If there’s a greater white whale than PR measurement success in the marketing world I am not sure what it could be. For years marketers have been throwing PR in the “brand” category with little thought to how it helps the bottom line. But times are changing as CMO’s and VPs of marketing are now being tasked to contribute — and attribute — their spend directly to the bottom line.
As we transition away from marketing as a brand exercise to these efforts now being used as a business driver — especially in B2B tech and SaaS — marketers are trying to draw clean lines from all campaigns and tactics to closed deals and new dollars generated.
As a result, one of the biggest question we get from new and current clients is “how should we be measuring the success of PR?”
Defining PR Success
Before trying to measure the success of PR, it’s important to break that question down. What does success look like for your marketing team?
Understanding your marketing goals is paramount to understanding PR measurement and success. Are you trying to drive 14-day trials of a product? Is your team responsible for passing leads, either as MQL (marketing qualified leads) or SQLs (sales qualified leads)? Having a key understanding helps you get to a place where you can start to measure the success of your campaigns and PR activity.
Let’s pretend that your goal as the marketing leader is to driving new MQLs. Great! We have a goal line. Your PR activities are not always going to have a straight line to your MQL goal, but you should understand what things PR influences.
Traffic Metrics to Use When Measuring PR
When you understand your overall marketing goals, and how PR can play into them, you can then look at traffic drivers in the larger marketing mix to see if your PR efforts are a success. Here are three traffic drivers to track when evaluating the successfulness of PR efforts:
- Branded traffic
While branded traffic is a huge indicator if your brand is being talked about, it’s just one piece of a much bigger puzzle. Branded traffic by definition is a brand term that someone searches to arrive at your website. For instance, for a brand like BLASTmedia, both “BLASTmedia PR” or “BLASTmedia Careers” are examples of a branded search term. (Side note: While both are branded terms, one has a lot more buying intent than the other. If you really want to dig into the analytics you can use an SEO Tool like Moz, or AHrefs, to find those branded terms and break them out into layers of intent.)Just as SEO helps you increase your organic search results, PR efforts can help you increase your branded traffic. Thought leadership via bylined articles, recommendations of your product by credible third parties and linked content by blogs and media all help to increase your brand exposure. Creating a powerful PR campaign helps keep your brand in your prospects mind as they journey through the buying cycle.
- Referral Traffic
The second traffic source in your great whale hunt should be referral traffic. By definition, referral traffic is traffic that originates from a third party website — not from Google. For example, if the Wall Street Journal wrote a piece about the top B2B SaaS PR agencies and included a link to BLASTmedia.com, visitors who came to the BLASTmedia website as a result of that link would be considered referral traffic. In Google Analytics, anyone clicking on that link and visiting our website would be shown in referring traffic.Again, some sites should have more weight than others when measuring success. When using referral traffic as a PR metric, it’s important to look at the site where you were mentioned or written about, i.e. Forbes, CIO-Today, etc. You should also do a bit of digging within your referral sources. Because some sites scrape and syndicate other sources, you should dig past your top 10-15 referring sites to see if other traffic can be attributed to the main articles that were written about you.
- Organic Traffic
Organic traffic is the final harpoon (sorry, this Moby Dick analogy is hard to keep up) in your PR measurement. This traffic source is a bit more nebulous when it comes to PR because most smart marketers are doing a ton of things that will help your organic rankings like writing blog posts, creating other long-form content etc. So, drawing a singular parallel to PR is more difficult. The best way to tie your PR results to your organic results is to focus on 3-5 keywords per quarter that you can incorporate into messaging that goes into content like bylined articles and outreach to key members of the media. Focusing on a small subset of your broader keyword strategy will allow you to look at PR’s impact on organic traffic in a more meaningful way.
PR measurement is always going to be a challenge. Focusing on a few key metrics and looking at them in conjunction with your overall marketing goals will make it less like chasing a White Whale and more like fishing in your backyard pond. It takes a little bit of work and balance, but it won’t just be you on a boat in a big ocean… and when all else fails, you can always contact our PR team to learn how we work with our clients to measure PR success.