PR Metrics That Matter, Part 2: How Many Roads Lead to You?


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In Part 1, Reading Your Web Traffic, I focused on visitor behavior on your website: Are there more visitors? Are they reading/watching your content? And is that content motivating them to stick around and move toward your engagement goal? All key, but so is looking outward. While you have one eye on what people do on your site, you should have the other on where they come from and why.

Traffic Sources

Google Analytics’ Traffic Sources gives you both holistic and granular information on your visitors’ origins. There are three main categories — Direct, Search Engines, and Referring Sites — along with a nifty little pie chart that divides your traffic into those groups. Big whoop? Only if you have a burning desire to know how successfully your website is being embedded in the two major avenues of online promotion: share and search.

Direct Traffic: People Who Know Where You Live

If growth is your goal, for the most part, I would hope to see Direct Traffic numbers decline as a percentage of your website visitors. Go DOWN?! WHY?! Because direct traffic is, for the most part, people who come to your website by typing your URL or clicking on their own bookmark. Read: They already who you are and where to find you. There are exceptions — maybe you’re running an ad campaign with a memorable URL, in which case, track that URL as a Landing Page — but direct traffic has an ephemeral nature: it doesn’t necessarily build connections that help others find you too.

Referring Sites: Who Loves You?

One slice of the pie that should grow, however, is Referring Sites, AKA traffic that comes to your site by clicking on a link. Those links can be on social platforms (even your own), in comments posted on other sites, embedded in content you contribute to other sites, or in formal or informal coverage or discussion nearly anywhere online. And unlike direct traffic, referral traffic can be a gift that keeps on giving, as many links remain up indefinitely, and affect search rankings by boosting a site’s credibility with Google (especially if the link text is a valuable keyphrase).

Google Analytics shows you which sites are bringing in traffic, but you can also view more specific data by referring site, like Time on Site, Pages per Visit, and Bounce Rate. That means that you (and your PR team) can see which links are being seen by an interested audience, and which ones need tweaking or aren’t worth repeating. If that coveted hit on a hot niche website didn’t generate much traffic, or your CEO’s hilarious tweet sent numbers through the roof — and to the Contact page — those tidbits should inform your strategy going forward.

Search Engines: Finding Your Customers’ Niche

The ins and outs of site optimization are too complicated (and contentious) to cover in this post, but by monitoring your Search Engine traffic, you can get a feel for how your optimization is working. First, if you’re adding keyphrase-rich content to your website and you’re promoting the site successfully, your search engine traffic should go up.

But are you and your potential customers speaking the same language? Under Traffic Sources, you can examine the keywords that people are actually searching for when they end up clicking on your site, and that data can tell you volumes about whether you’re reaching the right people, or hitting the right topics. Writing on news of the day may bring in search traffic, but without a direct connection to your business, you’ll see a high bounce rate; likewise, if you don’t see your SEO phrases popping up in the terms driving traffic, you should assess either those choices or your use of them.

A Wide and Targeted Net

You may hear a lot of guru-speak about the online world’s revolution of interconnectedness — but beyond the hype, there actually is a very real structure of reach and influence. It’s just that you have to build your part of it for yourself. By understanding the value and function of referring sites and search terms — and watching those metrics evolve with your communications — you can blaze tens, hundreds, or thousands of trails through the vast web of information, showing the way to what your audience needs from you. Whether you mark the paths with breadcrumbs or pavement is up to you.

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.


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