Website analytics

“But how do I know if my PR campaign was a success?” – a guide to digital PR metrics

02/03/2021 12:51:08
It’s a question that is the bugbear of clients and PR agencies alike, but for entirely different reasons – what’s the best way to gauge whether a PR campaign is working?

It’s fair to say that the benefits of PR aren’t always directly quantifiable. Estimating the reach of a campaign can be tricky at the best of times, not least in the fields of traditional and print PR – you may know that the industry magazine you’ve just sent an article to has a circulation of ten thousand, but if a quarter of all those magazines are sent to a workplace where they are passed around the staff, how many pairs of eyes have seen that article? Suddenly, the reach of your campaign becomes much harder to quantify – in that example, the total reach of the campaign is likely to be significantly higher than the measurable figures suggest.

This, of course, is another reason why venturing into the world of digital PR opens up so many possibilities. Not only is it possible to reach a vast audience this way but metric tools like Google Analytics make it much easier to assess their engagement with your campaign, too.

So, how can Google Analytics help you measure the success of your campaign in a digital world?

Google Analytics: the basics

Analytics is one of the most sophisticated website-monitoring tools out there – so sophisticated, in fact, that some people feel a bit daunted by the prospect of all the things it can do. Happily, though, getting a reasonable idea of how effective your digital PR is can be done with just a handful of metrics.

So, which metrics should I track?

Most-visited pages

This is somewhat self-explanatory – these will be the most-visited pages on the site during a given timeframe. At the top line these will almost invariably be the homepage, contact page and ‘about us’ page, but travelling further down the sitemap – for example, looking at the most-visited pages in your News section– can give you a better sense of what your site visitors are really interested in. 

Bounce rate

Bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits to the site - visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page. This metric can be used to assess users’ engagement with your site: if the bounce rate is high, users are exiting the site without looking further than the page they landed on, suggesting that they did not find the content useful or engaging.

Bounce rate is a really useful metric for assessing how well your content is engaging visitors, but it’s important to remember that there is no hard and fast rule for what constitutes a good or bad bounce rate – there tend to be variations between industries and sectors, individual businesses, types of website and so on. Largely it’s best to benchmark your bounce rate against your own progress, aiming to gradually reduce it over time.

Pages per session

This is another good measure of visitor engagement, as it gives an average of how much a user has clicked around your site having landed on it. Generally, the higher this number, the better, as it tends to demonstrate that users are interested in your product offering and what you have to say about it. Analytics has another feature called ‘behaviour flow’ which allows you to examine how users tend to navigate through your site – this can help to get an idea of what your target audience is looking for when they come to your site, as well as any issues with your sitemap or layout.

Traffic source

Put simply, there are four main ways people are likely to arrive at your website: directly (for example typing your site address directly into their address bar), organically (navigating to your site naturally through a search engine), through paid promotion or advertisement (clicking on an advert, for example), or through a referral. Referral traffic is users who have navigated to your site through links to it from other sources – for example your e-newsletter, a link on Facebook or on a supplier’s website.

For measuring PR activity, referral traffic is the most useful. Looking at referral sources is a really useful way to see how users have arrived at your content, and therefore which elements of your digital PR strategy are working best to drive traffic to your website: if the majority of your website traffic comes from your monthly newsletter, for example, you’ll know that this part of your strategy is working really well for your business.

A long term PR strategy

Being able to measure the effectiveness of a piece of PR activity is one thing, but strong and reactive PR should incorporate these metrics into the planning stage, rather than just using them to report on a campaign afterwards. An experienced PR professional should look at these metrics in both the short and the long-term, making changes to your PR strategy in response to the ups and downs of the campaign but remembering that the success of a campaign tends to build over time – generally, the results won’t just start to roll in overnight.

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