PR Metrics That Matter, Part 1: Reading Your Web Traffic


Share on LinkedIn

The days of putting company news out “on the wire” and hoping someone finds it interesting are — thankfully — behind us, but while many businesses have shifted to emphasize online promotional content, shockingly few understand how to track and judge those efforts. Starting with basic site statistics, my next few posts will explain how you can tell if your PR campaign is paying off — or not.

The Broad Concept: You Want Your Traffic to Go Up.

If you’re using Google Analytics (which I highly recommend), the most basic statistic you can get at is how many visitors come to your site on any given day. The connections you want to see? Exciting company news or analysis online–> increased relevance–> higher profile–> more site visitors. Nothing revelatory there, but if you don’t track your traffic stats against your PR, social PR, marketing, and advertising actions, you could be burning through your budget without generating actual success.

See that spike in traffic the day your byline appeared in a national news pub? Or the steady decline (or just flatline) when you put out a series of press releases on incremental product improvements? These numbers are talking to you about what elements of your engagement communications are working. You won’t necessarily can a campaign after one miss, but if your traffic stats don’t gather steam, it’s time to regroup.

Getting Finer: They Visit, But Do They Stay?

Hits are good. But other stats will tell you whether people do more than arrive at your site and say, “nevermind.” The first to pay attention to is the Bounce Rate; this figure tells you what percentage of your visitors see a single page on your site and then leave. (You can see this figure for the whole site or for specific pages.) The more on-target, engaging, and interconnected your content, the lower your bounce rate should be as folks can’t help but click through to another page for more information. If your PR campaign is bringing in traffic, but your Bounce Rate is through the roof (according to Google’s Avinash Kaushik, 50% or above is “worrying”), something ain’t right.

But if they don’t bounce, are they sticking around? Time on page stats help you discern interest; if you wrote a long post and people look at it for, oh, 30 seconds, that’s not exactly a home run. But perhaps you put a video on another page, or included a great chart, and you can see that visitors are spending 3, 5, even 10 minutes on it — there is something worth paying attention to. Time on site numbers, especially if considered with Pages per Visit, will give you a sense of bigger picture behavior; 10 pages in 45 seconds sounds like someone not finding what they’re looking for; 5 pages in 15 minutes, on the other hand, is curiosity being piqued.

Joy Ride or Test Drive?

You can use Google Analytics to create and track goals and events (more on that in another post), but you should also spend time paying attention to Top Content, Navigation Paths, and Exit Rates. Which pages are most popular? (Hopefully the pages related to your campaign figure prominently in these stats.) What you want to see here is determined in large part by what you’re trying to get your visitors to do: Should they contact you? Enter an e-commerce area on the site? Enter a contest or read a blog? Whatever it is, you want to see that that space showing up in your Top Content as you work to promote it.

So, knowing your goal pages, which content leads people to them? Navigation Paths let you see where visitors came from and where they go next — so if 50% of the traffic to your Contact page comes from a single blog post, you can identify the strengths of that post and use them again. Relatedly, Exit Rates tell you what percentage of people left the site on a particular page; if they’ve reached your goal, great; but if not, you may be able to identify and remove roadblocks and disincentives.

From Numbers to Actions

Much is written about social media, PR, and the Holy Grail of ROI. If you’ve read me, you know I think ROI is a pipe dream, but that doesn’t mean that the world of online statistics hasn’t brought a world of actionable feedback to public relations. You and your creative PR Team should be using these stats (and more) to assess weaknesses, identify strengths, fuel creative epiphanies, correct course, and gauge short- and long-term impact. That’s a whole lot better than sending press releases out into the void.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Kate Schackai
Kate combines a technical understanding of web 2.0 with classic PR savvy, resulting in online communications that both humans and Google love. She joins Crawford from WordPress development firm TCWebsite, where she worked in online marketing and search engine optimization.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here