How to Analyze and Optimize Your Online PR Efforts

There is a big difference between online and offline PR; the contrast lies in the ability to track your results. This valuable aspect is often overlooked by many marketers.

Furthermore, online PR efforts can be very time-consuming and expensive. However, marketers often address them as if the efforts are only to enhance the brand and therefore no tracking is needed.

In the fast-paced world we live in, time equals money more than ever before. Therefore, you must optimize your PR efforts. As a marketer you probably have goals, so why not adjust all your marketing efforts to accomplish them?

Why Track?
Towards the end of my BA studies, in 2009, I took a course on advertising management. The lecturer was a bright woman, head of consumer advertising in one of Israel’s leading agencies. After discussing various types of media she got to the Internet chapter. One of the first things she said was that with the Internet, compared to other advertising channels, measurement is a problem.

I found myself sitting there, little me, the owner of several websites and at least 15 years younger, arguing with a leading marketer and my lecturer. It was not her fault – it was written in black and white in the course book covering the different advertising channels.

online-advertising-issues

(Moriarty, Mitchell & Wells, Advertising Principles & Practice, 2009, pp. 346) You are welcome to read the entire chapter – it’s quite amusing.

I don’t remember the conversation word by word, but it went something like this:

My lecturer: “With newspapers you know exactly how many were printed and sold, and with TV ads you track ratings, knowing that your ad on a certain TV show had a rating of X% and you know the segment it had reached. With online banners, however, you don’t know how many people have clicked on them by mistake

Me: “But, do you know how many people got up to make themselves coffee during the commercial break? Or how many people used that paper to wrap their fresh fish with?

My lecturer: “Oh, the problem is not with the ability to measure, but with what you should measure: is it visitors, views, clicks, engagement, conversions? There are no standards.”

Me: “I am sorry, but why choose – why not track the entire funnel and optimize it?

Since 2009, the importance of tracking and optimizing your online advertising has become clear to all. However, in the world of PR it has not. PR’s and marketers that manage PR are used to being measured by the article and not by the result. This concept is completely new to the industry.

The world has changed and all marketers better get used to it!

There is a real difficulty in moving forward from traditional marketing to online marketing. The main reason, in my opinion, is that the marketers who began their career before the online age mistakenly view online marketing as a less creative and more technical labour. I have lived on that assumption myself, up until I dove into the online marketing world and discovered a world full of strategy planning, creativity & analysis. All of a sudden I realized that with the analysis options that the online world has to offer, I can do what I did before and loved – but a lot better.

Paid online campaigns are not just technical, SEO has transformed over the last few years from a mostly technical method to a method that focuses on the added value you provide for your readers.  Online PR is 100% creativity that should be empowered by analysis.

But what is the meaning of online PR? Online PR is a lot more than sending out press releases and working your way towards articles in different publications. If you are a content marketer then a major portion of your work is PR. Working on blogger outreach to create reviews for your product, publishing your articles in online communities which discuss your new features and sending out press releases. That is all PR work.

Before I dive into how to track and analyze, there is another issue to discuss – goals. To be able to properly track and optimize your PR efforts you must know what your objectives are. Your PR objectives and KPI’s should be compatible with your company goals.

Different goals would mean different PR strategies and tactics. For example, a start-up company’s goals – after the seed round and looking for their funding A round – may be to attain several more paying customers within a certain segment for the investors to come aboard.
A second company is in the scaling phase; its goal is to scale its users as much as possible. Their goals are completely different and so should their PR tactics be.

How to Track & Analyze

I have come across more than one marketer who is in charge of his company’s PR who simply does not know how to read and understand analytics. My main tip here is to pause the PR efforts until you know how to analyze them. If you do PR with no analysis, you are wasting your company’s time & money.

Although tracking might sound complicated, it really isn’t. Start by making sure that your company website has Google Analytics implemented- a fantastic free tool to track the traffic and general occurrences on your website.

What should you look at? Google Analytics can provide you with a lot of information on your website. There are thousands of guides on GA all over the web, so I will only provide you with an overview on the main things you should look at when analyzing your PR efforts.
In Google Analytics, simply go to Acquisition and click on ‘All traffic’ to see where the traffic to your website is from.

ga-stats

Let’s analyze the example data above- which article gave us better results?

In this example you are viewing the traffic from two articles, one published in a major news website – the Wall Street Journal, – and the other in a niche news website – Mashable.

Sessions are the number of clicks to your website from the source, of these clicks you have new visitors, first timers to your website. In the example above you can see that Article A brought 6,500 more sessions than Article B, however only 80% of them were new visitors which drops the difference from 6,500 to 4,975 visitors.
The Bounce Rate reflects those who entered your website from a certain source and left straight away. The higher the bounce rate is the lower the source quality. In this case the bounce rate from Article A is better.
To understand your readers’ engagement in your website you should look at the Pages/Session (page views) & Average Session Duration (time on site). In our example, Article B brought greater engagement which probably led to the higher conversion rate – four times more than Article A.

The Conversion Goals in Google Analytics are set by you. You can decide what your goals are, for example: CTA buttons, sign-ups, time on site, purchases and more. Simply search ‘How to Set Goals in Google Analytics’ and you’ll find hundreds of guides.

So which one is better? I don’t know. That wasn’t the answer you were expecting, was it?

The reason I don’t know is because I don’t know what the company goals are. I would first assume that placing an article in a major newspaper takes longer and costs more than in a niche blog. These factors should be considered when analyzing your results – what was your ROI – Return on investment.

As for the results themselves: If the goal is conversion then it appears that Article B was more productive. However, if the goal is to have greater online presence for funding reasons, then Article A is better. That is why knowing the objective of your PR efforts is so important.

If you have more advanced tools implemented on your website, such as Kissmetrics or Mixpanel, this allows you to not only track the general usage of your website, but to actually see who your users are and understand them on a profound level.  With such an ability you can focus your PR efforts on getting the results you want in an even more efficient way.

However, observing the results of the PR placement only is not enough. You should also observe what types of content worked. Analyze the content and context: topics, writing style, context and more. Look at your own blog; observe which topics and writing style created greater engagement and conversions. See what works better – articles filled with bullets and lists or simple paragraphs, articles, or personal or analytical writing style.

Additionally, analyze the past results of articles that referred to you from other publications, like we did in the tracking example above. This time analyze the results according to the content: Let’s say that Article A was about your seed round funding while Article B was an article on the problem your product solves, that would explain the better conversion rate from Article B.

Monitoring over time is also very important. You will generally receive the most traffic on the day an article is published. In many websites such as the Mashable and TechCrunch, articles on the homepage are ordered by publish time. Therefore, in the first hours after an article is published it will receive a lot of traffic that drops over time.

The graph below presents the traffic arriving following an article published on TechCrunch. You can clearly see that the majority of the traffic came on the same day the article was published, with a steep drop in the following days leading to almost zero traffic just a couple of days later.

ga-stats2

In the example below, of an article published on Steamfeed, you can see that the traffic dropped, but not as steeply as with TechCrunch’s article, providing a steadier stream of traffic. However, it does not necessarily mean that the Steamfeed article was better; the target audience of both websites is almost the same but the overall traffic from TechCrunch was much higher with better engagement and conversion.

ga-stats3

Another great way to track your PR efforts in a very organized way is to use UTM codes where possible. When publishing your article or sending a press release don’t be afraid to add custom links to your website. While some publishers will not enable you to add custom links, others will, especially if it is an article you wrote.
Instead of using a simple link, use Google’s URL Builder to create a custom link from your press release, then hyperlink it in your article.

Your medium will be PR, the source will be the website referral name, and the campaign is the article name. Make sure you don’t have any spaces, as they will turn to % in the middle of your URL.

Here is an example of a link built for a Steamfeed article:

streamfeed

One of the most important pieces of advice from this article is to track your competitors’ PR strategies – especially if they are a stronger and more familiar brand than yours. There are many great tools out there; I use Open Site Explorer to see a detailed report of my competitors’ incoming links. For beginners, you can start with their free version. Another great tool is Google Alerts where you can set an email notification for whenever your competitors appear in online news. Find out what your competitors publish and think how you can stand out.

