What PR Professionals Need To Know About Web Analytics

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If your reaction to the headline was, “what on earth does Web analytics have to do with my job?” you probably weren’t alone. Web analytics might be thought of as the realm of SEO pros and online marketing teams, but it can be an incredibly valuable tool for PR teams too. In fact, Web analytics can give you insight into the value of PR and the types of business outcomes it helps drive in a way that hasn’t been possible without expensive primary research. In much the same way, online advertising has revolutionized how advertisers can measure and optimize outcomes, PR can leverage exactly the same tools and techniques. As communications becomes increasingly more digital, it also becomes increasingly important to measure actual user behavior and optimize campaigns to get the best outcomes.

Here are some examples of questions that Web analytics can help you answer:

  • Is our corporate Twitter account driving traffic to the right Web pages?
  • Are our press releases or social media releases being cited by journalists and bloggers, and if so, do they drive traffic to our corporate site?
  • Is Key Message A more effective at driving sales than Key Message B?
  • Should we invest more resources in social or traditional media?
  • Where do we find the audiences most likely to respond to our campaigns?

While some of these questions require advanced analysis and statistics, there are many straightforward questions you can ask your internal Web analytics team for data on:

  • For starters, get some data on what unpaid sites drive the most traffic to your Web site. Unpaid traffic includes any Web sites that provide a link to you for which you have not paid (i.e., not ads or paid search). Many of these sites are influential publications that publish content about your brand, so you should know who is most effective at driving awareness and demand.
  • Next, ask questions about what the traffic that these sites refer looks like. Do they tend to sign up for information or buy things on the Web site (or to put in Web analytics speak: “how well do they convert?”). Where are they located geographically? What keywords did they use to find the information, if any (this is great input into determining how you should write copy about your company)?
  • Then you may want to do some benchmarking. How does earned media compare to paid media? How does Twitter compare to blogs?

Your internal Web analytics team should be able to provide you some of these reports out of the system or provide you or your analyst of choice access to the application. You can also talk to your agency or research vendor who can help answer your questions on how to get started. We frequently get asked by clients to do this and also help answer complex questions such as: what messaging results in more sales? Where are the untapped audiences with the most potential? Which audience segments should you target with various messages to get optimal business outcomes? There are many ways you can use the data to give you campaign insights, and if you combine it with other data sources, the possibilities are vast.

For more information on the subject of how to get started using Web analytics for PR, you should also take a look at this presentation, which Context Analytic’s Seth Duncan gave at IPR’s Measurement Summit recently: