How do you really know if your digital PR is working?
Campaigns without metrics are akin to playing darts into a pitch-black room—you may feel like you aimed well, but you never really know whether you hit the bullseye.
Stop shooting in the dark with your digital PR and start getting to the bottom of your progress.
One benefit of digital PR over traditional PR is that success is often easier to track and measure in the digital landscape. Digital PR metrics have a lot of familiar names, and you may already be tracking some of these important figures for other purposes, such as your SEO or social media budget.
Here are the six metrics that can help you gauge the success of your digital PR efforts:
1. Domain authority (DA)
If your efforts go smoothly, soon you’ll be earning a healthy number of backlinks from your content partners and influencers.
It’s important to ensure you earn traffic and links that add to your website’s domain authority—the figure that predicts how likely you are to rank in online search results. Your PR efforts should always lead to an incline in your DA, never a decline.
When your DA starts to fall, a number of factors could be at play. There may have been a recent Google algorithm change, or you could be getting penalized for having an abundance of “spammy” or low-quality links routing to your site. You could also be receiving a lot of links from other sites with low DA.
When you focus your efforts on developing strong relationships with other sites that have a high DA, you can help turn your own DA score around. If your DA is increasing, it’s a sign your digital PR efforts are succeeding.
2. Estimated page views
One of the goals of digital PR is to improve brand awareness. If this is a focus for your organization, the overall page views for your content is an essential metric. This figure may not tell you how many people you’ve converted into customers, but it can tell you whether or not you’re getting your name out there.
Use Google Analytics to get a picture of estimated unique page views for your website and specific pieces of content. You can also use sites like Ahrefs to see which countries have the highest numbers of page views for your content if your organization focuses on targeting certain geographic regions.
3. Branded traffic search
Your DA is up and your page views are climbing—which great news. Your PR efforts seem to be working, but some people may be landing on your pages after searching for generic industry terms on Google.
Of course, any traffic helps increase your chances of being found by a solid lead, but it’s important to find out how many people search specifically for your brand name. These are called branded searches, and they show that people not only recognize your brand but actively seek out your company when researching.
Branded searches can be identified by using Google Analytics and going to Acquisitions → Search Console → Queries. Be sure to use the advanced search feature, as it allows you to account for your official brand title as well as variations. An increase in branded searches strongly indicates that your digital PR efforts are building public awareness of your organization and leading consumers to seek you out specifically.
4. Backlink authority
Not all backlinks are created equal. If your digital PR relationships are leading to a slew of incoming links from undesirable sites or links that are poorly placed, Google may not give you as much credit for them and your rank could suffer. This is why checking the metrics surrounding your backlinks is so important. You can see where your backlinks are coming from using sites like BuzzSumo.
A good backlink will come from a site with a high DA, be placed organically in content with relevant anchor text, and will not be on a page with hundreds of outgoing links. If your PR strategy is only cultivating backlinks from undesirable locations, it’s time to adjust your approach and reach out to more reputable content partners and media placements.
5. Specific content referrals
When working in digital PR, you become familiar with rejection. An editor’s promise to publish a backlink to your site may never yield results.
Following up on media placements is a crucial step. You haven’t notched a win until your brand mention or linked content is live. Check the Google Analytics acquisitions tab to see exactly where your referral links are coming from. This will help you tie your digital PR wins (placements, brand mentions, and links) to the tangible referrals you’ve acquired.
Keep in mind that acquisition data may not include all brand mentions. For instance, if an incredible shout-out on social media doesn’t include a link to your website or content, it may not appear in the Google Analytics acquisitions tab—although it’s still an extremely valuable mention for your brand and highlights a strong brand reputation.
Fortunately, social listening tools can help you fill in some of the gaps. Tracking specific content referrals helps you determine whether your relationship building strategy is effective.
6. Social shares
Social media platforms require their own nuanced strategies and metrics, yet they can also reveal something about the health of your overall digital PR scheme. If the articles earned by your digital PR team are shared and mentioned alongside positive descriptors, you’ll know you’re effectively enhancing your brand’s reputation. The more positive engagements you see with these pieces of content, the more likely your digital PR efforts are building up your brand’s authority in your industry.
There is no magic number of social media engagements to target. Any growth in engagements and shares is a reason to celebrate. Social platforms can also lead valuable traffic back to your website or content hub, so it’s important that your social media strategy and digital PR strategy are aligned.
Ilana Plumer is the senior director of marketing at RelationEdge.
This article originally appeared on PR Daily in November of 2018.