions on your site, you will know where to focus your efforts for your next PR campaign.

 

If you’re not using a PR analytics platform, it will take some time to build up enough data to see social trends. It involves hitting each article to record activity on each social network. Check what sharers are saying — Compliments? Critiques? Repeating your key messages? — and you’ll start to get a sense for what resonates with readers, and what they ignore.

 

TOOL TIP

Don’t Have TrendKite, Yet?

TrendKite helps PR pros track all these metrics and more in easy-to-use, customizable dashboards. But, if you don’t have TrendKite, you can still gather critical data to prove PR value. It just takes time and effort.

 

TRAFFIC: Google Analytics can give you a strong picture of web traffic, and help you build reports. Ask someone with access to your company’s Google Analytics account to export the data, or get the credentials so you can log in for yourself.

 

SEO LIFT: Check out Moz Open Site Explorer and the Mozbar to get a stronger picture of domain authority. Try SEMRush to quickly find and evaluate backlinks.

 

SOCIAL AMP: If an article doesn’t show social share data, use a site like ShareTally to get the share information you need.

 

Metrics that matter allow PR pros to show business leaders what PR is up to in a language they understand — business value. It’s all about guessing less and knowing more.


Whether we’re talking brand impact, digital impact, or bottom-line impact, the right metrics empower you to prove PR value across the entire sales funnel. By the way, we’ll look at metrics that matter in reporting PR’s bottom line impact in our next post.

 

About the Author

Lacey Miller

Passionate about public relations and empowering practitioners, Lacey Miller found her dream job at TrendKite, where she carries the crown of 'word nerd'. With a background in public relations and technology, she's a great fit with her desire to innovate the industry! You can find her most days writing for PR Forward, PRSA, and other marketing trade publications.

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