My start-up Tempi.do is in the workforce field. As part of my marketing research I checked in advance what my future competitors are doing to leverage their PR efforts using Google Alerts. In the example below, I looked up the names of the direct and indirect competitors, like Careerbuilder, and chose the United States to learn about their PR efforts in that region. I found out that their PR focuses on surveys and studies, and I can assume that this gets results for them as they constantly use this strategy. Now all that I have to decide on is a PR strategy that will stand out.

google-alerts

How to Optimize

Now that you know how to track your PR efforts, it’s time to optimize them.

Your homepage is not your only link

It took me about an hour to find an example that is not mine or my colleagues, so I can only assume that this is not a broadly used tactic. It simply involves directing the links to the relevant webpages in your website – not all links from your PR have to be to your homepage.
In the fantastic example below you can see a PR article on Moz acquiring and re-launching GetListed as Moz Local. The only – and most important – link in the article was to the new Moz Local brand webpage.
Use the same link tactic from your paid marketing in your PR efforts; link different topics to different pages in your website.

Stand out

There are many great tools you can find that will help you stand out. Infographics often engage readers in numbers-rich content; after discovering that my competitors conduct job-related surveys to boost their PR, I will use this tactic, and then display the data I collect in an infographic to stand out.

Another example of how to use a unique content marketing platform to stand out and achieve your goals is shown in the results below – two graphs of a single referral result:
TechCrunch Results – 0.19% Conversion Rate. Average time on site – less than a minute.

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Growth Hackers Results– 2.35% Conversion Rate. Average time on site – almost three minutes

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In this example you see two similar topics with two very different results. One was published in a major tech news website and the other in a community, both with the same target audience.
What appears to have worked so well with the Growth Hackers publication was the way the content was presented: within context. The topic was published inside a Roojoom with multiple articles in it surrounding the topic.
Sometimes you just have to think out of the box in the way you present your PR to get the results that you want.

You Don’t Want to be Everywhere at Once

Trying to get your article into the New York Times takes time and a lot of effort, but maybe the New York Times is not where you should be. Spread your PR efforts over the year and focus on your target audience.

Publishers sometimes want to be the only, or at least the first, people to publish a story, so how do you choose? An article on TechCrunch’s home page is fantastic, especially if you are a technology company targeting the US. In the example below, TechCrunch published an article on GrabTaxi Series B funding.

techrunch-article

When I strategize where to concentrate my online PR efforts, I always visit SimilarWeb and Open Site Explorer to see my target website ranking, traffic & domain authority. I do so to make sure that I get the best ROI possible.

Continuing the GrabTaxi example – SimilarWeb ranking places TechCrunch at a very high rank:

similarweb-techcrunch

This is TechCrunch’s traffic source by country:

similarweb-techcrunch

However, a quick look at the GrabTaxi homepage reveals that their target audience is nowhere near the United States.

grabtaxi

The same article was also published in techinasia.com. For this example, let’s say that they were only able to publish this PR article on one of the websites.

This is SimilarWebs’ ranking for techinasia.com:

similarweb-techinasia

This is the country distribution of techinasia.com traffic:

similarweb-techinasia2

It appears that, although TechCrunch is a high ranked website, techinasia.com is where GrabTaxi’s target audience is.

While it’s best if everyone knows your brand, it’s better to focus on your target audience. Now that GrabTaxi has closed a funding round of $15M they might have enough to spend on worldwide PR. However, if they want to get a ROI then its best to understand their target audiences and group them by verticals. Each vertical of the target audience is probably interested in different things and reads different websites. Your goal will be to reach the top three.

In Conclusion

You need to monetize and optimize your PR efforts; it is not as complicated as you might think. Remember, to optimize your PR efforts you don’t have to spend a lot of money because there are many great free tools around the web. If you are a start-up or a company on a limited budget you need to be creative and focus your PR efforts on your target audience.

Don’t forget – the majority of online content is evergreen, meaning that what comes online stays online and will bring you traffic from articles published ages ago. So make sure that you track, analyze and optimize your PR efforts to get the best results possible.

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