Measurement and analytics usually fall under the bailiwick of SEO and Marketing firms, but tracking and understanding numbers is equally important in PR in order to better understand how your messaging affects your target audience and how well you are engaging with that audience. Whether you are new to analytics or a seasoned pro, here are a few items to consider when analyzing traffic and how to make the most of the numbers.
Step number one: Leverage Analytics
Neglecting to gain access to clients’ analytics so that you are able to measure successes can impact your opportunity to tout progress. Sure, many factors contribute to increases in traffic but why should Marketing, SEO or WebDev get full credit for driving customers to your clients’ sites? Being proactive about baselining (establishing pre-campaign stats); annotating when news coverage, social media pick-ups and events occur; and tracking up-tics in traffic are paramount to ongoing PR opportunities and further client successes. Take this one step further by creating unique URLs and landing pages for your PR endeavors to ensure that you can really target traffic and check traffic sources (social media, specific publications/blogs where articles have run, etc.) to fully capitalize on your efforts.
Step number two: Get creative about how you measure successes
Pure traffic volume is certainly the primary way to measure success in any PR campaign. If you can show increases in unique visitors, returns and overall visitor traffic to client properties, you can clearly celebrate “wins” in your favor. But there are other, less obvious ways to ring the bell when it comes to success in PR campaigns. If you can look beyond the basics, you can not only demonstrate progress but can get a fuller understanding as to how messaging resonates with your audience and at what level they engage the brand. There are many ways to get creative about measurement. Here are just a few:
- Twitter List-to-Follower Ratio: Trends indicate that Twitter users leverage lists to offset “experts” from other resources they are simply following. If you have a high list-to-follower ratio, that can indicate that the materials you are presenting are deemed more informative, interesting or valuable and that your tweets are cutting through the churn.
- Re-Tweets, Shares and Link Click-thrus: Audience engagement can be further assessed through analysis of Re-tweet, Shares and Click-thru metrics. High figures in these key categories can indicate how well your messaging resonates with audiences and how well engaged they are with your brand. If your posts are being distributed frequently by your listeners, you can be sure that what you are saying is having an impact.
- Measure interactions: Creating a two-way dialog between your brand and your customers is paramount to tout success in the social media space. If you can create engagement (as you or your organization defines engagement internally), you can really start to crow about your effectiveness in the marketplace. High volumes of comments per blog post, Facebook post, YouTube placement or Pin demonstrate engagement and are great ways to demonstrate campaign successes. Tweet-this, shares, +1s and the like from your blog are also great ways to measure how well you are reaching an audience and how well your message is resonating. Stay creative with how you measure successes to show the full breadth of your benefit to your clients or senior management.
Step number three: Be sure you are measuring what you WANT to measure
There are some pitfalls in the numbers game to avoid, or about which to at least be aware of when setting up your campaign and analyzing information along the way. One trap comes in the form of Facebook “Likes”. Often times, clients express a desire to increase their fan base and see their pure number of “Likes” as a measure of how they are engaging with an audience. Sure, this is one measure of success but are these fans engaged? If a campaign is created to generate “Likes” and that campaign relies upon users “Liking” (or “like-gating” as some call it) the brand in order to participate (for example, in a contest), you may drive pure numbers but probably aren’t generating an audience that has a true affinity for the brand. Plus, this type of campaign (though seen all the time on Facebook) is actually in violation of Facebook policies.
The inverse is also true. Often times, companies get concerned that the stats showing the number of pages visited on their site is deplorably low. They get focused on this particular metric and struggle to find ways to drive traffic deeper into their site (not, in and of itself, a bad tactic, incidentally) neglecting to recognize that their site is primarily a blog with the majority of the content served up on the homepage. The site structure has created the situation where people, particularly more frequent visitors, don’t NEED to dive deeper into the site to access material. Better measurements for clients with sites of this type would be “amount of time spent on site” and “returning visitors”.
In short, be sure to establish campaign goals and how to best measure and report successes at the onset to be sure your campaigns are being measured thoughtfully. Keep your focus on engagements in the social space to ensure that you are developing active participants in your conversations. And don’t be afraid to look creatively at numbers to measure the true success of any PR campaign. There are a lot of metrics available to measure, and ensuring that you’re tracking the right numbers that will impact your overall goals is the most important first step.