As the line between PR, SEO and content marketing blurs further with every Google algorithm update, the industry’s smart money is now on securing responsibility for almost all of clients’ online content. It’s happening so fast that “media relations” or “public relations” are no longer enough to explain the myriad activities undertaken all in the name of building a favourable reputation and encouraging action (i.e. sales).
With the amount of interaction between brands and their audiences now taking place online, the communications industry’s impact and therefore value can be measured like never before. With just a little bit of application the whole funnel can be tracked from coverage to website to registration/sale and attributed to the work we do.
So, if you’re still doing AVEs, then hold onto your media packs, because here are four online metrics related to coverage that will really impress your clients:
1) Website traffic – a basic understanding of Google Analytics is essential to proving modern communications’ value, and if you think only traffic driven by online content can be measured then think again. With Google Analytics, traffic referred from online coverage can be easily tracked and, if you know what you’re doing, custom alerts allow you to track website activity post-print coverage meaning with a bit of skill you can reasonably attribute a spike in average traffic levels to that interview in the Financial Times. Work with the client to optimise their site (a story for another day) and those visits can even start generating leads, meaning you can kiss goodbye to fluffy metrics like reach, exposure and key message pull through and start talking facts.
2) Branded searches – related to the above, but with a more long-term application, what do you think an increase in branded searches with major search engines during or after a communications campaign might tell you? I would say brand recognition is increasing, and furthermore your audience is being prompted to act. But I wouldn’t expect a client to take my word for it, so I’ll see what pattern I can establish by plotting the upward curve in branded search terms against instances of coverage. With that done, now would probably be a good time to talk to the client about developing content to take advantage of all these new searches.
3) Social shares – not a new one by any stretch but it’s one that still suffers from the PR default position of using volume to indicate quality. Instead, combine this measure with referral data from Google Analytics and you have a much richer metric. Go one further and take a look at the on-site behaviour of those socially-referred visitors and you can then work out whether they’re getting what they want from your site, or if you need to make some changes to encourage sign-ups, sales or even just return visits.
4) Followed links – even a fleeting glance at any of the leading SEO blogs will show you how much stock that community puts in the kind of coverage our industry takes for granted. Followed links are (for now) a key indicator for Google when deciding on search rankings, so securing coverage on well-regarded sites – like national news outlets – with a followed link to a client’s own site is something you should be taking the credit for every time it happens.
Digital activity can be measured better than anything our industry has historically done and from engagement, clicks and shares its only short leap to leads and sales. It won’t be long before a large part of agency value can be put to the test by cold, hard, attributable numbers. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. See you on the other side!