This post was first published by Martin Jones on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.
According to Wikipedia, “magical thinking” is the attribution of causal relationships between actions and events where scientific consensus says there is none. If you replace “scientific consensus” with “hard numbers,” you might have a fitting definition for many digital PR campaigns today.
An agency might write a blog post about a webinar for a client and, the next day, webinar registration goes up. So it must have been the content that drove the traffic, right?Not necessarily. The multitude of content and social channels across the web has made it increasingly difficult to attribute results to a single campaign. Sure, the blog post might have helped – but an influential CMO might have seen the webinar, too, and tweeted it to a thousand followers. If you can’t specifically cite how many numbers the blog post drove, there’s really no way of knowing the impact of the content that was produced.
Today however, it is possible to take some of the guesswork out of PR and be more accountable. By combining the latest PR and content marketing tactics with the wealth of analytics tools available on the Internet, it’s possible to create detailed dashboards that track the performance of contributed content, social media accounts, blog posts and more to gain real insight into what’s working and what’s not.
Here are three tools you can use to track your campaigns:
Bit.ly is an extremely easy and effective tool when it comes to tracking click-throughs. It works best if you’re trying to gauge calls-to-action on pieces of contributed or syndicated content, but you don’t have access to deeper analytics dashboards from WordPress or Google Analytics.
To use bit.ly, create an account by visiting bit.ly.com and insert a link into the URL shortener. Once you’ve created an account, you’ll be able to track the number of clicks a link gets, along with other valuable information.
March will often use bit.ly links when linking from external content back to a client’s website or landing page, because then we can see how many people have been driven to the client website from a piece of coverage.
WordPress powers almost one-fifth of the websites in the world. Businesses that are using WordPress.org or WordPress.com to power a website can also employ the JetPack plugin to access a detailed dashboard of statistics, including:
- Referrers (social networks and other websites)
- Keywords (very few are available since Google encrypted all queries, but some from Bing & Yahoo can still be helpful guides that show how people are accessing your site)
- Page & post views
- Traffic history
- Most popular pages & posts
JetPack is generally more intuitive and user-friendly than Google Analytics, although it’s not as detailed. March uses this tool to keep track of blog performance when we’re creating blog content for clients. Referrers can be a great way to see how effective social channels are in driving traffic, too, because you can see how many visitors are coming in from channels like LinkedIn or Twitter.
Social media shares and impressions are a valuable metric that every PR agency should offer to clients, especially when so many agencies are instrumental in building social communities and managing channels like Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
At March, we have a number of ways to track what kind of traction different social media channels are getting. One of our new favorites is inPowered, which allows you to quickly see a general estimate of impressions, reads and shares that a new piece of coverage or content is getting.
You can even drill down to see which publications, experts or topics are mentioning your client the most, and how well those mentions are doing across social channels. Essentially, InPowered provides a snapshot of all recent social interactions, offering a platform for PR agencies to further promote earned coverage or other content.
Content can’t be completely optimized if it isn’t created with data in mind. By constantly monitoring what makes people click links, visit a website or share on a social network, PR agencies can help clients optimize the impact of digital PR campaigns like never before.
Agencies have started doing a little bit of everything – from traditional influencer relations and proactive pitching to native advertising and marketing – but there’s no way of knowing what’s really pushing the needle for a client without a way to measure it all.